Science Twitter Goes Bananas

Following Science Twitter in the time of the pandemic has been a personal treat (anyone else following Andy Slavitt?) This is the best way to get new COVID info fast.

Recently there has been MAJOR drama within the science Twitter world. My friend (a research scientist) summarized it well for me “Science Twitter has been insane recently. This is a professor named BethAnn who started a movement called MeTooSTEM to try to bring to light sexual harassment in academia, especially among a protected class of tenured professors. She was briefly [at the center of this discussion] as she did not get tenure after fighting against a prof at her university accused of sexual harassment. But, BethAnn has been accused for a long time of being anti-POC… Lots of people dropped out of the movement.”

Per the NYTimes, an “anonymous [Twitter] account, @Sciencing_Bi, was an active participant in the corner of Science Twitter that frequently discusses issues of sexual misconduct in the sciences. It claimed on at least one occasion to have grown up in Alabama, to have “fled the south because of their oppression of queer folk,” and to have attended Catholic school. The account began to pointedly make reference to being Native American and, earlier this year, began to identify as Hopi.

Since 2016, it has posted often about issues around social justice in the sciences, with a focus on activism and research about sexual harassment.”

“Then BethAnn McLaughlin, another Twitter connection, announced on July 31 that the anonymous professor had died from complications of the virus.”

“The same day, Gerardo Gonzalez, a spokesman for Arizona State University, where the anonymous Twitter user was supposedly a professor, described the anonymous account as a “hoax.”

The account had posted inaccurate information about the school, he said. “We also have had no one, such as a family member or friend, report a death to anyone at the university,” he added.”

As it turns out, this account was actually created (and killed off) by BethAnn herself.

BethAnn McLaughlin in late 2018.BethAnn McLaghlin

@Sciencing_Bi seemed to make BethAnn impenetrable to criticism. Now it’s clear that this person was a figment of her imagination, not a fully realized human, and a tool to shield BethAnn herself.

Why it’s hot?

Catfishing is real. This person was believed across the scientific universe. Her university had to disavow the person before it was realized. What does that mean when we are all getting our information from “experts online” in the pandemic?

Babe Wine & Bumble find a quarantine niche

What meaningful role can a dating app and a wine brand both play in the lives of those going through a Covid breakup? They can be those two dependable besties, one who pours you a drink and says they always hated your ex, while the other tells you you’re better off and helps you move your things. This seems to have been the insight behind the brand collaboration of Babe Wine and Bumble, who have offered people a chance to have their move-out costs covered (plus a Babe Wine gift-card and a free Bumble profile) by being tagged by a IRL friend — who thinks you really could us a pick-me-up during your covid-breakup woes — in the comments on Babe Wine’s Instagram.

 

From Mobile Marketer:

Babe Wine, the brand of sparkling canned wine owned by AB InBev, is working with women-first dating app Bumble on a social media campaign to cover the moving costs of people who are stuck living with an ex during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an announcement shared exclusively with Mobile Marketer.

To win a chance to have their moving costs covered by Babe and Bumble, users of photo-sharing app Instagram can tag themselves on the “moving on” post on Babe’s @drinkbabe account. The brand will choose five winners from the comments who appear to be “turning their breakup into a glow up,” per the announcement.

Babe and Bumble created a flyer showing a mock moving company named “B&B Movers” that touts its services, including moving furniture, removing all traces from an ex from a smartphone and tailoring a Bumble profile to get back into the dating scene.

The stunt is most likely to reach the 75% of U.S. consumers ages 18 to 24 and the 57% of people ages 25 to 29 who use Instagram, as measured by Pew Research Center. Those consumers helped to drive a 79% surge in off-premise sales of canned wine to $163 million for the 12-month period ended in June, per Nielsen data cited by Forbes. The growth in canned wine indicates how younger consumers are seeking convenience and value consistent with their easy-drinking style, Wine Spectator reported.

From Marketing Brew:

The dating app and AB InBev wine brand are offering to cover moving costs (and more) to turn five breakups into glow ups via an Instagram giveaway.

The prize? Not having to quarantine with your ex anymore, plus wine and a new Bumble profile.

Price of entry? Commenting on B&B’s Instagram post about the campaign.

Find a friend: Like any relationship, it’s important to make sure your partner isn’t your competitor. Bumble and Babe swiped right because they sell different things to similar audiences.

Go hard on cobranding: Bumble’s outline font, meet Babe Wine’s high-performing brand colors. Even B&B’s cobranded moving van now provides brand equity for both partners.

Provide more than cash: In addition to covering $600 worth of moving fees, Babe & Bumble promote their products by offering a $100 Babe gift card and a “hand tailored” Bumble profile as prizes.

Why it’s hot:

Right time, right product, right message. The lighthearted and encouraging copy is just what the recently heartbroken are looking for, as well as a moving company and some wine in a can to drown their sorrows.

Leveraging IRL friends. Asking friends to nominate someone who needs some “love” helps draw a connection from the brand into the sphere of someone’s actual friend. Psychologically, this feels a little like community, and that’s just what you’re desperate for when you’ve just broken up.

“Brand as friend” is strong with this one. Babe Wine is was built on social media, so a campaign on social that drives interaction has them very in their element, and every comment reply offers them an opportunity to reinforce their brand identity. Fun Fact: Babe Wine was co-founded by The Fat Jew, someone who knows a thing or two about social media marketing.

Source: Mobile Marketer, Marketing Brew

Back-to-School Ads Get A-

This Back-to-School (BTS) year is unlike any other and so is its advertising. According to research, BTS advertising so far in July is down almost 50% vs. year-ago period as many retail marketers pull back on spending and families remain unsure of whether kids will return to in-person classes this Fall.

But there’s a silver lining to this. Despite BTS advertising budgets being down, the quality of the work that does exist – which is usually pretty cliché filled with sunny and happy kids in yellow buses – is up.

From JansPort backpacks #LightentheLoad campaign tackling mental health in today’s volatile and uncertain environment through candid teen interviews to Old Navy’s campaign starring five activists (reflecting today’s civil rights movements and concerns) to the Tik-Tok influenced campaigns by Hollister and American Eagle, the work is more relevant and grounded as it leans into the realities of the pandemic head on.

