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

Voices of Brussels

Like any metropolitan bus system, it’s something people in Brussels love to complain about. Buses are either too late or too full or often both. But it’s tough to complain about a message of love.

Since last week, Brussels’ public bus company STIB-MIVB has been calling on people to send in voice messages — and an address. Then, the special bus goes out in the early evening in a big loop to spread all the messages and leave a trail of happiness.

Yes, with smartphones and video calls, there is already a plethora of ways to communicate. But a love bus with the voices of children and dear ones?

“It gives me pleasure,” said Asuncion Mendez, 82, after hearing a message from her great-grandchildren. She said it broke the dreariness of another lockdown day indoors and momentarily eased her fear of the coronavirus.

“It was a beautiful surprise. It warms the heart and makes people come together despite the lockdown,” said her daughter Carmen Diaz, who watched and listened with her from a open window one floor above street level.

Lorena Sanchez, the daughter of Diaz and granddaughter of Mendez, says it’s a great idea. “It can really have an impact on a lot of people, especially the older ones who do not have access to technology,” said Sanchez. “It brings something very special.”

The bus company has been inundated with requests, about 750 messages from the blowing of kisses to a request by a child for someone to become her godmother, spokeswoman An Van hamme said.

Public buses are continuing to run in Brussels, with passengers required to board and exit by the back door and adhere to social distancing while inside.

The “Voice of Brussels” program is even leaving a smile on the face of bus drivers, so often the target of abuse.

Why it’s hot?
Talk about putting unused assets to work to fulfill a real human need during a pandemic

 

Source: Spectrum news 1

PepsiCo has launched two DTC websites this week – a first for the company

PepsiCo launched two new websites for consumers to directly purchase their portfolio of brands and products from the company itself as more Americans are shopping online due to the pandemic.

Website 1: Snacks.com 

Website 2: Pantryshop.com

Why it’s hot: The pandemic is forcing even more manufacturers to reach consumers directly, completely bypassing retailers at a time when people are are avoiding in-person shopping trips when they can.

Source

Google Lens is Bringing Analog to Digital

Looking for ways to be more productive at home? Google has evolved google lens to help you get things done while working from home.

With Google lens you can:

Copy text from paper to your laptop

You can already use Lens to quickly copy and paste text from paper notes and documents to your phone to save time. Now, when you select text with Lens, you can tap “copy to computer” to quickly paste it on another signed-in device with Chrome.

Learn new words and how to pronounce them

Google lens offered the possibility to translate words into more than 100 languages by pointing your camera at the text, but now it’s been enhanced to allow you to listen to the text be read out loud.

Quickly look up new concepts

Trying to understand a concept or a phrase? No problem. Google lens allows you to highlight and find search results.

Why it’s hot: There’s so much more we can do to connect the physical and digital world. Finding ways to evolve products and give them an added value that is fitting to consumer needs is a way to ensure adoption and customer loyalty.

Billie Confronts Negative Self-Talk on Video Conferences

While working from home has allowed many of us to forego parts of our morning beauty routines, it can still be hard to shake the feeling that we’re not meeting those ever-elusive beauty standards, especially for women. That’s what direct-to-consumer shaving brand Billie aims to highlight—and debunk—in its new spot “Are We Doing Video?” released this week.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAFoqK1jSGw/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=embed_video_watch_again

The idea for the spot came after Billie co-founder Georgina Gooley noticed that every work from home Zoom meeting began with the same chorus of apologies. Part of that comes from being “face-to-face with your own face, so much more often than you would be if you were just working in a normal office,” she said. But it also speaks to a much bigger issue: that women find their failure to meet societal standards for beauty offensive enough to apologize for.

Gooley also pointed out the irony in people’s reticence to turn on their video during a chat. “The person on the other side really doesn’t care what you look like,” she said. “They’re just happy to see someone during this time.”

Doing all the campaign’s shoots over Zoom allowed for some unique opportunities. For example, the spot includes participants filming from their homes in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Spain and Russia. To try to capture a more natural interaction between people, the director asked actors to recruit their friends to join the calls, so rather than having actors simulate a friend group or work team in a Zoom call, they were filming real family and friend groups chatting.

Calling out the unfairness and inconsistency of feminine beauty standards is something that’s been part of Billie’s DNA from the beginning. The brand launched in 2017 with the message that it wanted to offer a product that provided a way for women to get high-quality shaving products without the “pink tax,” which is a markup on women’s products just because they’re women’s products.

