Hormel, producer of Black Label Bacon, wants you to “not just eat bacon, inhale it” with their new bacon breathable masks. “From now through October 28, meat lovers can sign up at BreathableBacon.com for a chance to win, and the winners will be announced on November 4,” according to Newsweek. Seems like a way to get a certain segment of the population (*cough, ahem*) to at least consider wearing masks.
For every face mask request, Hormel will donate a meal to Feeding America, up to 10,000 meals.
The singer, and founder of clothing brand Drew House, is teaming with Crocs for a limited-edition Classic Clog inspired by elements of his fashion brand. The shoes are designed in Drew House’s classic yellow hue and include eight custom Crocs’ charms, called Jibbitz, including the Drew House smiley face logo, rainbows, daisies and pizza slices, among others.
“As an artist, it’s important that my creations stay true to myself and my style,” Bieber said in a statement. “I wear Crocs all the time, so designing my own pair came naturally. With these Crocs, I just focused on making something cool that I want to wear.” —WWD
Of course, the collection sold out in a couple days and the Bieber Crocs have arrived on eBay listed for 4X the original price.
Why it’s hot:
It’s interesting to consider the ebb and flow of trendiness, and what ingredients seem effective in bringing a brand back from the brink. Like fine art, it doesn’t really matter what it is, when it comes to a trendy product. What matters is that the right people say it’s desirable, and thus it is.
Can art and advertising co-exist? Pop music seems to say a resounding “Yes!” Mainstream recording artists have become the new powerhouse endorsers, which speaks to pop music becoming ever more an advertising channel, rather than an art form.
Levi’s latest sustainability efforts have lead the brand to launch a buyback program called Levi’s Secondhand, which incentivizes customers to buy and sell secondhand. Customers can trade in old pieces for a gift card, according to HypeBeast, and their used clothes then go up for sale on the company’s Levi’s Secondhand website. Levi’s also will handpick some vintage items, and feature them on the website, selling them from $30 to $150 USD.
This could really make a difference, regarding the company’s annual carbon footprint.
For Levi’s Secondhand, the company has partnered with an e-commerce start-up called Trove, who will handle logistics, cleaning, inventory processing, and delivery, and it seems as though their joined efforts will make a major impact on the company’s carbon emissions. According to MR Mag, each pair of used jeans sold will save approximately 80 percent of CO2 emissions, as well as 700 grams of waste, compared to buying new jeans.
Levi’s joins the continuously growing resale market, which is predicted to skyrocket from $32 billion in 2020, to $51 billion by 2023, as emphasis on environmental consciousness continues to rise among brands and buyers, according to Fast Company. Because the fashion industry contributes about 10 percent of global carbon emissions, as well as 20 percent of global water waste, this initiative is incredibly important.
Not the first buy-back or second hand initiative from a brand. Patagonia has been doing their Worn Wear resell program for some time.
A unique challenge: Shopping second hand, online, across the decades. Since sizing has changed over time, how do you know your size is your size on a pair of vintage Levi’s?
Why it’s hot:
1. There’s a tacit implication of quality and longevity in a program that buys back clothes and resells them, which aligns perfectly with Levi’s value proposition as a brand.
2. One of the challenges of sustainability is how brands can spin the idea into something beneficial to the consumer, without losing money. Levi’s has leaned into the “shop used” to save the earth meme as the value proposition without giving consumers much in return, and while at the same time, capturing the value of the returned jeans for the brand, in the form of a gift card for future purchase.
Ten of L.A.’s most beloved restaurants will come together to serve diners—in a way that you’ve never experienced them before, designed with COVID precautions in mind.
In partnership with American Express® Gold Card, Resy is transforming the exterior of the Hollywood Palladium into a whimsical labyrinth, which you’ll drive through to visit each restaurant pop-up. Don’t worry about leaving your car; each dish will be handed to you at each local restaurant’s pit stop. -Resy
Restaurants have had to reinvent themselves during Covid, with fine dining hit particularly hard since its value prop comes largely from the atmosphere and experience it creates, which is very difficult to replicate under covid restrictions.
The restaurant industry has been pummeled by the pandemic, prompting a wave of creative new dining ideas across the country, from bars offering carry-0ut cocktail mixes to pizzerias transforming into produce stands. Now, 10 well-known Los Angeles chefs are joining forces in an ambitious new experiment.
On October 15 and 16, restaurant tech platform Resy is hosting a 10-course drive-through dinner at the Hollywood Palladium catered by these chefs that could be a model for bringing high-end restaurants back to life. “This could be done in any city,” says Mei Lin, chef and owner of Nightshade. “It would require organization and logistics, but it’s possible.”
The event, called the Resy Drive Thru, is sponsored by American Express. Diners will stay in their cars and move through a track made up of 10 stations, where they’ll be served one course prepared by each of the 10 restaurants.