Although Hollister’s creative isn’t necessarily my favorite, their light-hearted “Jeanology” campaign which riffs on the idea of conducting science experiments with Bill Nye has a lot going for it. As part of the campaign, Hollister entered a long-term partnership with the D’Amelios, who rank among the most popular content creators on TikTok. The tie-up extends beyond social media content, as the D’Amelios’ hand-selected denim picks will receive a special tag in stores and online starting today.

TikTok also continues to have a strong hold on the attention of Gen Z: The percentage of U.S. consumers ages 13 to 35 who use it rose to 27% in April from 19% in January, according to Civic Science data, as the service saw a surge in activity as a result of the coronavirus.

Why it’s hot: It’s interesting to see how brands are adapting to address the moment – not just from a messaging but production standpoint. Also, for Hollister in particular, it’s cool to see that the campaign extends beyond the video app to cover all of the brand’s social media channels, as well as in-store activations. A true URL + IRL campaign.

Balloon-Powered Internet from Google

Google is now providing internet in some parts of Kenya through balloons like this one.Source: CNN

Covering more than 50,000 sq.km with a fleet of 35 base stations, Google’s Loon Project and Telkom Kenya are bringing balloon-powered mobile internet service to the country. The first balloon-powered internet launch in Africa and the first non-emergency commercial deployment in the world – the service will reach underserved and unserved people in remote regions.

The Loon service will work by beaming Internet connectivity from ground stations to balloons 20 km overhead. The balloons (floating base stations) are linked to the ground stations that have been connected to Telkom’s network. These ground stations utilise millimeter wave spectrum to send connectivity from the ground to the balloons overhead.

From there, a signal can be sent across multiple balloons, creating a network of floating base stations that will serve a wide coverage area, delivering connectivity directly to a user’s LTE-enabled device, below.
Source: IT News Africa

 

In an effort to support the Kenyan Government’s efforts to manage the current crisis, both companies at break-neck speed to ensure enhanced and alternative communication options.

The balloons are launched from locations in the United States and are being navigated to Kenya using wind currents. According to Project Loon, more balloons will be released as more experience in flying over Kenya is gained.
Source: CNN

Why it’s hot:  If this works sustainably, it opens possibilities for other remote regions across the globe.

Boom Time For Death Planning

The New York Times reports that since COVID-19 struck there has been significant growth in the market for products and services that help people manage their own end of days–especially for digital startups targeting millennials.

Companies like Cake and Lantern have found increased online traffic as they help young people plan for death (e.g. write obituaries, wills) and grieve online for those who have passed.

Why it’s hot: 

These apps may provide a window into the role that technology will play in the funeral and estate planning industries of the future.

Zoom Goes from Software to Hardware

Designed specifically for Zoom, Zoom for Home – DTEN ME is a 27″ display touch-screen is meant to help those without smartphones or laptops to work from home. The display includes 3 wide-angle cameras and an 8 noise-reducing microphone array and is pre-loaded with Zoom. The touch screen will allow users to use things like whiteboard applications in Zoom.

The stand-alone device, essentially a large computer-sized tablet, will work with an existing Zoom account and provide access to standard Zoom features. Users will be able to start meetings, make calls and take advantage of interactive annotations. The device will also allow users to sync their calendars, meeting settings and phones.

Zoom’s new device is available for pre-order now, and the company expects to start shipping it in August.  It’s Zoom’s first dive into hardware and the company has told TechCrunch that it will launch new products with more partners in the future.

Why it’s hot: Zoom’s exponential growth due to the onset of COVID-19 primes the company for expansion, but as we’ve seen with Portal TV, Facebook’s video chat camera accessory for your TV, breaking into hardware is not easy.

Source: CNBC

Relaunching the Ford Bronco after 25 years

After 25 years the Ford Bronco is back for 2021. The model was discontinued in 1996 after the market shifted, to make room for a new breed of over-sized family SUVs that allowed suburbanites to feel like they weren’t over the hill. No, it was not discontinued because of OJ, but it’s a common assumption.

They had a lot to cover to make this relaunch a success.

  1. Connecting the new model to its storied history as “America’s first SUV” and educating the audience about that history? Check.
  2. Authentically tapping into the spirit of adventure and escapism that defines the category? Check.
  3. Triggering the public’s wanderlust after being cooped up for months by Covid? Check
  4. Embodying the power and rugged emotionality of wild horses and the Great American West? Check.
  5. Shrugging off Ford’s weak “Ford-Focus” image. Check.

The copywriters had a field day in the ads, with gems like:

  1. Literally calling the vehicle a “horse”.
  2. “You need something that can look adventure in the eye, and give it a firm handshake.”
  3. You need something that’s not happy until it takes you through whatever creek or snow or mud or mountain trail or dune or logging road or landmark with death in its name. You need a Bronco.”
  4. “Built as wild as what you’re looking for.”

To Dos:

Launch it like it’s the blockbuster event of the summer

OPENING LINE: “There’s still some wild out there…”

Explain why it’s the antidote to the disappointment of the American mythology’s unfulfilled promise of a life of adventure

OPENING LINE: “This country has a strange relationship with the wild. As much as we talk about it, and paint paintings of it, and sing songs about how we’re destined to be it, we seem to spend every waking hour in places that keep us away from it… so to get back to the wild, we need something built for it.”

Tap into our primal instincts of auditory association

Show audiences the R&D

Show off your history / remind people you’re a legend

Use the old to sell the new

 

 

 

 

 

Make it a lifestyle

Get the nerds to geek out on features

 

Ford Press Release:

“Academy Award-winning director and acclaimed cinematographer, photographer and professional climber, Jimmy Chin, collaborated with Disney CreativeWorks, Disney’s award-winning creative agency, to co-create network reveal stories with the Ford team.”

From Tech Crunch:

The launch of the Bronco looks to be a masterclass in nostalgia. For the last few weeks, Ford has been feeding journalists with media assets — pictures, staged interviews and upcoming advertisements. I’ve yet to see the full vehicle because in the end, Ford is not relying on the Bronco itself to drive sales, but rather, is digging deep into the power of nostalgia to move the Bronco off lots.