In 2018, one of the brand’s ads showing women with—gasp—actual body hair was flagged on Facebook as “adult material.” The groundbreaking goal of those ads was to frame shaving as something that women can choose to do or not, rather than something that’s a baseline requirement of femininity. “I think you’ll always see us really challenging the way women are sometimes pigeon-holed into having to look a certain way,” said Gooley.

Why it’s Hot:

As we see brands struggling to find their footing during the pandemic, it’s refreshing to see an ad that works and doesn’t begin with “in these unprecedented times.” Unlike many other companies who have tried to shift messaging during COVID to appear more relevant and sensitive, this spot doesn’t feel like a departure for Billie – it’s intrinsically linked to how they’ve always portrayed themselves, which is why it works.

As we continue to navigate advertising during COVID, it’s important for brands to remain grounded in what’s at the core of their brand.

Source

This AI makes neologisms by portmanteau-ing the English language

Yesterday a smart person named Thomas Dimson, who formerly wrote “the algorithm” at Instagram, launched a site that uses the Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithm: Transformers, and OpenAI‘s infamous GPT-2 AI-powered text generator, to generate and define new English words, and use them in a sentence.

It’s called This Word Does Not Exist, and it has so far created gems such as:

A disclaimer at the bottom of the site reads: Words are not reviewed and may reflect bias in the training set.

You can also write your own neologism and the AI will define it for you. It’s a fun diversion, but does it have any use? Probably not in this form. But it speaks to how AI may be used in the fun-and-games side of life, but also how it may ultimately shape the foundations of how we communicate.

Why it’s hot:

It’s fun to participate in the creation of something new (without having to work too hard), and language is the perfect playground for experimentation.

As AI becomes more influential in our daily lives, it’s interesting (and perhaps a little disturbing) to imagine the ways in which it may take part in creating the very words we use to communicate. What else might AI give us that we have heretofore considered to be the exclusive domain of humans?

Source: TheNextWeb

Spotify Wants You To Feel Less Alone

Spotify wants to help their listeners feel less alone by launching new site to show you who’s listening to what you are. Apparently, every second, more than 30,000 people across the world are pressing play on the same song.

The platform is launching a new site called “Listening Together” that shows where these simultaneous listeners are in real-time.

“By sharing how we are listening and making it easy for others to see the songs others are streaming at the same time,” says Alexandra Tanguay, VP of global brand at Spotify, “we’ll not only surface the content recommendations we are all looking for [but] we’ll also establish a sense of connection and the togetherness that we all need right now.”

The concept started as an experiment in 2014 when a media artist Kyle McDonald wanted to explore how to connect two listeners playing the same song.

On the Listening Together site, there is a map of the world that users can navigate by clicking and moving various points on the globe. As you move the map, locations with specific songs will pop up, then show exactly where and how far away from you that exact song is also being clicked.

“Nothing that we know is quite the same,” says Tanguay. “As a brand, we knew it would be tone-deaf to push forward without acknowledging this moment of crisis, recognizing how our listeners, creators, and the world are feeling, while bringing to the forefront what we can offer: content that can be either a welcomed distraction, a moment of self-care, or a valuable source of information.”

Why It’s Hot:

This program is interesting because Spotify is creating brand awareness while also acknowledging what’s going on, without being the typical “we’re here for you” messaging. It’s a really cool example of how they are using their data to bring people together.

Source

Catch up – Search Leads the Way

“75% of consumers said they would buy any brand available for the products they need.” (Forbes)

Loyalty as at an all-time low – and brands competing for consumers’ attention by turning to search. The latest comes from Heinz who combined search trends and consumer behaviors to reach people in-home and stay top of mind.

Promising to keep people entertained at home, the puzzle is mostly Heinz red and nods to the brand’s iconic packaging with the 570 pieces. Billing the puzzle as “ridiculously slow.” the brand gives a nod to their slow-moving bottles.


Search volume word puzzle

“Heinz  is known for its iconic slow-pouring ketchup. In a period when everyone has a little more time on their hands and puzzle popularity has skyrocketed, we wanted to help pass the time by connecting the two, ” said Kraft Heinz Canada Senior Brand Manager Brian Neumann in a statement.  “This puzzle is worth the patience, only this time, you can’t hold it at the perfect angle to solve it.

Why it’s hot: More than ever, we need to be attuned to what consumers want and how to safely get it to their homes. Finding areas where your brand can intersect with trending searches and in-home adaptations can help find brand disloyalty.

 

 

Weren’t greenhouse gas emissions supposed to drop dramatically this year as so much business activity went on pause?

Why CO2 Isn't Falling More during a Global Lockdown

Normally in a recession, you’d expect CO2 reductions to be associated with declines in manufacturing and shipping, said Houser of Rhodium. Almost the opposite has happened this year.

