Give this Social Media Manager a Raise

KFC’s Twitter account follows just 11 people. 6 Spice Girls, and 5 guys named Herb. GET IT??

Why it’s hot: When this clever Easter egg was discovered, Twitter fans went bananas, generating viral engagement with little to no effort and generating earned media hits for the fast food chain. It comes off as something that was an off-the-cuff, “what if we…” suggestion, which we should never forget is where some of the best ideas come from.

 

Venmo Wants to Turn Its Brand Into a Verb

Google, Instagram and Netflix all have one thing in common: They are brands that have become so synonymous with the industries that they specialize in that they’ve become verbs.

PayPal’s Venmo wants in on that space too and it’s launching a campaign called “Blank Me” today that puts a fun twist on its peer-to-peer payment services that lets people send money to each other.

Each piece of creative features a sentence with a verb missing that leaves users to fill in the blank like a game of Mad Libs. Some of the lines are intentionally suggestive: There’s “Let’s not make it awkward, just ___ me,” and “If you ___ the wrong person tonight, you’ll regret it in the morning,” for example.

The ads are appearing in bars, restaurants and college towns in markets like Chicago, Miami, Nashville and Dallas—all places where people may need to send money to their friends while out and about. The campaign also includes digital ad buys across Tinder, Spotify, Facebook and Twitter.

According to Venmo marketing director Kasia Leyden, the campaign “embodies the spirit of Venmo and celebrates Venmo’s verb status and place in the zeitgeist.”

Why its hot:

  • By strategically placing their adds in college towns, bars and restaurants, they are not only advertising where people need to transfer money between friends but also where they can stir conversation about the advertisement.
  • Venmo intentionally made the fill-in-the-blank open to interpretation, which encourages people to make the ad their own. By getting people involved and talking about these “Blank Me” ads they are also recalling the information.

Source

NYT Issues New Social Media Guidelines for the Newsroom

Image result for new york times

Last Friday, The New York Times announced an updated an expanded set of guidelines for their journalists’ use of social media, posting them publicly online.

“The new guidelines underscore our newsroom’s appreciation for the important role social media now plays in our journalism, but also call for our journalists to take extra care to avoid expressing partisan opinions or editorializing on issues that The Times is covering.”

Some key points:

• In social media posts, our journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation.

• Our journalists should be especially mindful of appearing to take sides on issues that The Times is seeking to cover objectively.

• These guidelines apply to everyone in every department of the newsroom, including those not involved in coverage of government and politics.

• On that same note, we strongly discourage our journalists from making customer service complaints on social media.

• If you are linking to other sources, aim to reflect a diverse collection of viewpoints.

Why its hot

Employers often don’t pay attention to what their employees are posting on social media until there is an actual problem. Some people will include their work information in their public social media profile, leaving them open to repercussions from angry followers. It’s certainly not uncommon to hear about a post going viral and the author losing their job.

In this case, The New York Times is in an interesting position. As journalists, they should remain impartial and report on news and current events. However, most people won’t follow a particular journalist just because they like their writing; they follow because they want a certain viewpoint. If journalists aren’t able to freely express themselves on social media, will people be less inclined to follow them? Additionally, should journalists express themselves publicly at all? Our country has perhaps never been more divided in terms of where we choose to get our news, and journalists have increasingly found themselves having to draw a line in the sand and defend themselves publicly from criticism. Taking their power away on social media makes this more difficult.

Twitter Finally Does Something About Online Harassment

This week Wired was leaked the exclusive scoop that the internal Trust and Safety Council at Twitter was looking to make changes after the popular #womenboycotttwitter movement last week. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey seems to confirm this in a series of tweets.

The list leaked to Wired of posts no longer allowed by Twitter were:

  • Non-consensual nudity
  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Hate symbols and imagery
  • Violent groups
  • Tweets that glorify violence

Why it’s hot:

Twitter has a long history of avoiding harassment on its platform. As public outcry starts to grow about the #metoo and #womenboycotttwitter hashtags, Twitter is starting to feel the pressure. Ideally doing the right thing years ago would have been enough to trigger change, instead of a reactive response to public outcry.

 

 

UPS dog Facebook page is good for our hearts and good for their business

UPS has been all over social media thanks to an effort by some of the drivers to bring some cheer into everyone’s life.

Sean McCarren, who has been driving for UPS for 17 years, started UPS Dogs five years ago for himself and other UPS drivers to share photos of dogs (and cats) that they meet during their rounds. Many drivers carry treats for their four-legged customers, some of whom have learned that the arrival of a big brown truck means snacktime.