Recalling the past can help companies develop a unified theme around a product or service. In this case with the Bronco, only recalling part of the past helps companies dial in messaging. With Ford, the company wants consumers in agreement: This is a tough vehicle and it’s always been a tough vehicle. Forget about OJ, these adverts say. Instead, look at how the Bronco was used by two burly men bounding over the rolling hills of a cattle ranch. Ford is digging deep into American lore to show the Bronco as a rugged conqueror of the frontier instead of a conqueror of parking lot flowerbeds.

Why it’s hot:

They treated the relaunch like a summer blockbuster, teasing it for weeks.

They let viewers in on the R & D process and let the car nerds talk it up.

They connected to powerful auditory sensations in ads.

They showed us all the places we wish we could go, tapping into our pent-up covid wander lust.

They re-worked their famous tagline just for this: From Built Ford Tough to BUILT WILD

The Ford logo is nowhere to be found, even on the vehicle itself. This is all about the BRONCO franchise.

They built an affinity community around it with tons of features to make it a lifestyle.

Source: Twitter, Ford, Tech Crunch

 

Is TikTok’s future in danger? Has Instagram found a new opportunity for growth?

42% of TikTok’s in-app revenue and advertisement purchases in total come from the US.

43% of active users on TikTok are based in India.

The Indian government called these apps “prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order”

TikTok has said previously that it operates separately from it’s parent company. It says its data centers are located entirely outside of China, and that none of that data is subject to Chinese law. US user data is stored in the United States, with a backup in Singapore, according to TikTok. A spokesperson for the company told CNN Business in May that it thinks the national security concerns are “unfounded.”

Instagram said on Wednesday it is officially rolling out Reels — a feature that allows users to create short-form videos (up to 15 seconds long) set to music or other audio — to a “broad” user base in India. The Facebook -owned service first began testing Reels, which has been widely referred as “TikTok clone”, in select markets late last year.

Reels videos will appear on Instagram’s Explore tab, enabling users to reach a broader audience than their own following base. Users can also share Reels as “Stories”, though, in that case the video will not appear in Explore tab and will disappear after 24 hours.

So a broad test of Reels, which has also rolled out Brazil, France, and Germany, in India was only natural, Mohan said, dismissing the characterisation that the new feature’s availability now had anything to do with a recent ban of TikTok in India.

Why it’s hot: Will Instagram be able to entice TikTok’s audience the way it was able to steal Snapchat’s audience a few years ago when it replicated Snapchat’s features into its app?

Sources: one, two

Columbia University researchers know why you chose that playlist

A new study out of Columbia Business School and Bar-Ilan University in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that you prefer the music of artists with personalities similar to your own. In other words, you like yourself.

Researchers studied the public personas of the most famous 50 musicians in the Western world, including Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Whitney Houston, The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, and Ozzy Osbourne. In two studies of over 80,000 participants, they found that the personalities of the musicians correlate with those of their fans. A third study of 4,995 participants showed that fans’ personalities predict their musical preferences as much as other strong predictors like gender, age, and features of the music.

Music shapes cultural interactions between individuals and groups, as well as influence listeners’ thoughts and feelings, so researchers sought out to understand the mechanisms of these interactions.

“The findings can pave the way for new approaches for record companies or music management to target and build audiences,” noted coauthor Sandra Matz, an associate professor of business at Columbia Business School.

Why it’s hot: As marketers, the findings of this study might not come as a surprise to us but is potentially a large driving insight when seeking to understand certain audiences mindsets, cultural influences, and motivators.

Source: FastCo

The Face Mask of The Future

face.jpg

Shipping in Japan in September, the C-Face mask will join the long list of the internet of things gadgets to hit the market. Created in response to consumer’s COVID concerns, the mask offers protection and convenience at the same time. Linked to the wearers’ smartphone, the plastic C-Face allows users to record conversations, amplify their voice, make calls, transcribe speech into texts and translate Japanese speech into 8 different languages.

Source: DesignBoom

Why it’s hot: Even though there are more IoT devices out there than we know what to do with, the C-mask solves an immediate real-life challenge – being heard through our masks and dealing with a no-touch world.

The Path to Enduring Loyalty

Stitch Fix Is Attracting Loyal Customers Without a Loyalty Program

As their customer base has grown in recent years, so too has the revenue they generate from each active customer. Even amidst the pain the apparel industry has been experiencing, over the last few months of the coronavirus pandemic, Stitch Fix has managed to weather the storm with only a slight revenue decline – mostly due to the decision to close warehouses for a period.

WHY IT’S HOT:  In a world where “loyalty” tends to cost businesses and marketers money, in the form of deals and discounts, Stitch Fix is a testament to the the power of data to drive true personalization across the customer experience.

From The Motley Fool:

A personal stylist armed with a powerful data-driven selection algorithm creates a great customer experience.

 

In the highly competitive clothing industry, loyal customers are worth their weight in gold. Stores go to great lengths to attract repeat customers with programs that provide rewards, discounts, or exclusive offers for loyal members. But even with these programs, customers are hard to keep. A 2019 survey by Criteo found that 72% of apparel shoppers were open to considering other brands, which is why what Stitch Fix (NASDAQ:SFIX) has done to create loyal clients without a loyalty program is so special.

Let’s look at this personalized online clothing retailer’s loyal customers, how data science is helping build loyalty into the process, and what management is doing to further capitalize on the company’s momentum.

Loyal customers spend more

Clothing stores have seen a significant drop in spending in the past few months, but Stitch Fix’s most recent quarterly revenue only declined by 9% year over year. Impressively, this decline was not due to a drop in demand, but because the company chose to close its warehouses for part of the quarter as it put safety measures in place for its staff. This strong result against a backdrop of abysmal retail clothing spending was powered in part by the company’s auto-ship customers.

In the most recent earnings call, CEO Katrina Lake indicated that customers who sign up to receive “Fixes” (shipments of clothes) automatically and on a regular basis “achieved the strongest levels of ownership retention in the last three years.” She added that “this large contingent of loyal and highly engaged clients” are “very valuable.” Having a stable base of repeat clients helps the company better predict demand trends, shape inventory purchases, and forecast appropriate staffing levels.