Shipping remains constant, and manufacturing has been slow to shut down. As Carbon Brief noted, Beijing even recorded a severe smog day during China’s lockdown. Many steel and coal plants continued to run throughout the shutdown, though often at reduced levels.

Instead, record declines in surface transportation are driving the world’s emission reductions. Rystad Energy, a Norwegian oil consultancy, estimates that traffic levels fell on every populated continent.

Traffic is down 54% in the United Kingdom, 36% in the United States and 19% in China.

Air travel, meanwhile, was down 40% in the 12 weeks since China reported its first 500 cases of COVID-19. In Europe, nine out of every 10 flights have been grounded.

The result has been a historic collapse in oil demand.

The global appetite for jet fuel will likely fall 65% in April and May compared with last year. In the U.S., gasoline demand for the four weeks ending April 17 fell 41% compared with the same time last year, according to Department of Energy statistics.

The International Energy Agency estimates that global gasoline demand will fall by 11 million barrels a day in April, the largest monthly decline on record, and another 10 million barrels a day in May.

Call it the crude disappearing act of 2020.

And yet the global economy is still consuming lots of oil.

Lost amid the hubbub around oil is this: IEA still expects the world to consume 76.1 million barrels a day in the second quarter of this year.

Who’s consuming all of that crude? For starters, gasoline and jet fuel demand is down dramatically but hasn’t disappeared. U.S. refiners sent an average of 5.5 million barrels of gasoline to the market over the last four weeks.

Diesel demand is down, but its losses have been limited thanks to the strength of freight and shipping. IEA expects diesel demand in 2020 to be down 7% compared with the previous year.

Then there are petrochemicals, which have been unevenly impacted by the crisis. Plastics used in auto manufacturing are down, but plastics used for food packaging are up.

Overall, IEA thinks demand for plastic feedstocks like ethane and naphtha will decline on the year, but not to the same degree as gasoline or diesel.

The numbers illustrate just how intertwined oil is with the global economy. Cars and planes can be parked en masse, and yet widespread oil consumption continues.

“The crisis shows how challenging decarbonizing the economy purely through behavioral adjustment would be,” Houser said, noting that individual decisions about not driving or flying deliver only limited emissions reductions.

“What we need are technological solutions that allow our economy to operate at 100% with 5%-8% annual reductions going forward,” he said.

Forecasters expect emissions to fall more than 5% in 2020, the greatest annual reduction on record. But it’s still short of the 7.6% decline that scientists say is needed every year over the next decade to stop global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.*

“If you assume a proportional decline in [gross domestic product] and emissions, what feels like an economical catastrophe is a fairly modest reduction in emissions compared to where we need to go,” said Trevor Houser, who leads climate and energy research at the Rhodium Group, a research firm.

Why it’s hot: The modern global economy is heavily intertwined with oil, so imagining a future without it is still far away.

Source: Scientific American 

Coors’ offer to buy us a 6-pack is just what America needs right now

Apologies to the teetotalers among us.

This Coors ad from DDB Chicago hits all the right notes for an audience that needs a little encouragement and camaraderie right now … in these “unprecedented times.”

Humorous call-backs to examples of our national fortitude in tough times lends a sense of belonging in the face of struggle.

And what was the thread throughout our historical challenges? Beer.

And who knows better than anyone that sometimes, you just want to crack open a cold one and forget your problems, if just for a few hours? Coors.

We’re looking for escapism and Coors is here for us. Is it healthy? Probably not. Is it America? Absolutely.

Coors seems to know its place in the current crisis: They won’t fix the problem; they don’t claim to be saving anyone; they aren’t pandering to our sense of guilt by calling their workers “heroes”, but they can help mollify our anxiety (take the edge off) with a 6-pack of silver bullet.

Why it’s hot

1. Offering to buy a 6-pack for those who need it most, based on stories people tell on Twitter is a surefire way to get strong social engagement and brand affinity.

2. Humor done well is a salve on our collective psychological wounds, and positions Coors as our friend who totally gets what we’re going through.

Source: The Stable

Self care as a video game

What if there were something that could help snap you out of your rut, be it a temporary funk or actual, clinical depression? And what if this something were designed to make doing good things for yourself as addictive as a video game? That’s the premise of The Guardians: Unite the Realms, a new app developed by the Affective Computing group at MIT Media Lab.

Out now for iOS and Android, it’s a free game, modeled after character collection games like Pokémon and Skylanders (though without any fighting). Instead of urging you to spend money on microtransactions as most of these games do, The Guardians urges you to spend effort on yourself. If you want to progress in the game, you have to invest in your own well-being.