Guests will be served food in single-use containers and given a tray to eat on, which is theirs to keep. Each car will have its own designated waiter who will guide them through the process. (All event personnel will wear gloves, masks, and face shields; they’ll also be tested for COVID-19 before they arrive at the event, and will have their temperature taken at the door.) The entire experience costs $95 per person, and can be purchased in groups of up to four in a single vehicle. There is room for 600 guests over two nights.
It was obvious from the start that it wasn’t possible to mimic the charm or elegance of a dining room, but this project prompts chefs to think outside the box.ng
The dining industry is currently being devastated by COVID-19, particularly restaurants that don’t have pandemic-friendly options, like outdoor seating or take-out and delivery. The sector has already lost $120 billion and is expected to reach $240 billion by the end of the year. More than six million jobs have been permanently cut.
Why it’s hot: Fine dining is all about having a special experience that rises above the typical and the common. It’s interesting to see how these fine dining restaurants are trying to achieve that proposition during covid, and how they make — and sell — a unique experience to potential guests.
Amazon’s new fitness band adds body fat, movement, sleep and mood to the mountain of data Amazon is amassing. Whether streaming on Amazon Prime, shopping on Amazon.com, buying groceries at Whole Foods, Amazon is ready to…errrr…help?
Why it’s Hot – The increasing convergence of our digital and analog lives is brining the questions of privacy and data sovereignty to the forefront, while also creating new potential opportunities for marketers (just think about what a partnership between Microsoft and Walmart to buy TikTok could mean).
From The Verge:
mazonAmazon is getting into the health gadget market with a new fitness band and subscription service called Halo. Unlike the Apple Watch or even most basic Fitbits, the Amazon Halo band doesn’t have a screen. The app that goes along with it comes with the usual set of fitness tracking features along with two innovative — and potentially troubling — ideas: using your camera to create 3D scans for body fat and listening for the emotion in your voice.
The Halo band will cost $99.99 and the service (which is required for Halo’s more advanced features) costs $3.99 per month. Amazon is launching it as an invite-only early access program today with an introductory price of $64.99 that includes six months of the service for free. The Halo service is a separate product that isn’t part of Amazon Prime.
The lack of a screen on the Halo band is the first indicator that Amazon is trying to carve out a niche for itself that’s focused a little less on sports and exercise and a little more on lifestyle changes. Alongside cardio, sleep, body fat, and voice tone tracking, a Halo subscription will offer a suite of “labs” developed by partners. They’re short challenges designed to improve your health habits — like meditation, improving your sleep habits, or starting up basic exercise routines.
The Halo band “is not a medical device,” Amazon tells me. As such, it hasn’t submitted the device to the FDA for any sort of approval, including the lighter-touch “FDA clearance” that so many other fitness bands have used.
The Amazon Halo intro video | Source: Amazon
THE HALO BAND HARDWARE
TheThe Halo Band consists of a sensor module and a band that clicks into it on top. It’s a simple concept and one we’ve seen before. The lack of a display means that if you want to check your steps or the time, you’ll need to strap something else to your wrist or just check your phone.
The band lacks increasingly standard options like GPS, Wi-Fi, or a cellular radio, another sign that it’s meant to be a more laid-back kind of tracker. It has an accelerometer, a temperature sensor, a heart rate monitor, two microphones, an LED indicator light, and a button to turn the microphones on or off. The microphones are not for speaking to Alexa, by the way, they’re there for the voice tone feature. There is explicitly no Alexa integration.
It communicates with your phone via Bluetooth, and it should work equally well with both iPhones and Android phones. The three main band colors that will be sold are onyx (black), mineral (light blue), and rose gold (pink-ish).
There will of course be a series of optional bands so you can choose one to match your style — and all of them bear no small resemblance to popular Apple Watch bands. The fabric bands will cost $19.99 and the sport bands will be $15.99.
Amazon intends for users to leave the Halo Band on all the time: the battery should last a full week and the sensor is water resistant up to 5ATM. Amazon calls it “swimproof.”
But where the Halo service really differentiates itself is in two new features, called Body and Tone. The former uses your smartphone camera to capture a 3D scan of your body and then calculate your body fat, and the latter uses a microphone on the Halo Band to listen to the tone of your voice and report back on your emotional state throughout the day.
BodyBody scans work with just your smartphone’s camera. The app instructs you to wear tight-fitting clothing (ideally just your underwear) and then stand back six feet or so from your camera. Then it takes four photos (front, back, and both sides) and uploads them to Amazon’s servers where they’re combined into a 3D scan of your body that’s sent back to your phone. The data is then deleted from Amazon’s servers.
Once you have the 3D scan, Amazon uses machine learning to analyze it and calculate your body fat percentage. Amazon argues that body fat percentage is a more reliable indicator of health than either weight or body mass index. Amazon also claims that smart scales that try to measure body fat using bioelectrical impedance are not as accurate as its scan. Amazon says it did an internal study to back up those claims and may begin submitting papers to peer-reviewed medical journals in the future.