Why it’s hot

Although the page is not officially associated with UPS, the company is making it known that they approve of spirit of the group, telling BuzzFeed News, “It’s a good example of the relationships our employees build with their customers, two- or four-legged!”

According to MRM’s Associate Director of UX, Spike McCue, “This is a great example of using digital to humanize clients by focusing on small pieces of their day to day work. We should be looking for opportunities to identify these relatable moments and highlight them”

Ok here’s another dog…

Learn more at UPS DogsNylon | BuzzFeed

The flying supermarket

German airline Lufthansa has partnered with an online supermarket so passengers can shop for groceries on their flight home and avoid returning to an empty fridge.

Passengers on long-haul flights can use Lufthansa’s in-flight internet, FlyNet, to access Rewe’s online delivery service and shop for groceries. Passengers can then select a delivery date and the food will arrive at their home (provided the address is in Germany) in a cool box. They are also planning to trial this in the US next year

The trial began on 1 October and will run until 1 December. For the first six weeks of the trial, the service will be available on long-haul flights to Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich. In the second six weeks, the service will be available on long-haul flights that have those three cities as the final destination.

Why it’s hot
From plane to home at just the right moment. Not only they deliver to your home but you can choose the exact time you want it to be delivered to your address.

The idea came from a customer survey where people said they want duty free products to b delivered home

Source: FutureTravelExperience.com

Netflix Show Narcos Allows You To Build An Empire Within Facebook Messenger

To promote the new season of Narcos, Netfrecentlynlty launched Narcos: Cartel Simulator, a game created to be played fully within the Facebook Messenger app.

The game takes place in 1994, and the aesthetic was drawn from games designed for graphing calculators and other LCD screens in the ’90s.

In the new Messenger game, you play a small-time drug dealer who owes money to the Cali Cartel. It’s essentially a game of supply and demand, as you travel drug marketplaces around the world, trying to buy low and sell high.

Why It’s Hot:

Facebook Messenger is popular among mobile users and quite easy to build within making it a great platform to promote things like new television shows on. The Messenger interface is perfect for a game like this, with most options, served to users as text-only multiple choice. Despite the minimalism, there’s enough to keep you engaged and, in the opening gameplay, quite stressed about your fate if you fail to give the cartel its due.

 

Bud Light Wants Millenials To “Drink With Their Face”

What if a real-life commercial looked, sounded and felt like an SNL skit? It’s happened before, both purposely and accidentally, and it’s happening now in the U.K. with a new Bud Light ad.

The AB InBev brand, which launched there earlier this year, parodies a bunch of hipster, millennial-targeted ad tropes with a musical number that features sun-drenched beaches (in England?) and beautiful “friends” enjoying their bohemian lives. Even a pet rabbit, inexplicably used as a prop, is “an 8 out of 10” on the looks scale, the commercial says.

It’s bull’s-eye self-aware marketing.

The ongoing campaign, dubbed “Keep it Bud Light,” recently teased a line of branded “leisurewear” consisting of tube socks, shower shoes, scarves and cross-body bags. AB, whose execs say the apparel and accessories are not a joke, calls the “fashionable” product a lighthearted take on streetwear.

Its bright-blue logo-heavy kimonos make an appearance in the new 30-second spot, from Wieden + Kennedy London, that sings about its “super-cool girl with aspirational friends, lifestyle ad with Bud Light at the end.” There’s an identifiable dash of Lonely Planet throughout, especially when the song says: “Follow your heart, those pants are quite tight/Drink with your face, and keep it Bud Light.”

As part of the brand’s across-the-pond push, the ad will air on TV and in cinemas, with digital versions planned that will star the cast of the hero spot. AB plans a “significant” spend on digital via Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube through the end of the year.

The ad aims to give Bud Light “a distinctive voice in the U.K. beer world,” Ray Shaughnessy, the agency’s creative director, said in a statement. “We’ve tried to make it clear that this is a co-ed beer brand having a laugh because—wait for it—turns out both men and women enjoy beer as well as a chuckle.”

Why it’s hot:

  • An upcoming trend in advertising is this satirical style of commercial that pokes fun of the industry while managing to break through. Bud Light succeeded in making a commercial worthy of going viral that still featured their product and branding prominently.
  • Bud Light released their athlesiure line in the UK a few weeks ago, however it seemed off-brand and like they didn’t quite understand their market. Turns out this clothing line directly relates to this series of commercials that features the brand breaking through the fourth wall so to speak. If Bud Light reversed the order of these activations it easily could have had a higher impact and better relevance with the audience.