The data shows that people who are depressed don’t want to use self-improvement apps (only about 3% will complete a regimen in these apps). At the same time, people with severe depression still play games as much as people who aren’t experiencing depression, making gaming a promising avenue for introducing mental health interventions.

Over years of both formal study and informal play-testing in the lab, lead platforms engineer at the Affective Computing group and game director for the Guardians Project Craig Ferguson morphed the app into what it is today – a fantasy land filled with magical animals that attempt to take their world back from an evil villain. Last September, he got tired of the research and started thinking about releasing something—even something still unproven—to help people battling depression. Then with COVID-19 trapping so many of us at home, he made the choice to publicize what was done.

That release, while a fraction of what the game will be in the future, he says, can still take months to complete, and it’s presented with as much glitzy animation and character design as you’d find in any high-end mobile app.

When you load the game, a big button glows and bounces in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, reading “new adventure available.” This is essentially a good-for-you button, because each adventure is focused around the phenomenon of “behavioral activation.” Behavioral activation is a proven therapy that can be used casually or clinically for depression. It gets people to partake in positive experiences rather than spending time doing the things that reinforce their own damaging behaviors. And there are dozens of options to choose from.

Some suggested adventures are practical, such as knocking things off your to-do list that might otherwise cause anxiety: Manage finances. Vacuum. Do Laundry. Others help you grow: Watch an online class. Write a poem. Read a classic. And others help you stay active: Spend time in nature. Learn a new dance. Or, my personal favorite, Jazzercise for 20 minutes. You are also completely free to make up your own adventure, and repeat it whenever you’d like.

Why it’s Hot:

With so much content promoting self care and wellness during shelter-in-place, wellness can begin to feel like a chore. This is especially true for people who struggle with depression, where even small tasks can feel unmanageable. This app helps to make those small tasks fun and purposeful (albeit in an imaginary game). With a mental health crisis looming on top of our current physical health crisis, it’s interesting to see an app that tackles this very serious situation in a seemingly light-hearted way.

Source

In the stay-at-home world, digital services and media have been growing

With Americans spending so much time at home and in quarantine, they’re using more digital services and media, but consuming it in different ways.

Why it’s hot: Even though digital services are seeing strong growth at the moment, it isn’t necessarily translating to higher revenue for all of these companies because for those that rely on advertising, many have seen their ad revenue fall as various brands cut marketing spend.

Source: The New York Times

Reservation for…. grocery shopping?

Body image for Open Aisles

OpenTable, a popular restaurant reservation platform, has expanded its service to let users reserve timeslots for shopping at participating grocery and retail stores in the US.

This tool was developed to support consumers during the coronavirus outbreak. While restaurants have been shut down to avoid spreading the illness, people face overcrowded supermarkets where maintaining social distancing measures is a challenge.

Through this new feature, grocery stores and supermarkets can limit the number of people who enter at a time while reducing crowds and waiting times for shoppers. Party sizes and reservation slots will vary depending on the retailer.

Leveraging the same mechanism as restaurant booking, it works in two ways:

1. Reserved shopping times: Just like reserving a table at a restaurant, you can reserve a time to enter a store.

2. Online waitlists: If you haven’t pre-reserved, instead of standing in a physical line to get into a store, simply enter a code on your phone to join an online waitlist. Then wait for the notification in a car or down the street away from any crowds.

This feature launched in San Francisco and Los Angeles on 31 March 2020, and is currently rolling out across the US. People can check their city through the groceries page in the OpenTable app or website.

Background Critics

As keyword searches for “[insert communication platform name] + background” increase, cities and brands are responding quickly to help people keep the privacy of their homes to themselves.

But with more than 80K followers and growing, Room rater is looking to change the background game by offering unsolicited criticism and advice. And it’s working! Although it started as a side hustle, the site is just the right amount of levity the internet needs, it’s started to have an effect. It’s popularity was viral and celebrities, journalists and reporters are disputing their scores and even going so far as to pledge to reorganize to secure a 10.

The man in the account’s Twitter header, biologist William Haseltine, was Taylor’s original 10/10, the ideal (it still is his favorite room, though there have been many 10s since). The objects in Haseltine’s room—a statue of Buddha, a rocket against a bookshelf—looked to Taylor like a wonderful place to quarantine. Then he noticed Elise Jordan, MSNBC and NBC News political analyst and, full disclosure, the wife of Vanity Fair digital director Mike Hogan, flat against some wallpaper. He has nothing against her, he said, but the discrepancy encouraged them to start the account. “All I can say is Architectural Digest had no problem with the wallpaper,” Jordan said. (And in a later TV spot, she added five points to her room score with a bookshelf in the background, a real coup).

