Area51, Memes, and brands

AREA51 Memes:
The internet is a funny place – full of overlapping references that can be challenging for the casual fan to appreciate and brands to activate against (without ridicule).

Recently a joke event page was made pushing people to ‘storm area 51’ (This phenomenon dates back to at least 2016 Ex. Tool @ Home Depot) 

Brands, particularly ones focused on the ‘youths’ all took a shot at getting on the joke.
LINK: We regret to inform you that brands are storming Area 51 memes – Mashable

Why it’s hot: 
If you try to please everyone, you’re going to please no one – something mass-market brands are / will continue to struggle with against smaller niche brands.

It’s interesting to pay attention to where brands will go.  Take for example Slim Jim’s recent success hiring a man who ran account making fun of slim jims are their new social media manager.

Growing the Meat-Free Market with… Vampires?

Birds Eye is launching a line of meat-free burgers, meatballs, and sausages. To announce the new products in the UK, they’re taking the comedic angle of vampires enjoying the taste:

Birds Eye is already present in 75% of British households, but only 35% of households are currently buying frozen meat-free products. They hope that rather than a “preachy” message, they can convince families to give meat-free a try by entertaining them.

Why It’s Hot

The meat-free frozen market is seeing 15% yearly sales growth, but most companies are not attempting to appeal to a wide-range market in this way. Making meat-free fun and approachable can appeal to new consumers.

Source

Grubhub under scrutiny…Food delivery wars heat up

New York is gearing up for an epic food fight.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., singled out Grubhub over the weekend, calling for greater oversight after allegations of unfair trade practices. The senior New York senator was reacting to recent reports that the delivery app company had improperly charged restaurants fees even when an order had not taken place.

Councilman Mark Gjonaj, the New York City lawmaker spearheading the push to regulate Grubhub, said it goes beyond just bogus fees.

“These mom-and-pop shops have an unfair disadvantage,” Gjonaj told CNBC’s “Fast Money ” on Monday. “They’re competing against billion-dollar venture capital-invested companies. The fee structure is up to 33% of the total charges, and we know [their] profits are 6% to 12%. On every order, there is a net loss to these small businesses.”

LINK

Why it’s Hot!

Grubhub, DoorDash, UberEats, etc. have created a huge benefit for consumers to easily have food delivered easy peasy, but whenever someone wins, somebody else usually loses. In this case the consumer is winning with food delivery wars creating tons of competition and incentives for us to have food delivered for a small fee and ultra convenience.

Well this story shows how it impacts these local restaurants with crazy fees that result in net losses in a low margin business to begin with. This brings to light if these disruptive digital businesses are viable with their high fees and increasing costs (higher minimum wage), etc.

DoorDash recently passed up GrubHub in revenue and eyeing an IPO, but for that convenience are small and local businesses going to be able to afford those fees or will only the larger establishments with high volume and margins be able to survive?

dr. google fails its boards…

It’s a behavior as old as the internet itself. Or at least as old as WebMD. People Googling symptoms and self-diagnosing themselves. Turns out that unsurprisingly, this is a worldwide phenomenon, and in Romania, 73% of people were doing it. So, to show Romanians they needed to SEE A DOCTOR ALREADY(!!!!!!!!!!1111), the private healthcare provider Regina Maria put Doctor Google to the test, literally. They gave it the same residency exam wannabe Romanian doctors have to pass in order to become certified. In no surprise to anyone, a prominent Romanian journalist Googling answers to the questions got a dismal 36 out of 200 correct – an 18% score.

According to the brand, “Regina Maria also made the test public for the rest of the country to take for themselves online. Those who didn’t pass were presented with a certificate of failure that could be used as a voucher within Regina Maria’s clinics.

To promote the Internet Residency Exam, Regina Maria created Google ads based on the most common symptoms people searched online and encouraged people to ask a real doctor instead.”

Why it’s Hot:

Instead of simply telling people Google isn’t good at helping you fix yourself, it dimensionalized just how poorly it does the job. One might intuitively accept that self-diagnosing and treating based on a Google search isn’t the best approach, but it’s a whole other thing to see how the knowledge you can glean from it compares with the knowledge of a doctor. Showing, not telling, is the most powerful way to make a point and change behavior.

The WeWork for therapists

Alma: 
With increasing dialogue and concern about mental health in America, Alma, the recent recipient of $8m in funding, is aiming to improve the experience for both therapists and patients.

Providers can apply for membership then book rooms, flexibly – at their own convenience.
Additionally, “Alma provides members with a suite of services, such as billing, scheduling, and tools for treating patients over video chat”.  It also gives providers a place to create community. 