Google Maps Pulls Calorie-Counting Feature After Criticism

Stephanie Zerwas, the clinical director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina, was trying to find a restaurant in Orlando, Fla., last weekend, so she put the address into Google Maps for directions.

She was baffled to see a new feature: The iPhone app told her that walking instead of driving would burn 70 calories. While it was perhaps meant as an incentive to walk, those with eating disorders might instead fixate on the number, a dangerous mind-set that counselors try to minimize, she said.

“We’ve gotten into this habit of thinking about our bodies and the foods we take in and how much activity we do as this mathematical equation, and it’s really not,” she said. “The more we have technology that promotes that view, the more people who may develop eating disorders might be triggered into that pathway.”

On Monday night, Google pulled the feature, which it said was an experiment on its iOS app. The decision followed a wave of attention on social media; while some of the responses saw Google’s feature as promoting exercise, there were several complaints that it was dangerous or insulting.

Some users were especially upset that the app used mini cupcakes to put the burned calories into perspective, framing food as a reward for exercise, or exercise as a prerequisite for food. (One mini cupcake, it said, was worth a little less than 125 calories, but no information was provided about how that calculation was made.)

Calorie counting has long been a contentious topic at the nexus of nutrition, exercise and eating disorders. In New York, among other cities, some restaurants are required to post calorie numbers on their menus and displays, an effort the Trump administration is trying to overturn. The Affordable Care Act required some national restaurants to do the same, though the Food and Drug Administration repeatedly delayed the deadline.

Source: NY Times

Why It’s Hot: Interesting example of brands adjusting strategy based on social media feedback. What was probably considered a useful, helpful feature by developers was clearly not well received by customers.

Honda’s road stunt it tone deaf and off key

Honda wanted to put grooves in a California road that would play “The William Tell Overture” as drivers rode across them because….um, nobody really knows, but they screwed it up, TWICE.

The original grooved road had to be moved due to a noise complaint, so they had a chance to fix the surface to sound the way it was supposed to, but they didn’t.

Why It’s Hot

It’s a lesson for marketers and brands who want to do something really cool to garner attention. When it doesn’t work it could be really embarrassing.

Marriott + Slack = Thumbs Up

 

Marriott has introduced a new Slack extension that lets teams browse and book hotel rooms directly in their chats. There is even an emoji feature.

The user provides a city and dates, and the extension will serve up a handful of options. Everyone in the chat can then vote using Slack’s emoji reactions on which option they want. When the votes are in, you can book the winning hotel right within the slack chat.

The extension is limited to hotels affiliated with Marriott’s Rewards program, but the company promises the Slack tie-in will aways turn up the lowest possible rate.

“Marriott also has the distinction of being the first hotel chain to have a dedicated Slack experience, though the hotel chain has previously dabbled in messaging, with a bot for Facebook Messenger and an iMessage app.

The extension was was built by a company called Snaps, which also makes emoji apps for businesses (and Kim Kardashian, as it turns out), so it’s not surprising they’d bring an emoji component to Slack as well.”

Why it’s hot: This takes some of the pain out of booking hotels (especially for business travel through concur) and allows multiple parties to weigh into booking decisions. Additionally, this further positions Marriott as a leading hotel chain leveraging technology to make their guests lives easier (recently launched an AI chat bot for in-hotel experience).

Source: Mashable

Adaptable Crosswalks

Umbrellium, a London-based design firm, created a prototype of a new, digital cross walk that embeds LED lights in strong high-impact plastic that can withstand the weight and impact of cars.

Here is how the designers thought about prioritizing the pedestrian and adaptive environments:

“Typically, when we hear about road technology, it’s almost always about cars, autonomous vehicles, traffic light control systems, but what we wanted to do is create a pedestrian crossing technology that puts people first, responding to their needs,” he says. In this case, “technology enables a more interactive, fluid, and adaptive relationship between pedestrians and the street–you might almost think of it as a ‘conversational interface’ with the road.”

Here are some examples of how the crosswalk adapts:

  • When raining or if a child runs into the road, the crosswalk creates a larger buffer zone.
  • Near a school, the crossing could create a larger buffer zone when a polluting vehicle is waiting.
  • Early in the morning, when few pedestrians are out, the crossing won’t appear until someone approaches.
  • The crosswalk will adapt over time to the natural path and shortcuts that pedestrians take.