Additional benefits from Stitch Fix’s loyal customers show up in the revenue-per-active-client metric. At the end of the day, consumers vote with their wallets. And impressively, this number has increased for the last eight quarters in a row. It’s clear Stitch Fix clients love the service as they are willing to spend more over time.

Possibly the biggest reason clients are spending more is that they are better matched with items they love.

Data science helps improve the customer experience

Making great clothing selections is key to the client experience for Stitch Fix. The job of keeping this recommendation engine humming and improving it over time is the company’s data scientist team. This group is over 100 strong and many of its members have Ph.D.s in data science or related fields. The team received a patent on its Smart Fix Algorithm and has other patents pending. You can see the amazing detail that goes into this process on the Algorithms Tour section of the Stitch Fix website.

This algorithm is also driving selections for the direct buy offering, which allows clients to purchase clothing without the commitment of the five-item fix. This new service is taking off and its low return rates show that clients love it. Lake shared that “people keeping things that they love is ultimately like the true Northstar of our business and that’s really where we’re orienting a lot of our efforts again.” One of these new efforts is focused on pushing the envelope of how stylists engage with clients.

Doubling down on personalized service

On the last earnings call, Stitch Fix President Elizabeth Spaulding discussed a pilot program that “provide[s] clients with increased stylist engagement and the opportunity to select items in their fixes.” This program, currently being tested in the U.S. and the U.K., connects the client on a video call with a stylist while their fix is being created. This allows the client direct input into their selections and enables the stylist to become better acquainted with the client’s clothing choices.

This innovative approach plays to the company’s strengths and could further build its loyal client following. Spaulding indicated that more would be shared in upcoming calls, but said that “We believe this enhanced styling experience will appeal to an even broader set of clients as consumers seek high-touch engagement while not going into stores.”

Smell Like Space

Want to experience space but don’t have the money? Eau de Space brings the experience straight to your nose. A new Kickstarter campaign lets you purchase a bottle for $29, and they’ll match your purchase with a donation to a local STEM program.

The fragrance is inspired by a scent developed by NASA decades ago to help acclimate astronauts as part of their space training.

The space agency had contracted specialists to create the “smell of space” to acclimate astronauts as part of their training and eliminate any environmental surprises prior to lift off.

 

Described by astronauts as a mix of gunpowder, seared steak, raspberries and rum, “space smell” is the latest attempt to capture the smells of places. Other attempts include the New York City candle (hopefully in winter, not summer) or Tom Dixon candles with a scent to evoke “historical memories of British life.”

Why it’s hot:  Smell is the most sensitive of the senses, 75% of emotions are triggered by smell – smell is the last frontier.

Walmart poised to capture the summer movie market?

As traditional movie theaters struggle to attract movie-goers during the pandemic, the confined-space nature of their offering has opened up opportunity for other players. Perhaps one in particular that happens to have a huge amount of real estate for parking cars and for allowing customers to sit back and watch a film from the comfort (and relative safety) of their vehicle? Enter: Walmart.

Walmart has had success being more customer focused with their shop online and pick up stations. This new foray into theaters feels like an extension of that customer-centric premise.

Walmart is smart to move fast to assess how the brand can fulfill consumer desires in light of current events with resources they mostly already have on hand. This agility is what will help Walmart capitalize on movie-goers while theater heavy hitters are sitting ducks.

It’s also a lead-gen play. To discover info and movie times, you need to sign up for their newsletter.

From The Verge:

Walmart is converting some of its parking lots into drive-in theaters for the summer as the movie industry struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The retail behemoth is converting 160 of its parking lots across the US into drive-ins. These theaters will open in early August and remain open through October. The Walmart Drive-In will feature movies programmed by Tribeca Enterprises, the company behind the Tribeca Film Festival, which recently launched a summer movie drive-in series bringing films, music, and sporting events to as many US drive-ins as possible.

Walmart has not disclosed whether attendees will have to pay a price of admission. Though, ahead of each drive-in screening, Walmart says it will sell concessions for moviegoers, which they can order online for curbside pick-up ahead of the film screening. Theaters tend to make a good chunk of their profits on concessions, so Walmart could follow in the industry’s lead.

Why it’s hot:

1. This is a great example of using surplus resources to fill a market gap. The heavy investment stuff is already in place. Walmart needs to invest in some screens, staff, etc, but that overhead is minimal.

2. Though it’s only temporary, the experience created should endear people to the brand, as well as boost revenues from concessions sales.

Source: The Verge

Oura Rings Are The Wearables that Could Detect COVID Before You Do

The NBA is back starting July 30th and are using wearables to ensure that they are COVID free.

The wearable is “a $300 ring made by the Finnish company Oura that measures temperature, pulse, respiratory rate, and other physiological data that could theoretically be helpful for detecting whether someone has COVID-19, even before they start exhibiting symptoms. By plugging these variables into an algorithm, the ring will provide the players with an “illness probability score” that tells them whether they should seek a medical examination. A smartphone app linked to the ring will present the score and other information the device has collected. The inner surface of the ring has three sensors: an infrared photoplethysmography sensor for respiration and heart rate, a negative temperature coefficient for body temperature, and a 3D accelerometer for movement.”

How does it work? “While the Oura Ring was originally designed to track sleep patterns, the company is now funding studies at West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute and the University of California San Francisco to determine whether the device could be useful for early COVID-19 detection. A Gizmodo investigation found that the pandemic has prompted a number of similar studies on other wearable technologies – including Fitbits, the Apple Watch, and the Whoop fitness tracker—which have thus far seemed promising, but far from conclusive. Early findings suggest that a higher resting heart rate, respiratory rate, and skin temperature could possibly signal the onset of an infection before the symptoms become noticeable. This is partly due to the fact that body’s immune system produces a substance called C-reactive protein during an infection, which is correlated with higher heart rates and other physiological signs. The Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute recently announced preliminary results from a study observing 600 healthcare professionals and first responders, indicating that the Oura Ring may be able to detect illness up three days before symptoms with 90 percent accuracy.”