On the patient side of things, “Alma has a “matchmaker” on staff who specializes in mental health counseling, and is devoted to pairing patients with professionals that suit their specific needs.”

Why it’s hot:
As the idea of seeing a therapist and discussing mental health becomes increasingly normalized in society – few entities are doing anything to simplify and bring some level of uniformity to the experience.

Veloretti Bikes courting car owners in Paris

Paris is Europe’s most polluted capital city. To prevent people from dying of particulate pollution, 2.7 million high-emissions cars are restricted from entering the city on weekdays — with hefty fines for noncompliance. If you work in the city, but can’t afford a new low-emissions car, this is a huge problem. You need to get into Paris, and may in theory also want to curb your emissions, but that’s not your main concern — you need to get to work! So what can you do? You’ll ride the train even though it’s a serious downgrade from your car. You might consider a bike, but making the switch to commuting by bike would require more of a nudge because it entails a bigger change in your lifestyle.

Amsterdam-based Veloretti bikes saw this as an opportunity to give car owners the nudge they needed to make that lifestyle change. They rode the wave of interest in clean mobility and sustainable urban transport during European Mobility Week 2018 by offering personalized bike discounts to 5 million Parisian car owners based on their car’s emissions ratings. This positioned the brand as not only helping car-owners, but helping the city itself solve its pollution problems.

The brand plugged the public database of license plates into a Shopify script, converting plates into coupon codes, which users could enter on Veloretti’s site. This gave Veloretti emissions information on a prospective bike-buyer’s car, which was used to automatically calculate a personalized discount at the POS. The worse the emissions score of your car, the deeper discount you got for a new Veloretti bike.

Seeing your car’s negative environmental impact at a time when both pollution and awareness of the need for clean mobility is at its peak in your city was coupled with a commensurate discount on a more sustainable transportation option.

Why it’s hot:

1. License plate discount is only revealed after user has placed a bike into their online cart. Commitment to purchase is strengthened as user sees their emissions score and subsequent discount.

2. Positioning their brand as a solution to pressures from macro forces and social trends (climate change, pollution, fines for driving in Paris, Mobility Week) at the time when awareness of these pressures was at its peak.

3. Highlighting a pain point with a competing product and immediately flipping it into a tangible financial benefit for their product — at the POS.

Read more: Contagious I/O

An 8-Bit Idea in a Quantum World

Game, Set Match?

In a world relentlessly focused on innovation, every once in a while a low-tech solution comes around that just makes us smile. While most digital marketers looking to capitalize on the global attention of an event like Wimbledon might set out to engineer the most whiz-bang interactive experience imaginable, one of the most whiz-bang companies in the world imagined something a whole lot less…well, “whiz-bang”. Google’s pong re-skin offers people searching for “Wimbledon scores” a delightfully low-tech distraction, that’s sure to get their attention.

Why It’s Hot

A strong testament to the importance of creative approaches to the full experience, vs the pure creative horsepower of an individual interaction. Smart, fast, effective.

“The doctor will see you now…”

Are voice assistants about to pivot from minor annoyances to truly helpful utilities? 

In an era of fake news and dubious digital sources of information, Amazon is trying to make it easier for people to access real expertise, using their Alexa voice assistant. Through a partnership with the National Health Service, they’ll help people get quick, “official” answers to some of their nagging medical questions.

Great news, for people who don’t have time to get to a doctor, or even focus their attention on a screen. Perhaps less-than-great news for people with privacy concerns associated with connected devices. For the rest of us, an interesting dilemma.

Why It’s Hot

Marketers are going to be challenged to balance tremendous new opportunities against a never-before-seen level of risk, as they explore new ways of interacting with consumers, alongside new revenue opportunities. The “winners” will disrupt their categories, to great competitive advantage, while the losers potentially lose it all.

Robot umpires make their professional baseball debut

At the independent Atlantic League’s all-star baseball game on Wednesday, the “electronic strike zone” made its professional baseball—and American—debut. According to Yahoo Sports, the robotic umpire, called TrackMan, helped home-plate umpire Brian deBrauwere assess whether pitches were balls or strikes via an earpiece connected to an iPhone in his pocket. The iPhone was loaded up with the TrackMan computer system, which uses a Doppler radar to track the pitches. deBrauwere, positioned right behind home plate, called the pitches as he received the information from the program.

MLB claims the technology is intended to help busy home-plate umpires and pinky swears that human umps are still needed and is working with the union to keep everyone happy.

One pitcher told the AP that TrackMan called high strike zone pitches that human umpires frequently miss. Of course, players will only agree with the umpire until they disagree with the call, but that’s just part of baseball.