Why It’s Hot: This prototype is still in the beginning stages, but the design firm seems to be on the mark about how to use research and machine learning to create an adaptive system that reflects the variety of needs of a crosswalk and prioritizes the pedestrian. As they continue to develop this prototype they are planning to expand its capabilities, such as providing audible signals for the visually impaired.

Source

Not Your Average Billboard

Aside from the massive upgrade to the screens in this area, the new screen (Smart TV —  even better than-4K and larger than a tennis court) will secretly spy on its environment to deliver targeted ads.

Clearly this is going to raise some privacy concern like: What kind of information will the screen detect? Will the data be collected and stored? Will personal information be shared with third-party advertisers? Are there any risks associated with hacking the camera and the billboard?

http://mashable.com/videos/blueprint:YxlJr2yl98/

Why It’s Hot: This new type of display allows billboards to reach audiences with more targeted ads. There are cameras embedded within the screen that has the ability to track the make, model and color of passing cars. In doing so, the billboard can serve more targeted ads based on the consumer passing by. According to Landsec (company that created the screen), content can also be delivered based on the characteristics of the crowd, such as gender, age, and even emotions!

http://mashable.com/2017/10/13/piccadilly-circus-lights-screen-targeted-ads/?utm_cid=hp-n-1#j7j.9IiAbkqm

Burger King Fights Bullying

In their latest ad, Burger King speaks out against bullying in an effort to bring awareness to National Bullying Month which takes place in October.

The ad documents a real-life social experiment where they hired teenage actors who were supposed to portray bullies, picking on their target in public. Burger King set up hidden cameras to capture real-life customers’ reactions to the teens bullying their “friend”. The customers that were shown during this phase of the commercial look shocked, but don’t speak up. They continue to enjoy their meals as the teen is getting bullied and picked on by his peers.

Next, they showed what it looks like to “bully” a Whopper Jr. They had their cooks “punch” the Whopper, wrap it up and serve it to customers. Each customer with a burger that came out sub-par, brought their smashed burger to the cashier’s attention. The cashier responds, “is your burger bullied” – the customers were thrown off guard, not understanding the context of what was happening.

They flash two statistics onto the screen; “90% of customers reported the bullied Whopper Jr,” while only “12% of customers stood up to the High School Jr. being bullied.” The ad demonstrates that bystanders to bullying find it easier to not get involved, than to stick up for the person who is being bullied.

As the ad concludes, two different customers are shown as “heroes” as they go up to the teen who is being bullied, and set his peers straight. One goes as far as to give his testament as to why he decided to stick up for the kid being bullied, noting that he has been in his position before. The last image to appear on the screen says, “Help stop bullying at nobully.org”

Why Its Hot:
Burger King wins with this one, as far as social-purpose advertising goes. Not only do they stand up for a cause that needs to spoken up for much more from large brands, they do it well. The end user feels as though they are getting something from watching this ad, and the timeline of the events hooks them on to watch until the end.

Is Facebook Worried It’s Starting to Show Some Grey?

This week the world’s most popular social network acquired the teen-focused platform tbh, as in “to be honest,” for an undisclosed sum. (TechCrunch reported the purchase price was less than $100 million.)

tbh has generated a following among younger users with its unabashed embrace of positivity. The service lets users anonymously send compliments to their networks by responding to emoji-laden polls that ask questions such as, “Who makes you laugh the hardest?”

“When we set out to build tbh, we wanted to create a community that made us feel happier and more confident about ourselves. We felt that people craved genuine and positive interactions in their online experiences,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing its sale to Facebook.

Facebook is likely drawn to the platform’s popularity among younger demographics, which the aging social network is having some trouble with of late. eMarketer projects there will be more US Snapchat users than Facebook users in the 12-to-24-year-old demographic by the end of this year.

Why it’s hot?

  • Ever since Facebook’s failure to acquire Snapchat, they have made it their mission to build or buy things to usurp Snapchat’s power. Here an example of another relatively minor bet Facebook is making to upset Snapchat’s grip on the younger demographic which is slipping through their fingers.

 

The Architecture of Mars

While we’ve talked about the projects in the U.A.E. to study the effects of how humans could live on Mars, an article by Fast Company this week takes a deeper dive into the architects who are imagining the structure and design system. Bjarke Ingles Group (BIG), a Copenhagen architecture firm, is beginning the design process for prototypes for Martian colonies. BIG is taking into account site specificity and designing a system that accommodates for climate and resources while also being able to scale and become self sustaining.