 

Why it’s hot:  As one of our only visual references, backgrounds are everything right now – from celebrities being criticized for complaining from their castles in the sky to regular folks fighting home shame – the pressure is on to hit the right tone. Whatever the right balance is, it’s ok to keep it light.

Source: Vanity Fair

 

How can brands help people celebrate missed milestones?

The longer this public health crisis lasts, the more we grieve. We’re grieving for the fact the world won’t be the same anymore, we’re grieving for a lack of safety and connection but, on a personal level, we’re grieving for all the personal milestones we’re having to cancel and/or postpone. How many graduations, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and even funerals, are passing by without being properly acknowledged/celebrated?

As a way to provide some cheer and support during these time, as well as some good will with new clients, some brands and celebrities are trying to offer ways to help them celebrate these milestones.

Anheiser-Busch’s Natural Light is throwing a virtual graduation ceremony on their Facebook page in May, hosted by Marc Cuban. John Krasinsky hosted a virtual senior prom last week with some very famous guests like Billie Eilish.

Why it’s hot: As more personal milestones get canceled and pass by without closure and proper celebrations and ‘temporary behaviors’ like virtual celebrations become the new normal, there’s opportunity for brands to create a more personal connection with their audience and provide some much needed cheer and hope in difficult times.

And in times when people are adjusting their spend and reconsidering purchases, providing a meaningful experience for consumers in a difficult time can help build goodwill with their audience in the future. And it’s also a unique way to respond to this crisis given every other brand seems to be responding the exact same way.

 

 

 

COVID Production Problems Drag Deepfakes into Ads

An Allstate ad that aired with “The Last Dance”, a documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, featured a 90s-era clip of SportsCenter newscaster Kenny Mayne making startlingly accurate predictions about our current world.

Though it looks real, the ad is doctored. Old footage was combined with the mouth and voice of the current Kenny Mayne to create a realistic portrayal.

While this is not the first time the ad industry has used deepfake technology to create ads, this may be part of a larger trend as advertisers explore ways to create content as they face limited production possibilities during the COVID-19 lock-down, the New York Times reports.

A young Kenny Mayne, left, merged with an older Kenny Mayne, right, in a recent State Farm commercial.

https://twitter.com/NBA/status/1251556094960234496?s=20

Why it’s hot: 

Like many COVID trends, deepfake ads may outlast the pandemic if they prove successful because they can be produced quickly and inexpensively.

COVID creates the perfect opportunity for cereal company Magic Spoon

When it comes to shopping in a pandemic, it turns out people crave two things: comfort and convenience. It’s why, a year after launching its direct-to-consumer, guilt-free “kids” cereal for grown-ups, Magic Spoon’s business is booming.

“We’ve seen a meaningful uptick in demand from new customers just discovering us or finally giving us a try,” says cofounder Gabi Lewis. “It’s also existing customers, who maybe ate a bowl in the morning before work but now that they’re at home, are eating another bowl in the afternoon for a snack, so consumption has gone up.”

Last April, Lewis and his cofounder Greg Sewitz first launched Magic Spoon to tap into millennials’ nostalgia for the kiddie cereals of their youth while staying true to their commitment to eat healthy as adults. They took flavors that mimicked such classics as Cocoa Puffs, Fruity Pebbles, and Frosted Flakes—and delivered it in a high-protein, low-carb, and no-sugar cereal. Combined with a packaging and product design that was highly Instagrammable, Magic Spoon’s popularity took off immediately, and it hasn’t slowed down.

In terms of the cereal market overall, he thinks Magic Spoon isn’t taking market share away from traditional cereal, but rather adding to it by bringing new customers back to the category. “Many of our customers weren’t eating cereal before we came along,” he says. “Maybe they did years ago, then stopped and instead started eating Greek yogurt or smoothies or oatmeal, or any number of healthy breakfast alternatives. So I think a lot of our growth has come from other categories, bringing them back to cereal, and I think it’s helping to build the cereal category as a whole.”

Just as many of us have become more accustomed to videoconferencing than we ever imagined, Lewis sees a similar shift in consumer behavior around buying groceries online. “Obviously there’s been this uptick because of people stuck at home and stocking up, and we’re under no illusion of that lasting forever,” he says. “But there are people buying food online right now who just didn’t before all this. I don’t think all that is just going to go away, and a good portion of those people will continue to do it once this is all over.”

Why it’s Hot:

As people seek alternatives to grocery store visits and grocery delivery becomes increasingly scarce, DTC food brands are well positioned for the current pandemic (especially food brands that bring people a sense of comfort and nostalgia). DTC brands have already become more popular in the past few years – it will be interesting to see if the pandemic accelerated this trend.