Why its hot

As a baseball fan, I can tell you a lot of fans are divided on this issue. Some want to see calls made correctly if there is the technology to ensure that happens. This was the main driver of the introduction of replay a few years ago. Others believe that the game should not be changed, regardless of what technology might exist, and that the human element is just part of it. Personally, I don’t like a robot umpire that makes the ‘correct’ call every time because I do like that human element, but only around balls and strikes. When it comes to replay, which governs things like fair or foul, or safe or out, I do want replay because those things are more grounded in fact than balls and strikes, which are more subjective. It’s an interesting discussion of where we will allow some possibility for error when when the technology to solve it exists.

Havaianas Makes a Shoppable Boardwalk Mural

For their latest campaign, “Step into Summer,” Havaianas collaborated with renowned street artist, Buff Monster, to transform the Venice Beach Boardwalk into an immersive art installation and shoppable AI experience.

The activation began with a 15′ x 85′ mural at Venice Beach, which was crafted from rubber to correspond with Havianas’ rubber-soled sandals. The brand then encouraged people to step onto the mural and scan their favorite part of the artwork via a microsite on mobile. The microsite uses Google Vision AI technology to identify that section of the mural, then it matches consumers with corresponding sandal styles to purchase.

Influencer partnerships helped to promote and support the activation.

Why it’s hot: OOH isn’t just about billboards anymore – it’s an opportunity to have people interact with your brand in new ways. Pairing mobile with OOH also opens the door for follow-up interactions, helping brands drive consumers down the marketing funnel.

Another thought – this is also a great way to fast track toward personalization / customization for new customers.

Uber Launches “Quiet Mode”

Yesterday, Uber launched a new tier of rides called “Uber Comfort.” The new service offers nicer vehicles, more highly rated drivers, and temperature and conversation preferences in exchange for a 20% to 40% premium over standard UberX fares.

When calling their car, users can request “quiet preferred” or “happy to chat” in their conversation preference, as well as warmer or colder temperatures. This isn’t Uber’s first primary feature. In fact, Uber now has 7 tiers — Express Pool, Pool, X, X Diamond, Comfort, Select, and Black. These increase in tiers allows Uber to charge more for slightly better vehicles, highly rated drivers or drivers that are willing to talk less and crank the AC.

Reactions to the launch of “Quiet Rides” have been mixed. Some people argue that forcing Uber drivers to bite their tongues is another example of Uber imposing harsh working conditions on its drivers. Critics consider the quiet option an affront to the dignity of the drivers, making them act like robots (in a job that will soon be threatened by self-driving cars). But other riders appreciate the consistency and control they have over their travel, especially business travelers, who say that they are able to be more productive en route to the airport or meetings. Supporters also point out that the new Comfort Mode allows drivers to earn an extra 20% for rides of the same duration and distance, making the silent treatment well worth their while.

Why it’s hot: Enabling these rider preferences could help Uber differentiate itself from competitors like Lyft and squeeze more cash out of passengers by training them to use its upgraded tiers. But on a more human level, this feature feels like a Black Mirror-esque development in technology that prevents us learning and using basic social skills.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/09/uber-comfort-quiet-ride/

How much would you pay to have a phone-free family dinner?

Parents around the country, are trying to turn back time to the era before smartphones. But it’s not easy to remember what exactly things were like before smartphones. So they’re hiring professionals.

The Screen-Free Parenting Economy

“Screen Consultants” come into homes, schools, churches and synagogues to remind parents how people parented before.

Some coaches in small cities and rural areas charge $80 an hour. In larger cities, rates range from $125 to $250. Parents typically sign up for eight to 12 sessions.

https://thescreentimeconsultant.com/

The No-Phone Pledge

In a movement reminiscent of the “virginity pledge” — a vogue in the late ’90s in which young people promised to wait until marriage to have sex, groups of parents are banding together and making public promises to withhold smartphones from their children until eighth grade.

https://www.concordpromise.org/

https://www.waituntil8th.org/

https://www.turninglifeon.org/

Why it’s hot?

My favorite reason why this is hot is this: The gap between rich and poor is now measured by the lack of tech. The rich are banning screens from schools, while public schools even offer digital-only preschools.

What does a world where those who get ahead, are the “have nots” rather than the “haves”?

Hint: Inside A Tech-Free School Where Tech Executives Send Their Kids

Buy now, pay later

To win over cash strapped Gen Z and Millennial shopper, apparel brands are launching buy now, pay later programs taking a cue from electronics and furniture companies that have long offered similar programs.