Here are some renderings of the interior domes:

BIG is known for their simple and communicative diagrams that explain the thought process of their designs. Here is a series that shows the the ways they are planning to accommodate for the restrictions of life on Mars. They also show how this design system is scalable over time.

Why It’s Hot: The science behind this Mars project is fascinating, but the design and architecture is as engaging. These architects are conceptualizing a new architectural paradigm. They are utilizing the principles of design thinking to take into account the business and user needs and pain points.

Source

A good flight’s sleep

Casper mattresses and American Airlines have teamed up to improve sleeping experience on the plane.

Starting December passengers in First, Business and Premium Economy classes will get the chance to try specially-designed mattress pads, pillows, lumber pillows, blankets, duvets, pyjamas and slippers.

The partnership gives passengers a chance to try Casper’s products and American Airlines a chance to offer better in-flight experiences.

Why it’s hot: a partnership that’s truly strategic and adds value to each brand.

Source

Burger King and Wendy’s Sass War

Happy Friday!

Burger King and Wendy’s are back at it with the sass! It all started when I was browsing Twitter and came across this tweet…

This post is someone says “@Wendys why did you get rid of spicy nuggets? I am heartbroken.” This post is ALSO promoted by Burger King. Which if you know anything about social, you know that in order to promote a post on someone else’s page, you need to Whitelist the post. So, this means that Burger King reached out to this person and asked to whitelist their post…. savage.

Wendy’s recently got rid of their Spicy Nuggets just as Burger King started promoting their Spicy Nuggets and Burger King is going through great lengths to promote their nugget product.

This picture shows a Burger King billboard right by a Wendy’s restaurant, promoting their spicy nuggets.

Why its hot?

  • I just think this is a very interesting example of brand vs. brand. Wendy’s has yet to comment, but hold tight, its only been a day. Wendy’s is known for their sass and savagery when it comes to interacting on Twitter with competitors.
  • ALSO — On Oct. 13 from noon until closing time, anyone named Wendy can receive a free ten piece order of the new nuggets — you just have to show up to one of the participating locations in Los Angeles, Miami and New York City with a valid ID.

https://www.today.com/food/burger-king-spicy-chicken-nuggets-war-wendy-s-t117318

Snapchat introduces Context Cards

Snapchat is introducing Context Cards, a way for users to see reviews and maps of where their friends are checking in. From there you can make reservations or call the retail locations.

Why It’s Hot?

Snapchat kind of exists in a world of its own and anytime it integrates with other apps and plays nice, it’s a boon for marketers. This integration is pretty seamless and seems like a great way to bring in the larger internet snugly into the new “maps” piece of the Snapchat world. I hope Snapchat always sticks to their guns, and keeps their interface contained, as they continue to incorporate into the larger picture.

VR Replacement for your PC and 3D Facebook Posts

Oculus’ Connect 4 VR conference held place recently and Facebook announced some awesome stuff. I’ll be focusing on the two that stood out for me, but you can see some others on this article.

First one that caught my attention was the Oculus Dash, Facebook’s new user interface that let’s users customize their VR Home space with the goal of replacing traditional computer monitors in a very Minority Report-style way.

Users can easily open apps and move windows in the 3D space around them. Dash will let users open desktop apps like Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, Spotify, and Chrome.

 

The next that that caught my attention was Facebook’s new 3D posts in the newsfeed. It will allow users and brands to post interactive 3D models right in their newsfeed. These can be simple 3D objects that users can rotate around and zoom in on, or more interactive. For example, the demo below shows how users can open a 3D car door.

 

Why it’s hot:

  • Oculus Dash is helping VR become a replacement for PCs, with it’s dropped price point and new features we may see more users picking one up
  • Brands can now make interactive 3D posts on Facebook

More info:

Bookmark your tweets!

Twitter's Adding a New Bookmarks Feature to Help Keep Track of Tweets | Social Media Today

So much content, so little time. I see so much throughout the day that I cannot read it all, so I save links as much as possible. Facebook lets you save articles and videos, and even reminds you about unread saves, but Twitter has only just now added a save function.

Previously, most users would “like” a tweet to be able to come back to it, or email the link to themselves. “Liking” a tweet is a public action, and not all users want that event out in the world for all to see. Also, a “like” will influence Twitter’s algorithm and what ads and recommended accounts they show you. The ability to bookmark tweets makes it easier for users to save what they’re interested in and improves overall platform performance.