Why It’s Hot? 

This could be huge for the US coronavirus fight. These digital markers (maybe with blue tooth to do digital “contact tracing” could help us follow COVID around the US map.

Source: https://slate.com/technology/2020/06/nba-coronavirus-oura-ring-orlando.html

Boston latest big city to take stand against facial recognition software

It’s sadly not surprising that the first false arrest attributed to faulty facial recognition was of a black man in Michigan.

Fast Company:

Boston on Wednesday banned municipal use of facial recognition technology, becoming the largest East Coast city to do so, public radio station WBUR reports.

“Boston should not be using racially discriminatory technology and technology that threatens our basic rights,” said city council member Michelle Wu at a Wednesday hearing, CNET reports.

Facial recognition technology has fallen under heavy criticism, with numerous research reports finding the technology does relatively poorly at recognizing people who aren’t white men. IBM recently announced it would stop offering “general purpose” facial recognition software, and Microsoft and Amazon both announced moratoriums on offering such technology to police.

Boston joins neighboring municipalities Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline in barring local agencies from using the technology. Other cities, including Oakland and San Francisco in California, already ban the technology as well.

The new ordinance drew praise from civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which in a tweet called attention to Robert Williams, a Black man living in Michigan who was arrested after being falsely matched by such software to someone captured in surveillance footage.

City officials are still allowed to use facial recognition to unlock their own devices, and they can still use the technology to automatically spot faces to redact from photos, CNET reports.

Why it’s hot:

1. We’ve talked about inherent bias in AI before, but whether or not to use it has largely been left up to tech companies and the market. Major municipalities have been reluctant to outright ban the use of facial recognition algorithms in surveillance and policing until recently (maybe because mass surveillance is super appealing to governments looking for a cheap way to police the population). Current events could be turning the tide toward a more just and less dystopian future…but maybe this is just a bump in the road for facial recognition.

2. It’s telling that the current complaints lobbed at facial recognition technology focus on its problems with bias, but focus less on its fundamental problems concerning civil liberties and privacy. Maybe because it’s hard to notice until it affects us. Also maybe because those apps using it are just too much fun.

Source: Fast Company

How does Zoom make money?

Have you wondered what Zoom’s revenue model and pricing structure is like?

Infographic: Zoom's Revenue Skyrockets On Pandemic Boost | Statista

“As the chart shows, Zoom saw its revenue skyrocket in the past three months, accelerating an already impressive upward trend. In the quarter ended April 30, total revenue for the video conferencing company amounted to $328 million, up 169 percent from the same period of last year. For the ongoing quarter, Zoom expects another jump in revenue to $495 to $500 million as working from home will remain highly prevalent as long as the pandemic hasn’t run its course.”

 

The free version limits usage time to 40 minutes while limiting user count to 100 attendees. To lift these restrictions, customers will have to pay a monthly subscription fee.

Businesses or individuals have to pay $14.99 when billed monthly or $12.49/month for annual billing.

Zoom Rooms

Zoom Rooms are conference rooms systems that allow organizations to run video meetings. Customers can utilize their existing hardware providers such as Polycom and Cisco or purchase from Zoom-certified hardware providers.

The company’s Professional Services unit then ensures that the installation of conference rooms runs as smoothly as possible.

Customers are charged a monthly subscription fee, which comes in at $49 a month per installed conference room (or $41.58 per month when billed annually).

Furthermore, Zoom partners up with manufacturers like DTEN or Aver to provide their customers with the necessary hardware tools.

Zoom Video Webinars 

Zoom Video Webinars is a web conferencing service that allows users to broadcast a Zoom meeting to up to 10,000 view-only attendees. Webinars start at a capacity of 100 participants and scale up to 10,000 participants, depending on the license bought.

Webinar pricing starts at $14.99 per month and user (when billed monthly). On top of that, a webinar license must be purchased. The price depends on the number of attendees hosted. 

 

Why it’s hot: Certain companies and sectors have benefited from the Covid-19 pandemic and video communications technologies like Zoom have been one of the biggest beneficiaries.

Sources: One, Two

Lush makes 30-second soap

The soap and cosmetics retailer Lush has developed a soap that dissolves after 30 seconds of use to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. It has partnered with Deliveroo, one of the largest food delivery companies in the UAE, to distribute the soap to customers with all of its meal orders.

The company developed the soap to encourage hand-washing based on the World Health Organization’s guidelines for stopping the spread of Covid-19, giving both a practical solution and a demonstration of how long 30 seconds of hand-washing actually lasts.

The brand promoted the soap through its social channels and an online video, and customers can request the soap to be sent directly to them via the microsite 30secondsoap.com. Lush is also including the soap in the delivery of all orders made on its website.

16,000 soaps had been distributed by 12 June, with 27,000 requests submitted through the website from people around the world. The company is now working on a second batch for distribution in the UAE and looking to expand the initiative further across the region into Kuwait, Lebanon, and Saudia Arabia.

Why it’s Hot:
This product release is smart for several distinct reasons:
  1. It’s a product innovation that comes directly out of a current need, making Lush feel relevant and in touch with today’s consumers.
  2. It educates people on the amount of time they need to wash their hands, positioning Lush as an expert in personal care.
  3. It allows for at-home sampling of Lush products, something that isn’t currently possible due to COVID-19.

Alexa sends Spotify listeners Nars samples

Spotify teamed up with cosmetics brand Nars and Dentsu Aegis Network agencies The Story Lab and Vizeum on a voice-activated ad campaign.

The test is a response to the changes in how people shopped for beauty products during the coronavirus pandemic, and it enables shoppers in the U.K. to get blush, lipstick or mascara samples delivered straight to their doors by interacting with a smart speaker.

Nars enlisted the help of voice-activated sampling company Send Me a Sample to enable Spotify listeners to request samples via Alexa or Google Assistant, while The Story Lab and Nars worked with Spotify to deliver ads specifically via smart speakers, encouraging listeners to say, “Ask Send Me a Sample for Nars.”

The campaign started this week and will run for eight weeks.