Abercrombie & Fitch — which in addition to its namesake brand also owns Abercrombie Kids and Hollister Co. — announced on July 1 it would partner with payment solution provider Klarna to enable shoppers to pay for purchases in installments. As part of the program, US consumers can opt to make up to four interest-free payments over the course of two months. They are one of many brands that are experimenting with this. In June 2018, Urban Outfitters announced it would offer Afterpay – a Klarna competitor that also offers interest-free installment options — opening up the program for all of its brands including Anthropologie and Free People.

While services like Klarna and Afterpay may seem like an appealing alternative to shelling out for a pricey dress or handbag, they can ultimately lead to shoppers paying more. Since multiple payments make a hefty price tag seem more palatable, consumers are more likely to pay full-price rather than wait for sales or discounts. This is, of course, intentional — Afterpay CEO Nick Molnar has said previously that the program has been proven to increase conversion rates and incremental sales by up to 30%.

“Consumers expect choice,” Pierson said. “Today they have options to rent clothing from places like Rent the Runway and they have different ways to buy. They’ve grown up with a lot of flexbility, so seeing something like this in fashion and apparel doesn’t seem unusual to them.”

Why it’s Hot

Paying in installments isn’t only for big ticket products anymore. As we work with our clients, especially when partnering with our eComm friends at Optaros, it’s important that we consider the best payment strategies that will convert customers.

Flights by the people. Miles for the people

Every week 600 members of Brazil’s congress fly to the nation’s federal capital, Brasília, to attend the seat of government. The country’s citizens pay for these flights with their taxes, but the politicians keep the air miles they earn. Reclame Aqui, Brazil’s leading consumer protection organization, campaigned to end this unfair practice. The company created a campaign to give these air miles back to the people who helped pay for them.


The Miles For The People platform displays and ranks congress members’ flight expenses and air miles, and Brazilian citizens can use the website to request some of those air miles for themselves.

Applicants must clearly state the reason they need the air miles (for example, surgery or exams). A board of lawyers at Reclame Aqui screens and reviews the documents, and selects applications based on their urgency. Approved applications are then sent to politicians who have sufficient air miles. Should the politician accept the request, they send boarding passes straight to the applicants’ smartphone.

Why its hot?
We are the network that enables brands to play a meaningful role in people’s lives and an agency that helps brands grow meaningful relationships with people. How can we bring ideas that help our clients like Cigna walk the walk?

 

Source: Contagious

Block Renovation: a new way to renovate

Block Renovation is a start-up in the home renovation services space – currently only focusing on bathroom renovations.

But they don’t employ any contractors themselves. Instead, it partners with licensed and insured contracting and architecture firms. It does however employ an in-house design team.

4 steps in starting the renovation:

  1. Get a free estimate by answering a few multiple choice questions on their website
  2. Share photos and videos of your space
  3. Your renovation is prepared by designers and architects
  4. Rapid build begins by a contractor from their vetted network

Why it’s hot: It’s all about the customer experience and entrepreneurs are looking to improve the customer experience even in more blue-collar service industries.

Shuttershock Gets Strange…Imagines Stranger Things 3 with Only Stock Imagery

In preparation for the July 4 release of Netflix’s Stranger Things 3, Shutterstock has gotten in on the world of the Upside Down by releasing its own version made entirely of Shutterstock stock footage.

Via Adweek:

If you’re eagerly awaiting the July 4 debut of Stranger Things’ third season—dubbed Stranger Things 3—on Netflix, Shutterstock is hoping it can quench your thirst with a version of its own, made entirely from stock footage.

The stock-footage company’s new campaign, Strange Things, intended to parody the science-fiction horror aesthetic that’s made Stranger Things a pop-culture phenomenon and the recipient of dozens of awards nominations.

“Enjoy binge watching strange things?” the ad for Shutterstock reads as an ominous synth plays. “Well, you’re in luck. We have millions of strange things. Like 80’s things, shady things, upside down things—and even stranger things.”

Save for the iconic cast of the show, the video—made entirely from Shutterstock’s own assets—points to the breadth of the company’s stock-footage library.

Learn by playing: Understanding media manipulation

DROG, a media consultancy focused on resisting disinformation, created Bad News, an online game that guides the player through all the steps one might take to create a fake-news media outlet, from initial frustration to full-blown outrage machine.

In taking on the persona of a media manipulator and walking through the choices that lead to the most effective (read: worst) outcome, the player learns the tactics used by promoters of disinformation and becomes (hopefully) better equipped to avoid falling victim to extremist thinking.

By the end of the game, you’ve created a fake-news machine with the power to dupe mainstream news outlets and sway public opinion. You feel kinda gross inside, but also more empowered to combat media manipulation!