Source 

Self-destructing communal journal lures users to interact

A basic site This Website Will Self Destruct, created by artist Femme Android allows users to send an anonymous message into the void in order to keep the website alive. It’s been live since April 21, 2020.

Because the site tends to attract the lonely and despondent, there is a “Feeling Down?” button that links the user to mental health services.

Fast Company:

You can choose to leave your own note. Or you can merely observe, hitting the “read a message” button to see what others have posted, while leaving it to others to save the website from imminent annihilation. A death counter on top of the page refreshes every time someone posts something new, which, by my estimation, was happening about once every 5 or 10 seconds.

Like Post Secret, This Website Will Self-Destruct feels refreshingly Old Internet because, if nothing else, they are each equal parts gimmicky and sincere. This Website Will Self-Destruct offers an anonymous place to express yourself in a world where social media thirst traps and virtue signaling has trumped innocent and earnest discourse alike. It requires no subculture of rules to understand like a Reddit message board, no esoteric platform-specific memes like on Twitch, no subtweet agenda of the day to unpack like on Twitter, and no autoplay force-feeding you the next piece of content like on YouTube.

No, This Website Will Self-Destruct is just a website. It’s a place to jot down some thoughts, have a two-second laugh or cry, and kill some time until nobody cares about it anymore. And that moment that its purpose has been served, don’t worry—it’s happy to see itself out.

Why it’s hot:

It’s an interesting phenomenon, that just using the site: reading a note, or posting something silly (or sincere) makes one feel connected and part of a bigger, benevolent community with a shared goal.

The nature of the site (self-destructing if no one posts) activates our desire for continuity, compelling us to act.

Source: Fast Company

Samsung ups the ante on upcycling

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


Story on Bored Panda

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

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

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

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

Survival of the Fastest

Innovation in the Age of COVID-19

Innovative businesses whose fundamental models have been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic are acting fast to turn disaster into opportunity. See what a few of them are doing here.

One that caught my eye is Cheeky Food Events. For a company focused on running large-scale team-building events focused on cooking, Social Distancing could easily be seen as a complete deal-breaker. Instead of throwing in the…err…apron, Cheeky Foods instead pivoted their business into “delivery-based” catering, in which ingredients are delivered to the homes of each team member, and cooking instructions are delivered via live webstreams.

Maybe less effective as team-building, and not a long-term business model – but an agile way to maintain a revenue stream, while also providing customers with a valuable and enjoyable experience while they’re locked in and looking for new ways of remaining connected and entertained. This is so cool it’s hot.

Why It’s Hot: (Did you not read that last paragraph…?)

From econsultancy.com:

Here are six examples of businesses and brands that are innovating and transforming their product offering during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cheeky Food Events

Events, oriented as they are around large gatherings of people in a space, were one of the earliest casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, with major conferences being cancelled and entertainment venues closing their doors even before full lockdowns were implemented in most countries.

For companies whose business is corporate events, the impact was particularly dire, because workplaces also quickly shifted to remote working to minimise the spread of coronavirus. Cheeky Food Events, an Australian company that offers corporate team-building activities oriented around cooking, found itself needing to rethink its business model for a newly-distributed world of work.

The company has since shifted to offering delivery-based catering to remote workforces: ingredients for a two-course gourmet meal and dessert, delivered safely to an employee’s home, that they can cook with the aid of a live webstream of a chef showing how to prepare and cook the meal. This enables organisations to still carry out team bonding and building activities in a distributed work environment, while Cheeky Food Events can still bring in revenue and put the skills of its expert chefs to good use.

Budweiser, Rémy Martin, Carlsberg & Pernod Ricard

When the coronavirus pandemic first began to seriously impact day-to-day life, beginning with China in January, alcohol brands knew that they had a problem: no-one was going out to bars and clubs to buy alcohol any more. Many of them saw sales take a nosedive as a result of the disappearance of late-night leisure activities.

Four alcohol brands decided to adapt by partnering with ecommerce giant JD.com to take clubbing online. Beer brands Budweiser and Carlsberg, cognac brand Rémy Martin, and drinks brand Pernod Ricard joined forces with JD.com and Chinese music label Taihe Music Group to create an online clubbing experience, streamed directly to people’s living rooms and complete with liquor that they could buy from the stream and have delivered to their door.

Each week, JD.com is hosting a three-hour performance by one of the DJs signed to Taihe Music Group, with alcoholic beverages promoted throughout that viewers can buy. JD.com has already reported that one partner brand saw a 70% increase in sales of imported liquor during one livestream, with sales of its whiskey products increasing eightfold compared to the same period the day before. During another show, sales of beer increased by 40% compared to the day before.