Spotify/Nars

Spotify U.K. head of sales Rakesh Patel said in a statement, “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Nars and The Story Lab to deliver this innovative voice-activated ad campaign. At Spotify, we know there is huge potential within audio for advertisers, and it’s fantastic that Nars is utilizing the Spotify platform in a new way to get its products into the hands of our shared audiences. We see voice as a huge growth area within the industry, and we’re excited to be able to deliver screen-less advertising solutions for brands.”

The Story Labs senior partnership manager Hannah Scott added, “During the current climate, we have had to adapt our way of engaging with our audience. Delivering samples directly to consumers’ doors is a great workaround and something we hope can add a bit of delight during these times, as the user has a blush, lipstick or mascara sample to choose from. Given that people in lockdown are tuning into their smart speakers more than ever, collaborating with Spotify was the perfect fit.”

Why it’s hot: As smart-speaker usage increases and advertisers continue to pivot to direct-response options during the pandemic, the benefit in interactive audio ads is worth exploring. With most users spending more time than ever at home, smart speakers have seen increased usage. While voice-activated campaigns are not new, the success of this and others like it could give advertisers another performance-driven ad option.
This partnership highlights one important difference between advertising on smart speakers versus advertising on other digital audio platforms — the opportunity to interact with an ad. Opportunities for measurable engagement with interactive audio ads like this may help Spotify and other music streaming companies capitalize on the trend of marketers shifting spend to more performance-driven formats as a result of the broader economic downturn.

Sources: Adweek, eMarketer email briefing

Pandora and the Democratization of Data Analytics

Pandora announced that it will release its new Podcast Analytics feature today, providing podcast hosts with audience information including: where they live, how long they listen, and how they engage with content.

In doing so Pandora is joining competitors Apple and Spotify in providing analytics dashboards to its content producers in a bid to keep them using the platform and help keep listeners engaged.

Why it’s hot: 

Until recently only professional content producers had data into how their content was being purchased, used, and by who–e.g they needed a marketing team to do research. This could impact creative decisions as they chased trends and customers. Now, customer data can continually impact the creative process for non-professional creators. By providing clear KPIs, these tools could shift the type of content that is made.

Content Genius – Dave Portnoy / Barstool Sports

Dave Portnoy is the founder and CEO of Barstool Sports, it’s a sports bro website that has podcasts and t-shirts and events (high-level)

Its been around for a while, about 15+ years, but have been expanding more and more with podcasts and merchandise. They recently sold a big chunk of their business to Penn National Gaming to open up sportsbooks under the Barstool brand in their casinos as sports gambling becomes legalized at the state level. They have a pretty vast audience that will be valuable to acquire.

Ok, here’s COVID, there are no sports, everything is canceled. What does Barstool do?

Dave Portnoy is now worth like $100M and takes $3M and starts day trading with it. He live streams it, his content production machine produces memes and short videos, that are so meathead and ridiculous they are hilarious.

He talks trash about other people, Warren Buffet, does frozen pizza reviews, just a great self-promoter.

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/warren-buffett-is-an-idiot-says-investor-who-claims-daytrading-is-the-easiest-game-ive-ever-played-2020-06-09

Meanwhile, without sports there seems to be a spike in retail day traders that are buying the airlines, cruise ships, bankrupt companies like Hertz and people are wondering if its because of Dave Portnoy, People are bored at home, Zero commision trading.

So, going from no sports, shelter in place, a merger with a casino company that tanked 75% during March/April to Day Trading, live streaming it, and having Forbes, CNBC, Bloomberg, Viral Videos, all talking about him.

And oh yeah, one of the podcasts Barstool owns had some drama over the hosts trying to leave to get a better deal, was opening played out over social media and mocked one of the hosts boyfriends that was in their ear to get out of the barstool deal.

CONTENT GENIUS!!

Twitter wants to make sure you did your homework

From The Guardian: Test to promote informed discussion will ask users if they want to retweet unread links

Twitter is trying to stop people from sharing articles they have not read, in an experiment the company hopes will “promote informed discussion” on social media.

In the test, pushed to some users on Android devices, the company is introducing a prompt asking people if they really want to retweet a link that they have not tapped on.

“Sharing an article can spark conversation, so you may want to read it before you tweet it,” Twitter said in a statement. “To help promote informed discussion, we’re testing a new prompt on Android – when you retweet an article that you haven’t opened on Twitter, we may ask if you’d like to open it first.”

The problem of users sharing links without reading them is not new. A 2016 study from computer scientists at Columbia University and Microsoft found that 59% of links posted on Twitter are never clicked.

Less academically sound, but more telling, was another article posted that same year with the headline “Study: 70% of Facebook users only read the headline of science stories before commenting” – the fake news website the Science Post has racked up a healthy 127,000 shares for the article which is almost entirely lorem ipsum filler text.

Twitter’s solution is not to ban such retweets, but to inject “friction” into the process, in order to try to nudge some users into rethinking their actions on the social network. It is an approach the company has been taking more frequently recently, in an attempt to improve “platform health” without facing accusations of censorship.

In May, the company began experimenting with asking users to “revise” their replies if they were about to send tweets with “harmful language” to other people. “When things get heated, you may say things you don’t mean,” the company explained. “To let you rethink a reply, we’re running a limited experiment on iOS with a prompt that gives you the option to revise your reply before it’s published if it uses language that could be harmful.”

That move has proved less effective, with the company’s filter picking up as much harmless – if foul-mouthed – conversation between friends as it does genuinely hateful speech targeting others.

“We’re trying to encourage people to rethink their behaviour and rethink their language before posting because they often are in the heat of the moment and they might say something they regret,” Twitter’s global head of site policy for trust and safety said at the time.

Why it’s hot

Social media continues to grapple with the pandora’s box its technology has released, rightly criticized for fanning the flames of our worst instincts and becoming inadvertent accomplices in the proliferation of hate speech, real fake news, and conspiracy theories.

Though it may be the bare minimum, it’s interesting to see them employing psychology to try to curb the spread of misinformation. A simple pause can go a long way.

Source: The Guardian

Hanifa puts on a virtual 3D fashion show

Anifa Mvuemba, founder of DTC fashion label Hanifa, was looking forward to holding her first runway show at New York Fashion Week this year. But when the coronavirus torpedoed those plans, she came up with a new way to unveil her latest designs to the world.