There’s also a seamless in-game survey to gather data about media literacy that has players rate the credibility of various tweets.

Why it’s hot? Exposes the nuts and bolts of media manipulation through experiential learning. If you know how manipulation functions, you’re less likely to fall for it.

The story is presented in a fun, interactive way that uses the player’s choices to deliver the message. This experience imprints the message in a multivalent way, engaging more parts of the brain at once, and is thus more memorable than passive media, and encourages more sharing and more engagement.

crayons teach a lesson in humanity…

In Japan, 79% of people associate the word for skin tone (“hada-iro”) with just one color. Mixed race children can often feel alienated for looking different. So Japanese cosmetics brand Shiseido did something to show Japan’s youth that everyone is different but equal. It created a special box of crayons by “scanning a group of schoolchildren’s skin in order to create their unique hada-iro profile…and creating crayons that matched the children’s individual skin tones.”

Why it’s hot:

Besides making a beautiful point, Shiseido did it without having to say a word. By simply seeing all the different shades of skin after their faces were scanned, kids would immediately see that there is no “one true color”, and in fact, they were all different. Proving once again that showing, not telling, is an even more powerful way to convey a message.

[Source]

How modern life is transforming the human skeleton

Mobile technology has transformed the way we live — how we read, work, communicate, shop and date.

But we already know this.

What we have not yet grasped is the way the tiny machines in front of us are remolding our skeletons, possibly altering not just the behaviors we exhibit but the bodies we inhabit.

New research in biomechanics suggests that young people are developing hornlike spikes at the back of their skulls — bone spurs caused by the forward tilt of the head, which shifts weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head, causing bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments. The weight transfer that causes the buildup can be compared to the way the skin thickens into a callus as a response to pressure or abrasion.

The result is a hook or hornlike feature jutting out from the skull, just above the neck.

In academic papers, a pair of researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, argues that the prevalence of the bone growth in younger adults points to shifting body posture brought about by the use of modern technology. They say smartphones and other handheld devices are contorting the human form, requiring users to bend their heads forward to make sense of what’s happening on the miniature screens.

The researchers said their discovery marks the first documentation of a physiological or skeletal adaptation to the penetration of advanced technology into everyday life.

Why it’s hot: Should human bodies adapt to technology or should it adapt to us?

Source

Siri Is Listening to You Have a Heart Attack

In the not-too-distant future you may be able to ask Siri if you’re having a heart attack—even if you’re not touching the device.

Because smart speakers are always passively listening, anticipating being called into action with a “Hey Google” or “Alexa!” they are the perfect device for listening for changes in breathing. So if someone starts gasping and making so-called “agonal breathing” (add that to your Scrabble repertoire) the smart speaker can call for help. Agonal breathing is described by co-author Dr. Jacob Sunshine as “a sort of a guttural gasping noise” that is so unique to cardiac arrest that it makes “a good audio biomarker.” According to a press release, about 50% of people who experience cardiac arrest have agonal breathing and since Alexa and Google are always listening, they can be taught to monitor for its distinctive sound.

On average, the proof-of-concept tool detected agonal breathing events 97% of the time from up to 20 feet away.

Why is it so good at detecting agonal breathing? Because the team created it using a dataset of agonal breathing captured from real 911 calls.

“A lot of people have smart speakers in their homes, and these devices have amazing capabilities that we can take advantage of,” said co-author Shyam Gollakota. “We envision a contactless system that works by continuously and passively monitoring the bedroom for an agonal breathing event, and alerts anyone nearby to come provide CPR. And then if there’s no response, the device can automatically call 911.”

Why its hot

What other medical emergencies can be diagnosed through voice products like Siri? We saw the OOH unit that diagnosed dog health issues with their pee. Could there be an in-house doctor that analyzes your health without having to even see a doctor in person?

A Case of Mistaken Identity

With over 20K signatures, accusations against the TV show “Good Omens” are causing a raucous. A US Christian group called the Return to Order has launched a petition to cancel the show saying it presents “devils and Satanists as normal and even good, where they merely have a different way of being, and mocks God’s wisdom.”

Protests and requests for show cancelations are not rare or new. So what’s causing the raucous? The group has petitioned Netflix to cancel a show on Amazon Prime Video.

Why it’s hot:

Brand recognition is EVERYTHING!

 

“Can You See Me Now?” – Introducing Surveillance-as-a-Service

Amazon is gearing up to disrupt another category in the same way it disrupted IT over the last decade*, but its real intent might be to create an entirely new category.