Why its hot

Bookmarking tweets seems like an obvious idea, even if it flies in the face of Twitter’s position as the “live news” platform. I like this change as someone who frequently sees content I’m interested in, but don’t have time to read it. I am also curious to see if “bookmarks” becomes a part of Twitter’s standard analytics offered to brands and publishers.

Mayor to review 1,000 Amazon products in bid for company’s new HQ

It’s been about a month since Amazon announced it was accepting bids from US cities to host its second major headquarters. A city that comes away with a new Amazon campus could potentially see a significant economy boost, so competition will certainly be fierce. And with the deadline for cities to submit their proposals exactly one week away, Kansas City, Missouri has emerged as perhaps the city with the most creative strategy. As noted by VentureBeatKansas City mayor Sly James purchased 1,000 products from Amazon for charity and is reviewing every single one — and the reviews very quickly pivot into why his city would be a great place for the company’s new HQ.

James explained his plan with a few videos on Twitter and also set up a URL that lets interested parties (like Amazon) see everything he’s reviewed. Products run the gamut from 22-inch wind chimes priced at only $14.99 (“I live in beautiful Kansas City where the average home price is just $122K, so I know luxe living doesn’t have to cost a ton”) to the classic kids story Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (“Alexander had a really bad day, but here in KC, we’re ranked as one of the 20 happiest cities to work in right now…”). You get the idea.

Video here

Site here

James just kicked the program off earlier this week, but he already has posted dozens of reviews — though a read through his entertaining Twitter feed makes it sound as if he’s not actually doing all the posting himself. But there’s little doubt this goofy but heartfelt venture is driving some positive buzz for Kansas City. Whether or not that’ll make a difference in the bidding process remains to be seen, but the city does meet enough of Amazon’s criteria that it should be in the running.

Source: Engadget

Why it’s Hot:

Going all out for your city’s economic growth means more than formal pitches, apparently. Taking to social to find humorous and creative ways to stand out is a solid idea — let’s see how it pans out for KC’s chances!

 

Google Express Just Upped Their Game

A few years ago, the idea that Target and Walmart would publicly chat about having the same strategy would have seemed odd—the retail titans are notoriously tight-lipped about their tactics, particularly when it comes to giving the other intel on what they’re doing.

But as Amazon’s dominance continues to grow, stealing shoppers away from brands’ ecommerce sites, an intriguing partnership today with Google offers a look at how retailers could be more willing to put their differences aside and work together to fend off Amazon’s encroaching competition. While Google said that it will keep the two partnerships separate from a data-sharing perspective, the deals show how major retailers are willing to back the same initiatives for the sake of shaking off Amazon.

“These partnerships aren’t about voice—they’re really more symbolic of the fact that major retailers are willing to partner with Google in the fight against Amazon,” said Cooper Smith, director of Amazon research at L2. “Brands and retailers need to scale their audiences in order to compete against Amazon online, and Google can offer them that. We’re in the beginning stages of what eventually could be a legitimate alternative to Amazon.”

Today Target announced that it’s making its inventory available on Google Express, the shopping service that also counts Costco, Kohl’s and Walgreens as clients. Consumers will also be able to ask Google Assistant, which is plugged into its Google Home devices, to order products.

By next year, shoppers that use Target’s credit card to purchase items will save 5 percent on orders from Google Express. The retailer also plans to build out a capability that allows consumers to link their Target.com accounts to Google to receive personalized product recommendations.

In August, Walmart announced a similar voice deal with Google that allows consumers to purchase “hundreds of thousands of items” by linking a website account to Google Assistant. Over time, Google’s technology can remember which products, sizes and flavors someone regularly buys to make check out a bit faster.

Now, Walmart and Target will somewhat compete on terms—or keywords—that consumers order from Google. For example, if someone asks Google Home to order detergent and they shop from Target more frequently than Walmart, Google will surface product recommendations from Target.

“This is clearly a chain reaction to the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods,” said Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM. “Google’s expertise founded around search gives them a profound understanding of consumer intent—they probably know more about what people are specifically searching for than any other company. Finding ways to bridge that with what Walmart or Target understands around satisfying demand seems like a potentially powerful partnership.”

Source: AdWeek

Why It’s Hot
I guess it truly is Amazon against the world… Who would have thought that two major competitors would ever join forces, let alone allow their products to be sold on the same platform. Target joins Walmart as one of the major retailers on Google’s e-Commerce store, Google Express, that allows shoppers to access a variety of products all in one place, ala-Amazon. Both retail giants will have their products on the website, where shoppers can shop right from their Google Home devices. This is sure to be an interesting battle going forward, as Google has more access to an unlimited amount of data surrounding keywords and how users shop than any other company.