In May, she held a virtual fashion show, streamed over Instagram Live, in which each garment appeared in 3D against a black backdrop, as if worn by invisible models strutting across a catwalk, the garment hugging every curve. Tens of thousands of Hanifa’s quarter of a million followers tuned in.

The Instagram show was striking and also slightly eerie, since the garments looked like they were being worn by a parade of ghosts. But without the distraction of a backdrop or of live humans wearing the outfits, it was easier to take in every detail of the clothing. And at a time when social distancing has made the traditional fashion show impossible, Mvuemba’s high-tech approach allowed her to create buzz around her new collection and gather preorders. Thanks to the show, she says she’s likely to grow her business this year despite the recession.

Mvuemba had been tinkering with the idea for a 3D fashion show months before the pandemic arrived. She was intrigued by the realistic 3D animation that began appearing in movies and was curious about how she could apply this to fashion. Three years ago, she hired a developer who works with CAD and animation software to help her with her design work. During the pandemic, she found she had more time to play with the technology herself, especially since she had to do photoshoots remotely. This gave her the idea of creating an entire 3D fashion show.

Over the last eight years, Mvuemba has grown her direct-to-consumer brand entirely through social media and without a brick-and-mortar presence. (She was about to open her first-ever store in Baltimore this year, but those plans have been put on hold due to the pandemic.) And she’s never had a real runway show. “I think it’s hard for many black designers to make it in the system,” she says. “To make it, you have to know the right people and be in the right places. I decided to just do things my own way.”

When it came to her fans, many thought the show was groundbreaking and thrilling to watch, but some had hesitations. Some pointed out that Mvuemba is among a small group of designers that almost exclusively use black models. Transitioning to 3D shows might make her less inclined to tap these models in the future. While she notes it’s a “valid concern,” she says she’ll never “exclusively use technology to replace people. I like working with real models too much.”

Why it’s Hot:

This is such a perfect example of necessity breeding innovation. We’re increasingly seeing that businesses who are able to find innovative solutions to their challenges during COVID are uniquely positioned to succeed both now and in the future.

Source

New developments in the digital divide

From The Verge:

When David Velasquez went home to California for a week in April, he found out that his parents didn’t have internet access anymore. Velasquez, a medical student at Harvard, needs Wi-Fi for work. However, his parents don’t own a computer. “They don’t shop online, they don’t watch Netflix,” he says. So when the connection got too expensive, they stopped paying for it.

With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the country, that decision worried Velasquez. His parents also speak very little English, and doctors and clinics in the US were canceling in-person appointments and asking patients to schedule virtual visits for any health problems instead.

Without internet access and with limited English, Velasquez’s parents wouldn’t be able to make that switch. “I knew that as our healthcare system started transitioning over to telehealth as opposed to in-person, in-clinic care, their access to health care — and other individuals like them — would be disrupted,” he told The Verge.

Telehealth is convenient for some people: it cuts out the drive to an office and the time in a waiting room, trimming an hours-long event down to minutes. But it isn’t easily accessible to the 25 million people in the United States who speak little English, who are more likely to live in poverty, often work service or construction jobs, and may be more at risk of exposure to COVID-19. Even if they are able to get online, most of the systems that support telehealth — like hospital portals and video visit platforms — are hard to access for people who primarily speak other languages.

Why it’s hot

The dream of a techno-utopia often forgets that human biases and systemic problems left unaddressed become embedded in new technology and can exacerbate inequality. So, until we solve those issues, they will be perpetuated.

Source: The Verge

Theme Parks and Zoos Social Distance Hilarously

Some states are reopening, which poses a problem for businesses that have a big in person element. It’s hard to be confrontational, to ask people to stay apart. But some businesses are looking for ways to make something that might seem tactless, become hilarious.

Enter Gatorland’s “Skunk Ape”:

“People love Skunk Ape!” said Gatorland’s CEO. “People were doing selfies. From a safe distance, of course. He wouldn’t touch anyone.”

“A less crowded park might mean shorter lines for rides, especially if parks move toward “virtual queueing,” where visitors check in at a ride and receive a time to return later in the day. (Disney superfans noticed when the Disneyland app added a virtual queueing tab earlier this month.) But if your favorite park doesn’t employ this technology, your wait might be long—and very different. Queue areas will incorporate 6-foot social distancing through decals and signs applied directly to the pavement. The traditional “snake” line, weaving back and forth to pack a lot of people into a little space, will be replaced by longer straight lines stretching far from the ride.”

A roller coaster with only a few people on it with an arrow indicating the distance between the people.

In Japan, one Zoo is putting stuffed capybaras at seats to break up crowds

Why it’s hot?

This is a way to keep branding alive while still enforcing new social boundaries. There are new ways to enforce that are both digital and social/funny.  A combination will be needed to keep COVID spread down.

PAS – Pollination as a Service

BeeHero, an Israeli startup is buzzing as it works to upend the age-old practice of agricultural beekeeping.

Monoculture farms have decimated bee’s ability to pollinate naturally, this isn’t new, but the solutions we see out there are neither modern or precise. The typical process for farm pollination is that farmers call in beekeepers to pollinate their crops.

Hives must be deployed and checked manually and regularly, entailing a great deal of labor by the beekeepers — it’s not something just anyone can do. They can only cover so much land over a given period, meaning a hive may go weeks between inspections — during which time it could have succumbed to colony collapse, perhaps dooming the acres it was intended to pollinate to a poor yield. It’s costly, time-consuming, and decidedly last-century.

By using IoT in the hives, BeeHero can monitor temperature, humidity, and sound among others to gain insights. The combination of data from the hive and additional sources (eg. microclimate) is used to track the hive’s health, be it the queen’s level of stress, or the amount of pollen brought to the hive.The company has already seen success with increases in yields for soybeans, cashews, and apples that range from 30% – 100%.

With colony collapse killing bees at enormous rates, having early detection can help save at-risk hives.

That’s part of the company’s aim to provide value up and down the chain, not just a tool for beekeepers to check the temperatures of their hives.