[ * In the world of IT, AWS’s consumption-based business model fueled a game-changing shift from businesses owning on-premise data centers (CapEx), to “renting” the outcomes they need, and using Amazon’s data centers accessed through public cloud (OpEx). Beyond the obvious financial advantages this model delivered to businesses, it also freed up IT teams to shift their focus from “break-fix” to DevOps” – finding new ways of using technology and data to drive business growth. ]

It’s easy enough to connect-the-dots between Amazon’s $1B acquisition of Ring last year, and their patent application for a drone-based surveillance service, and draw the conclusion that it’s all part of a big home security play. Surely a consumption-based model, in which people pay for security in the same way they do utilities, would lower a few barriers to entry and grow the home security category. It would also decrease the need for installed devices (buying or renting them, waiting for the guy to come out and install – between 8am and 4pm), and also eliminate the need to be locked into a service contract and pay a regular, flat monthly fee.

As cringe-worthy as the idea of marauding flocks of “eyes-in-the-sky” might be, a few minutes spent thinking about the potential business applications of this kind of service might make you want to move to a remote desert island. But the question of whether this scares you or inspires you comes down to who’s paying for the service (homeowners, business owners, corporations?), who “owns” the data, and what how they’re using or monetizing that data.

Why It’s Hot: In a world rapidly being reduced to 1’s and 0’s, consider how real-time video surveillance data (possibly with things like facial recognition being run through the cloud), comes together with all of the other data streams Amazon has been cultivating. What do your online purchases, streaming video choices, Alexa conversations, Whole Foods shopping lists and physical movements say about who you are, what you might want and how/where/when you can be reached? What might that mean for marketers?

The Meeker Report

Image from Medium.com

Every year, venture capitalist Mary Meeker releases a lengthy report on the state of digital marketing. Grab the full report and access an archive  here: https://www.bondcap.com/report/itr19/#view/1

Summary from Medium here, and some 2019 highlights via Recode:

  • E-commerce is now 15 percent of retail sales. Its growth has slowed — up 12.4 percent in Q1 compared with a year earlier — but still towers over growth in regular retail, which was just 2 percent in Q1.

  • Internet ad spending accelerated in the US, up 22 percent in 2018. Most of the spending is still on Google and Facebook, but companies like Amazon and Twitter are getting a growing share. Some 62 percent of all digital display ad buying is for programmatic ads, which will continue to grow.

  • Customer acquisition costs — the marketing spending necessary to attract each new customer — is going up. That’s unsustainable because in some cases it surpasses the long-term revenue those customers will bring. Meeker suggests cheaper ways to acquire customers, like free trials and unpaid tiers.

  • Images are increasingly the means by which people communicate, as technology developments like faster wifi and better phone cameras have encouraged a surge in image taking. More than 50 percent of Twitter impressions now involve posts with images, video or other media; Twitter used to be text-only.

  • The number of interactive gamers worldwide grew 6 percent to 2.4 billion people last year, as interactive games like Fortnite become the new social media for certain people. The number of people who watch those games — rather than participate — is swelling, too.

  • Health care is steadily becoming more digitized. Expect more telemedicine and on-demand consultations.

Regarding the rising cost of customer acquisition in particular, the report cites the effectiveness of free trials or “freemium” tiers of service that can effectively get new customers in the door and convert to loyal subscriptions or users. The other driver highlighted was recommendations – the ability to deliver personalized, curated products and content to potential customers, a la personal stylist companies like Stitch Fix or Trunk Club.

Why it’s hot: It’s worth a read as it’s often a source of intelligence on the client-side, and may help to explain why certain topics of conversation suddenly seem to be cropping up in client interactions. It may help you uncover some blind spots during planning and is a good starting point for hypothesizing with data.

How Spotify Uses Emotional Surveillance for Profit

We all know Spotify’s curated mood-based playlists ranging from “Happy Hits” and “Mood Booster” to “Rage Beats” and “Life Sucks.” But what users may not know though, is that Spotify has been selling access to that listening data to multinational corporations.

Spotify is the world’s biggest streaming subscription service, with 207 million users in 79 different countries. And as Spotify has grown, its advertising machine has exploded. Of those 207 million users, it claims 111 million users are not paying subscribers, meaning they rely on the ad-supported version.

Spotify’s enormous access to mood-based data presents a major value to brands and advertisers, allowing them to target ads on Spotify by moods and emotions. And since 2016, Spotify has shared this mood data directly with the world’s biggest marketing and advertising firms. As of May 2015, advertisers were given the ability to target ads to users of the free ad-supported service based on activities and moods. For example, Coca-Cola’s ‘Open Happiness’ campaign would play when people are listening to mood-boosting music.