Mark Zuckerberg Apologizes for VR Tour of Puerto Rico

On Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Rachel Franklin—who leads the social network’s virtual reality work—livestreamed a 360-degree video from the top of a building on Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., campus to show the damage in Puerto Rico from the recent hurricanes.

The two called the video a “magical tour” and used the company’s five-month-old Facebook Spaces VR app that turns users into cartoon characters. As Zuckerberg and Franklin talked, footage of the devastated area captured by NPR ran in the background.

Immediate criticism on social media called Zuckerberg’s clip tone-deaf and accused him of “exploiting disaster” by promoting Facebook’s VR initiatives.

Zuckerberg later apologized, saying that his intentions for using VR were not clear initially.

“One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy,” he commented on the video. “My goal here was to show how VR can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world. I also wanted to share the news of our partnership with the Red Cross to help with the recovery. Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone this offended.”

Why it’s not hot:

  • Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s use of VR to show the devestation in Puerto Rico came off as tone-deaf and self-serving.
  • Although they were announcing a partnership with Red Cross, using it to plug their new VR capabilities made the partnership seem less empathetic and authentic.
  • When natural disasters occur, brands need to be aware of the sensitivity of the situation and take into account the emotional reality those effected are facing.

Source

 

Tamagotchis are back!

[insert siren emoji here] Big news: Bandai just released a new line of Tamagotchis to celebrate the iconic toy’s 20th anniversary! These little buddies are very similar to their original predecessors, 256-pixel screen and all – the only real difference is that they’re about 20% smaller than the classic version. There are six shell designs to choose from, and the digital pets are just as needy and adorable as you remember them being. Have fun!

Why it’s hot: The trend of reviving 90s-era tech & toys continues! Nokia re-released its classic 3310 mobile phone earlier this year, and Nintendo released a NES Classic Edition last year. Is Game Boy next??!!

Read more: Gizmodo | Engadget

Spotify for Artists

Spotify For Artists is an app launching this week that gives musicians and their managers mobile access to super-detailed analytics about their music and the people listening to it.

The Spotify For Artists app takes some of the most useful insights about an artist’s music—which songs are most popular, how many streams they’re getting over all, where those listeners live, and which playlists are helping win over new fans—and boils them down into digestible graphical charts. It’s a bit like Google Analytics for rappers, electronic DJs, and pop stars.

This isn’t the first time Spotify has made this kind of data available. Spotify For Artists is a product that first launched on the web in April, after a private beta period. First, Spotify opened it up to all artists (the first big, on-demand streaming app of its kind to do so). Now it’s letting them access it on their phones.

The app also gives artists some control over their presence on Spotify, allowing them to do things like update their bios, post playlists, and select the “artist’s pick” track that Spotify lets them display on their profiles.

Spotify For Artists is part of a broader effort to build more artist-facing tools and ’empower’ them. The company also started a program called Fans First, which uses data to detect the most obsessive listeners of a given artist and target them with special offers like pre-sale concert tickets or exclusive merchandise. The company has also been working harder to strengthen its relationships within the music industry and among artists, in part by hiring former Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter.

Why it’s hot: This is yet another way in which Spotify is leveraging their data in an interesting and unexpected way. It is great to see them making it readily available for artists who can benefit from knowing more about their core users. Additionally, making it available on a mobile app vs. just desktop (as they launched in April) makes this an even more accessible and useful tool to the music industry.

Source: FastCo

Upgrade Your Flight with VR

Flying isn’t what it used to be, so more people opt for budget airlines. They will (usually) get where you need to go, but you also know not to expect a pleasant experience. Will your luggage be small enough for the cabin, or will you have to pay an exorbitant rate to check it?

And forget food. If you get that, you got lucky.

With this in mind, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, part of the Air France-KLM family, launched the KLM Flight Upgrader, a virtual reality experience that (almost) enables you to escape your budget flight … without paying the brand-name airline cost.

Distributed at no cost to people waiting to board budget flights for JFK New York, the KLM Flight Upgrader makes a compelling promise: From your paper-thin seat, spend hours holding the app to your face and enjoying everything a KLM flight would have offered you—entertainment, newspapers and the enjoyment of watching a “caring crew” issue a proper meal you can only hope to taste. (Toss a peanut into your mouth. Salt is salt, right?)