Source: Techcrunch

Why it’s hot: other startups are tackling the problem, but at too small a scale to actually make a difference. Their holistic approach makes them a tech development to keep an eye on.

 

Netflix Willing to Lessen Revenue in Best Interest of Customers

Netflix to begin canceling inactive user accounts - glbnews.com

Netflix announced that it would begin reaching out to inactive users, who haven’t streamed anything on the platform in a year or more, this month. The pandemic’s impact on the economy inspired the company to ask these customers if they would still like to subscribe. If the users don’t respond, Netflix will automatically stop billing them for the subscription; as Netflix explained, “The last thing we want is people paying for something they’re not using… we hope this new approach saves people some hard-earned cash.”

Let’s be clear: With its latest ‘sacrifice’, Netflix isn’t exactly chopping off a limb here. In fact, these so-called zombie accounts make up less than half of 1% of Netflix’s total user base (which, by the way, has grown by over 15 million as a result of COVID).

Still, this proactive approach deserves applause. Especially when it seems like every industry (not just entertainment!) is trying to get in on the recurring revenue game; even brands like Panera (unlimited coffee for USD 9/month!) and Litterbox (that’s right, cat litter!) are launching subscription services. But consumers are fully aware, of course, that most brands will purposely make these services a hassle for customers to cancel. Netflix’s gesture stands out as a rare play in this sector, as the brand shows consumers — even those who choose not to pay them! — that it has their best interests at heart, and that they’ll make cancelling a zero-effort process. And as a result, the subscription services that don’t demonstrate equivalent levels of empathy will stand out.

Why it’s hot: While most companies want us to know what they’re doing so we feel good about continuing to subscribe to them/buy from them/consume content, Netflix seems to be stepping it up a bit by leveraging a re-engagement campaign in a new way. Instead of actively pursuing lapsed customers to continue their subscriptions, in these trying times, Netflix is making it easy to opt out of its service and if you’re so out of touch from them, they just won’t charge you. This could go a long way for good will in the future as people start to reestablish their fiscal comfort. But also, being honest, if you’ve been lapsed for over a year, they’ve already reaped enough extra cash from you. Hopefully this gesture will encourage other companies to do something similar.

Sources: Trend Watching, TechCrunch

Watching TV Together From Afar

Hulu is releasing the test version of a new feature that let’s viewers connect while watching shows together online.

It is called Watch Party. It is the first release by a major streaming video provider of a technology that other companies are also working on in response to COVID19.

Why it’s Hot: 

Though its development was propelled by the pandemic, this is a technology that may continue to find an audience after COVID is over, subtly changing the landscape of our social interactions.

Burger King Adds More Onions to Support Social Distancing

Burger King Italia is retrofitting its signature burger to encourage people to remain vigilant in keeping their distance.

The “Social Distancing Whopper” features triple the amount of raw onions regularly put on the burger, in the hopes that your stank breath will create a barrier of its own.

Why its hot

Funny, lighthearted video at a time when most messages are serious. Now which brand is going to add extra beans? Looking at you, Chipotle.

Facebook launches Shops

Facebook is making a major new push into e-commerce. The company recently announced the launch of Shops, a way for businesses to set up free storefronts on Facebook and Instagram. The shops, which will be powered by third-party services, including Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woo, are designed to turn the social network into a top-tier shopping destination.

In a live stream, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said expanded e-commerce would be important to begin rebuilding the economy while the pandemic continues. “If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online businesses get online for the first time.”

The launch of Shops comes as stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to record sales for e-commerce companies. The pandemic has also been devastating for small businesses, with a third of them reporting that they have stopped operating in a survey conducted by Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable. An additional 11 percent say they could fail within the next three months if the current situation continues.

But online sales have been a bright spot for small businesses. At Etsy, where solo entrepreneurs have leaned hard into knitting fabric face masks and baking pastries for sale, revenue has doubled from three years ago. Facebook is betting that bringing more local businesses online will help them to endure while also creating big new business opportunities for Facebook itself.

While Shops are free to create, they could create significant new business opportunities for Facebook in advertising, payments, and other services. Businesses will be able to buy ads for their Shops, and when people use Facebook’s checkout option, it charges them a fee.

Businesses can handle customer support issues through Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Eventually, the company plans to let you browse store catalogs and make purchases directly from the chat window. It also plans to enable shopping from live streams, allowing brands and creators to tag items from their Facebook catalogs so that they appear on the bottom of live videos.

Facebook is also working to integrate loyalty programs with shops. “You’ll be able to easily see and keep track of your points and rewards,” the company said in a blog post. “And we’re exploring ways to help small businesses create, manage and surface a loyalty program on Facebook Shops.”

Shops will begin rolling out on Facebook today in the United States and are coming to Instagram sometime this summer. Instagram will showcase brands on its existing shop account, which already highlights items that are available for purchase. Later in the year, it plans to add a dedicated shopping tab to its navigation bar.

Why it’s Hot

This is a really smart move for Facebook. With small businesses across the country struggling to flex into e-commerce, Facebook stands to earn a lot of money (and even potentially good will) with this new feature. Plus, for small businesses – who often operate with very minimal staffing – having customer service, advertising, and sales all in one ecosystem will make the entire move to e-commerce a bit more manageable.

Source

A symbol to send a message about clean water

From The Stable:

Wash your hands is a Covid safety imperative. But there are millions of people without access to clean water. One in ten people in the world is denied access to clean water and one in four people out of ten don’t have a decent toilet of their own. Without these basic human rights, overcoming poverty is just a dream, as is good health and combating a deadly virus like Covid-19. International charity WaterAid has been working for a number of years to change this. Right now, that job is even more urgent and it has partnered with Don’t Panic on a new campaign, Bring Water.

The agency picked up the rainbow symbol, which has become part of the Covid community response, a sign of solidarity and belief that began in schools, and that now adorns streets, filling the windows of homes and the temporarily closed windows of restaurants and businesses across the planet. In the campaign film, You Can’t Have a Rainbow Without Water​, real rainbows are documented across the globe.

Why it’s Hot

It was smart to take a common symbol of hope (the rainbow) to make a clear statement that without clean water, there is no hope.

Source: The Stable