Although the lockdown has now begun to lift in China, JD.com has said that it will “continue to leverage live broadcasts of music performance in clubs, live houses and even music festivals for products [sic] marketing, making it a long-term program to enrich customers’ shopping experience.” It has also stated that it will open the experience up to other product categories besides liquor.

While livestreaming, and in particular shoppable livestreaming, was already a major trend in China prior to the lockdown, this nevertheless shows that innovations and trends that develop in response to the coronavirus pandemic may well become part of our everyday lives.

Goat2Meeting

While a slightly more off-the-wall response to the remote working trend, this thoroughly deserves a mention. California-based animal sanctuary Sweet Farm used to bring in part of its funding from in-person visits, which dried up when the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying shelter-in-place orders hit the United States. To recoup some of that funding, its founders started Goat2Meeting: a service where companies can pay to have a goat, llama or other farm animal make an appearance in their zoom call to liven the monotony.

Goat2Meeting typically charges between $65 and $250 for various virtual interactions with the animals, ranging from a 20-minute virtual tour of the farm for up to six call participants to a 10-minute animal cameo or a bigger virtual tour. Due to “incredible demand”, the farm has even added a bonus ‘VIP tour’ option for a $750 donation.

According to Business Insiderthe service has already had more than 300 requests from businesses, and its animals have made appearances in calls for Fortune 500 companies and tech start-ups. In one virtual happy hour for a law firm, lawyers brought their children along to the video call to meet the animals, in a unique remote working take on “bring your child to work day”.

Remote working got your goat? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. (Image: solomonphotos / Shutterstock.com)

Frame

London fitness studio Frame was forced to close its doors as coronavirus lockdown restrictions tightened, but the business has found ways to get creative with online content instead. It quickly launched Frame Online, an online fitness hub with a £10.99 per month subscription fee that allowed people who were stuck at home to get moving and keep fit with virtual classes.

Frame has also been using social media in creative ways to promote fitness, making six-minute clips of its workout classes available on IGTV and posting funny and relatable workout-related or inspirational content to Instagram. Frame’s Instagram posts promote a slightly more realistic image of working out at home than some fitness influencers (featuring a woman, for example, holding a glass of wine while doing stretches) and push back against so-called “quarantine productivity shaming” by encouraging people to book classes that suit their mood rather than feeling pressured into high-intensity fitness sessions.

How the fitness industry is responding to coronavirus with digital push

Kings Place

Kings Place, London is a cultural hub of live music, art and food that offers a variety of performances from live podcast recordings to classical music, illustrated lectures and jazz. As the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, however, the venue was forced to close its doors.

It has since found ways to bring its performances to audiences who are confined indoors and searching for entertainment, launching an online content hub called KPLAYER. The platform features excerpts from past performances and full-length shows streamed live every Wednesday; Kings Place is also using the opportunity to drum up interest for its late 2020 and 2021 programme by featuring past performances from these artists on KPLAYER.

Whole Foods

Demand for online grocery retail is higher than it has ever been as people search for ways to get essentials without leaving the house and putting themselves at unnecessary risk. While many grocery retailers already sell online, they are being forced to get creative in order to keep up with demand.

Organic and health food supermarket chain Whole Foods is reported to have turned some of its physical store locations into ‘dark stores’, a location that only employees can enter to pick up goods and fulfil orders. It’s not alone in doing so: parent company Amazon has also transformed one of its Southern California locations into a dark store, and supermarket Kroger converted one of its Cincinatti-area stores into a collection-only location to meet customer demand for alternative shopping services like click-and-collect.

NBA and ESPN bring lofi games of HORSE to the fans via Zoom

The NBA has given basketball fans something to hold on to while the season has been cancelled due to Coronavirus. Using Zoom, ESPN and the NBA put on a HORSE tournament with players shooting hoops from their own back yards or at local courts.

The viewership is not as high as games, but it’s still around half a million for many of the matches and the 1 – 1 nature of the game could provide a wealth of content to keep fans engaged until the next season begins.

From Fast Company:

For the NBA, which suspended its 2019-2020 season on March 11, the challenge has been to keep fans interested and engaged.

Since then, the league has launched a number of new content initiatives, all under the umbrella of “NBA Together.” Those include Instagram Live sessions with star players, a new interview stream with broadcaster Ernie Johnson on the league’s Twitter feed, posting practice drills for young players stuck at home, new programming on NBA TV that has players commenting on classic games, and more.