“Just pop this thing on your head and you can use virtual reality to escape the real reality of your flight,” a narrator brightly tells us.

Passengers can spend as much time aboard the virtual flight as they wish, and can watch either the full episode of a show, or 10 minutes of a blockbuster movie. Better yet, peer down to scope the leg room. Don’t kick, though.

This last illustrates the masochism of the concept, which in some ways eclipses its cleverness. KLM never addresses why people take budget flights in the first place: Flights are expensive, even as the perks begin to vanish; a budget airline at least assures you get somewhere without having to skip a mortgage payment. On a recent trip, I took a budget international flight that cost around $500. KLM’s sister brand Air France proposed upwards of $3,000.

Faced with this dissonance, it’s too easy to pretend people opt to suffer through budget flights because they simply don’t know how much better an established brand experience will be. Distribution of the Flight Upgrader was relatively small, so user impact is probably the least relevant part of this story, but we’re not convinced it did much more than rub salt in the wound.

Not that that matters. KLM isn’t stupid; this is a promotional play, and it’s hedging bets in the budget arena. Air France recently shared news of its own budget offering: Joon, targeted to younger users and blessed with the improbable tagline, “Also an airline.”

In any event, users looking to escape some future airborne reality (or simply watch a free TV show) can download the KLM Flight Upgrader app from Google Play and the App Store, then use their own VR headset to make the magic happen. A limited quantity of KLM cardboard headsets—not so subtly labeled “Do not disturb—pretending to fly KLM”—are still available and can be requested free of charge on the website.

Why it’s hot:

  • VR continues to grow in popularity, but it still is not the norm for advertising especially in the transportation space. KLM does a great job at targeting their competitors and showing exactly how they are a better choice for travelers.

One Brand’s Trash is Another’s Treasure

To align with Columbus Day, Astral Tequila presented “Columbus Day: A Reenactment,” an ad starring Jonathan Goldsmith, the Artist Formerly Known as the Most Interesting Man in the World.

 

At the end of the video, Goldsmith breaks the fourth wall to address us, the viewing audience, directly: “That is pretty much how it happened.” Cue a close-up of a bottle of Astral Tequila and, on-screen, “Happy Columbus Day.”

To say that Columbus’ legacy is complicated is a vast understatement.

When you touch upon this realm, there’s sure to be backlash, but they’re not taking sides, they’re making light of what we know as the facts: An explorer set out for India and landed in a new world, one already inhabited albeit, although he claimed to have found it.

“Our spot is simply lampooning Christopher Columbus’ journey,” says Astral VP-Marketing Joen Choe in a statement provided by Erich and Kallman, the agency of record for the Davos Brands tequila. Choe added that Columbus “set out for India, but bumped into America instead. We are certainly not making light of any historical events.”

Why Its Hot:

I’m steering clear of the controversial nature of “Columbus Day” theme and going for what I like most about this spot: re-purposing of a commercial celebrity. It reminds me of the ‘can you hear me now’ guy’s resurrection by Sprint. One brand’s trash is another’s treasure!

Spanish Internet Crackdown Pre-Referendum

An interesting breakdown of how to stifle dissent on the Internet from the recent Catalonia referendum from the EFF:

  • Seize top level domains: the Spanish Civil Police seized refendum.cat, as well as a host of associated websites. Associated domains were seized if they were on the .cat TLD, and blocked if they were not.
  • Spain didnt stop with existing websites, but also blocked “any future sites with content related to the referendum, publicized on any social network by a member of the Catalonian Government. This order accelerated the blocking of further websites without any further court order. These apparently included the censorship of non-partisan citizen collectives (e.g. empaperem.cat) and other non-profit organizations (assemblea.catwebdelsi.catalerta.cat), and campaign websites by legal political parties (prenpartit.cat).”
  • Spain obtained a court order blocking a voting app on the Google Play store, as well as any other apps made by the same developer. This order included penalties for mirrors, proxies, or other copies made to circumvent the other.

Why it’s hot: 

This demonstrates the level of government control that exists on the Internet these days. We’re used to thinking of the wild west, and enabling democratic revolutions, but it’s increasingly clear that governments have become much more sophisticated in blocking information sources online. What does this mean for the future of free communication?

Inflatable Robot

Why It’s Hot: This technology allows people to access hard to get and potentially dangerous to areas more safely and efficiently. The fact that this technology can be applied to both micro and macro situations opens many possibilities.