In Spotify’s world, listening data has become the oil that fuels a monetizable metrics machine, pumping the numbers that lure advertisers to the platform. In a data-driven listening environment, the commodity is no longer music, the commodity is user’s moods and listening habits as behavioral data. Today, marketers want mood-related data more than ever, to fuel automated, personalized ad targeting. In 2016, WPP struck a multi-year partnership with Spotify, giving the conglomerate unprecedented access to Spotify’s mood data specifically.

Why it’s hot: Music streaming platforms are in a unique position as they hold tons of data related to our emotional states, moods and feelings. As the largest streaming subscription service, Spotify and their mood playlists have become the data-collecting solution for brands struggling to reach skeptical millennials. On the Spotify for Brands blog, the streaming giant explains that its research shows millennials are weary of most social media and news platforms, feeling that these mediums affect them negatively. Spotify is a solution for brands, it explains, because it is a platform where people go to feel good.

Source: https://thebaffler.com/downstream/big-mood-machine-pelly

The Revolution Will Be … Heavily Effected by Digital

With some major changes happening globally, its interesting to note the ways that the digital world around us are affecting where attention falls and how we perceive international events. Two examples from this week, the massacre in Sudan and the protests in Hong Kong are key to understanding how innovation is not only affecting how we take in global media but how events unfold.

Protesters in Hong Kong wait on huge lines to pay cash. 

Use of octopus cards to show proof of demonstration was used to convict the “Umbrella 9”  in 2014.

In this case, protesters are being deliberate about the digital footprint they are leaving, something that protesters in 2014 didnt know to be wary of.

Instagram gets close and personal with Influencers from Sudan 

Mashable reports: “On Thursday, Shahd Khidir, a Sudanese influencer and blogger who mainly shares beauty, fashion, and lifestyle content, went “off-brand” to raise awareness to her nearly 64,000 Instagram followers about the dire situation in Sudan. Khidir, who is based in New York City, posted a photograph of herself crying at her desk along with a heartbreaking story about her friend, who she learned had recently been murdered in Sudan.”

I noted amongst my friends (a HIGHLY informal poll) that those who tended to use instagram were talking about the Sudan, while Twitter users were talking about Donald Trump’s interview with George Stephonopoulos.

The hashtags #IAmTheSudanRevolution#SudanUprising, and #Sudanese_Protest are trending and a much younger group than those typically concerned with international news.

Why It’s Hot? 

Imagine the Tienemen Square protests on social and how the Arab Spring was affected by social and digital. Our world is evolving around these innovations and will continue to change as our digital world evolves

Airbnb launches ‘Adventures’ – a step towards “extreme tourism”

Today, Airbnb is introducing Adventures, a collection of three- to seven-day trips that allow travelers to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations around the world. The all-inclusive trips include guides, meals, on-the-ground transport, and accommodations, along with any necessary gear.

To list their trips on the platform, operators need to apply, much like they did for Experiences. Airbnb company has said in the past that it turns away more than 80% of applicants for Experiences. For Adventures, Airbnb says it ensures that all the operators it lists on its platform have the necessary certifications and licenses to run their tours.

Over the past three years, Airbnb has been expanding into new kinds of travel experiences, part of its larger effort to position itself as an all-in-one travel company. First came Experiences, its version of day tours, then it bought Canada-based Luxury Retreats to expand into full-service accommodations. It even it integrated Resy’s reservation booking tool into its platform. Airbnb has since extended into Airbnb Plus, a collection of verified, high-quality house rentals. Their newest extension of Adventures signals Airbnb’s first real attempt at offering end-to-end travel.

Adventure and activity-based travel is a growing business, a 2018 survey of tour operators conducted by the Adventure Travel and Trade Association (ATTA) and Travel Leaders Group, found that 86% percent of respondents had experienced growth in their adventure travel sales over the past three years. According to the ATTA, the worldwide adventure travel market has grown from $98 billion in 2009 to $683 billion in 2017.

Airbnb thinks it can set itself apart from the typical adventure fare by coming up with unique trip and thoroughly vetting operators. Most of the operators on the platform are regional and not widely known, and many are offering trips that are exclusive to Airbnb. Adventures will range from $79 to $5,000, depending on the length of the trip and the complexity of the journey. On average, Airbnb says these trips will cost $750 for seven days, or $110 a day, which is on the more affordable end.