But last Sunday, the league took its experimentation a step further, teaming with ESPN to take the big leagues to the playground with a televised pandemic version of H-O-R-S-E. The tournament started with eight players that span current stars from the NBA and WNBA, as well as a few retired legends, and was whittled down to four semifinalists playing for the crown on Thursday. Aside from bragging rights among the players, as part of the game league sponsor State Farm is donating more than $200,000 to COVID-19 response efforts.

Paul Benedict, the NBA’s associate VP of broadcasting content management, said, “I think it’s forcing everyone, not just in sports and entertainment, to approach things differently given the limitations, and to approach things more efficiently,” says Benedict. “The countless number of Zoom calls we’ve been on, you just have a different mindset when you approach collaborative efforts like these. H-O-R-S-E was a scaled-down production in some ways, but a massive effort in others that required quick thinking, split-second decision-making, and a lot of cooperation across the board. I think we’re going to come out as a league better from this, stronger, and more collaborative. It’s a great building block.”

Why it’s hot:

It’s interesting that the Zoom format gives a more intimate experience with the players than what you’d get with a typical ESPN broadcast. How will this change what fans expect of players and of ESPN content in the long run?

This format gives players the opportunity (or obligation) to connect on a different level with their fans, one where personality is perhaps taking on a bigger role.

Source: Fast Company

Here’s What Consumers Want to See from Brands During COVID-19

Twitter recently conducted a user survey to find out more about what people want and expect from brands in their communications during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s what they found:

  • 64% said brands should continue advertising products as normal
  • 52% agreed that seeing/hearing ads gives them a sense of normality
  • 77% agreed they feel more positively about brands making an effort to support society at the moment
  • Only 7% of respondents said brands should continue using their normal brand tone of voice
  • 82% of respondents said that brands should look to support frontline health staff, where possible
  • 86% of respondents said that brands should support vulnerable people within their communities
  • 89% said that brands should provide reliable, accurate information
  • 77% said that brands should support their local communities
  • 80% said that brands should show how they’re supporting their employees

Why its hot

This is not business as normal – and clearly, consumers expect businesses to acknowledge such. The situation has changed, for everyone, and while people are generally supportive of ads, they’re also looking for brands to consider the circumstance, and communicate in accordance with the evolving environment.

Facebook comments have a significant impact on advertising activities

The folks over at Hackernoon recently asked themselves a question. “Do comments under your advertising posts help you produce the best bang for your buck?”

They decided there’s only one way to find out and put $1,000 of ad dollars down letting the Facebook A/B testing tool find out.

Hypothesis:

  • Nobody reads comments before clicking on ads. Going further they assumed that comments (doesn’t matter good or bad) could have a positive impact on the ad. It could get higher relevance rankings, which in turn could result in a lower CPM and cost per click.

Prediction:

  • Bad Comments (Version A) group would give a lower cost per install (CPI) than No Comments (Version B), because nobody actually reads the comments.

Settings:

  • Budget: $150 a day, campaign budget optimization, Highest value or lowest cost bid strategy
  • Countries: USA
  • Language: English
  • Duration: 7 days
  • Total budget: $1,000
  • Optimization strategy: App installs

Results:
Comments make a real difference and are of critical importance to users. Looks like customers read comments before clicking on ads and bad comments give the impression of a product before visiting a landing page.

Why it’s hot:
Comments matter. Facebook users read comments and when comments are not pleasant, it results in a higher cost per conversion. While the first touchpoint with your customers is Facebook Ads, the second is the comment section under the ad.

Need a haircut? This virtual barbershop and salon can help.

Hiring a professional to cut your hair during quarantine isn’t an option, but a virtual barbershop is offering the next best thing: video conferences and guidance from a professional.

The website You Probably Need a Haircut lets people book a video call with a professional barber starting at $18. It’s a win-win for everyone, according to founder Greg Isenberg.

The site currently works with barbers and hairdressers whom clients can choose when they book an appointment. While people will need to have the tools at home, the expertise from a professional will hopefully help turn a potential haircut failure into a success.

“A barbershop is a warm and inviting place, and we aim to re-create that in your home. People can expect friendly banter from their new barber and hand-holding throughout the cutting process,” Isenberg said. “When you book an appointment, you get a Zoom link so the hand-holding is done via video chat.”

You Probably Need a Haircut gives most of the fee to barbers and hairdressers, but takes a $3.60 cut to help pay for the fees of running the website. There’s also an option to leave a $5 tip.

Why it’s Hot:

While simple, this is a really smart concept for the millions of people struggling with self grooming under lock down. There’s also the added benefit of being able to support hairdressers and barbers who can’t work in their normal capacity.

Source