Why it’s hot: Airbnb continues to push their offerings of their platform to expand beyond expected tourist experiences, and offering more ‘adventures’ that help push travelers out of their comfort zones. Since they are such a reputable brand and service, it will be interesting to see which adventures they choose to offer on their platform – and in turn, the local businesses they choose to support. As marketers, this is a perfect example of how we can push our clients to integrate more offerings/services to meet the interests and needs of their audience vs. evolving just messaging

Source: FastCo

Making pollution masks fun for kids

Fine particle pollution is Seoul is dangerous to health, especially for growing children, but most kids don’t wear masks, because they don’t like them and they don’t really understand the threat. To overcome this, the Peekaboo Mask was created to make masks relevant to Korean kids. Masks designed with fun characters on them, which transform as kids breathe, created a playful, interactive experience that raised the perceived value of mask wearing through the lens of what resonates with kids.

To get kids interested in the masks, kid-sized mask vending machines with digital displays told the story of the dangers of dust pollution with animated emoji characters, using real-time pollution data. On days when pollution was severe, animated videos addressed kids passing by about the dangers of dust. On less dangerous days, the machine stayed quiet until interacted with.

A pilot program showed promise: “According to the agency, over 300 children interacted with the digital vending machine, and 90% of them understood the importance of wearing masks on a ‘bad dust days’. Meanwhile, 88% didn’t want to take off their Peekaboo Masks.” –Contagious

Why it’s hot:

– Project addressed the audience where they were in the real world, integrated with digital storytelling modeling good behavior, which jumped into the physical world with interactive masks allowing kids to join the story and play out the designed experience.

– Seemingly human-centered design from the start (integrated throughout objects, digital interfaces, delivery, and an awareness ad campaign) made a previously irrelevant subject relevant to the target audience in a way that felt seamless to their routine. This ultimately changed perception and behavior.

– Real-time data informed the way machines interacted with people, giving kids approachable information on their health at the moment of “sale”, delivering the product when they’re most engaged.

Source: Contagious

coke’s “search of a lifetime”…

Being young is about searching – for who you are, what you want to do with your life, even simply what to do tomorrow. Hooking into this, Coca-Cola in Israel created “The Search of a Lifetime”. Using the top searches among young Israelis, they created targeted content to answer the life-defining questions they were asking around work, school, travel, etc. What’s more, they predicted and created content addressing what would likely be peoples’ next questions after answering the initial query. Ultimately, helping them find the answers, to make the decisions that would make them happy.

First, not enough brands use search to create meaningful connections with people. It’s a direct way to help them by answering the questions you know they’re asking. Second, more brands should be thinking beyond the initial interaction. Coke could have just answered the first question and moved on. Instead, they endeavored to understand how a young person would fully explore these topics, and made sure they completed the conversation.

[Source]

Volkswagen confronts its terrible past

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

Story on Fast Company

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

Why it’s Hot

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

Applying AI for Social Good

By Ankita Pamnani

Interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) has dramatically increased in recent years and AI has been successfully applied to societal challenge problems. It has a great potential to provide tremendous social good in the future.

Real-life examples of AI are already being applied in about one-third of these use cases, albeit in relatively small tests. They range from diagnosing cancer to helping blind people navigate their surroundings, identifying victims of online sexual exploitation, and aiding disaster-relief efforts.

AI has a broad potential across a range of social domains.

  • Education
    • These include maximizing student achievement and improving teachers’ productivity. For example, adaptive-learning technology could base recommended content to students on past success and engagement with the material.
  • Public and Social Sector
  • Economic Empowerment
    • With an emphasis on currently vulnerable populations, these domains involve opening access to economic resources and opportunities, including jobs, the development of skills, and market information. For example, AI can be used to detect plant damage early through low-altitude sensors, including smartphones and drones, to improve yields for small farms.
  • Environment
    • Sustaining biodiversity and combating the depletion of natural resources, pollution, and climate change are challenges in this domain.

Some of the issues that we are currently facing with social data

  • Data needed for social-impact uses may not be easily accessible
    • Much of the data essential or useful for social-good applications are in private hands or in public institutions that might not be willing to share their data. These data owners include telecommunications and satellite companies; social-media platforms; financial institutions (for details such as credit histories); hospitals, doctors, and other health providers (medical information); and governments (including tax information for private individuals).
    • The expert AI talent needed to develop and train AI models is in short supply
      • The complexity of problems increases significantly when use cases require several AI capabilities to work together cohesively, as well as multiple different data-type inputs. Progress in developing solutions for these cases will thus require high-level talent, for which demand far outstrips supply and competition is fierce.
    • ‘Last-mile’ implementation challenges are also a significant bottleneck for AI deployment for social good
      • Organizations may also have difficulty interpreting the results of an AI model. Even if a model achieves a desired level of accuracy on test data, new or unanticipated failure cases often appear in real-life scenarios.