Finally, once you have your scan, the app will give you a little slider you can drag your finger on to have it show what you would look like with more or less body fat.
That feature is meant to be educational and motivational, but it could also be literally dangerous for people with body dysmorphic disorder, anorexia, or other self-image issues. I asked Amazon about this directly and the company says that it has put in what it hopes are a few safeguards: the app recommends you only scan yourself every two weeks, it won’t allow the slider to show dangerously low levels of body fat, and it has information about how low body fat can increase your risk for certain health problems. Finally, although anybody 13 years of age and up can use the Halo Band, the body scan feature will only be allowed for people 18 or older.
TRACKING THE TONE OF YOUR VOICE
TheThe microphone on the Amazon Halo band isn’t meant for voice commands; instead it listens to your voice and reports back on what it believes your emotional state was throughout the day. If you don’t opt in, the microphone on the Band doesn’t do anything at all.
Once you opt in, the Halo app will have you read some text back to it so that it can train a model on your voice, allowing the Halo band to only key in on your tone and not those around you. After that, the band will intermittently listen to your voice and judge it on metrics like positivity and energy.
It’s a passive and intermittent system, meaning that you can’t actively ask it to read your tone, and it’s not listening all of the time. You can also mute the mic at any time by pressing the button until a red blinking LED briefly appears to show you it’s muted.
Amazon is quick to note that your voice is never uploaded to any servers and never heard by any humans. Instead, the band sends its audio snippets to your phone via Bluetooth, and it’s analyzed there. Amazon says that the Halo app immediately deletes the voice samples after it analyzes it for your emotional state.
It picks up on the pitch, intensity, rhythm, and tempo of your voice and then categorizes them into “notable moments” that you can go back and review throughout the day. Some of the emotional states include words like hopeful, elated, hesitant, bored, apologetic, happy, worried, confused, and affectionate.
We asked Amazon whether this Tone feature was tested across differing accents, gender, and cultures. A spokesperson says that it “has been a top priority for our team” but that “if you have an accent you can use Tone but your results will likely be less accurate. Tone was modeled on American English but it’s only day one and Tone will continue to improve.”
BothBoth the Body and Tone features are innovative uses of applied AI, but they are likely to set off any number of privacy alarm bells. Amazon says that it is being incredibly careful with user data. The company will post a document detailing every type of data, where it’s stored, and how to delete it.
Every feature is opt-in, easy to turn off, and it’s easy to delete data. For example, there’s no requirement you create a body scan and even if you do, human reviewers will never see those images. Amazon says the most sensitive data like body scans and Tone data are only stored locally (though photos do need to temporarily be uploaded so Amazon’s servers can build the 3D model). Amazon isn’t even allowing Halo to integrate with other fitness apps like Apple Health at launch.
Some of the key points include:
Your Halo profile is distinct from your Amazon account — and will need to be individually activated with a second factor like a text message so that anybody else that might share your Amazon Prime can’t get to it.
You can download and delete any data that’s stored in the cloud at any time, or reset your account to zero.
Body scans and tone data can be individually deleted separately from the rest of your health data.
Body scans are only briefly uploaded to Amazon’s servers then deleted “within 12 hours” and scan images are never shared to other apps like the photo gallery unless you explicitly export an image.
Voice recordings are analyzed locally on your phone and then deleted. “Speech samples are processed locally and never sent to the cloud,” Amazon says, adding that “Tone data won’t be used for training purposes.”
Data can be shared with third parties, including some partners like WW (formerly Weight Watchers). Data generated by the “labs” feature is only shared as anonymous aggregate info.
ACTIVITY AND SLEEP TRACKING
TheThe body scanning and tone features might be the most flashy (or, depending on your perspective, most creepy) parts of Halo, but the thing you’ll likely spend the most time watching is your activity score.
Amazon’s Halo app tracks your cardio fitness on a weekly basis instead of daily — allowing for rest days. It does count steps, but on a top level what you get is an abstracted score (and, of course, a ring to complete) that’s more holistic. Just as Google did in 2018, Amazon has worked with the American Heart Association to develop the abstracted Activity score.
The Halo band uses its heart monitor to distinguish between intense, moderate, and light activity. The app combines those to ensure you’re hitting a weekly target. Instead of the Apple Watch’s hourly “stand” prompts, the Halo app tracks how long you have been “sedentary.” If you go for more than 8 hours without doing much (not counting sleep), the app will begin to deduct from your weekly activity score.
The Halo band can automatically detect activities like walking and running, but literally every other type of exercise will need to be manually entered into the app. The whole system feels less designed for workout min-maxers and more for people who just want to start being more active in the first place.
Speaking of heart tracking, the Halo band doesn’t proactively alert you to heart conditions like a-fib, nor does it do fall detection.
The Halo band’s sleep tracking similarly tries to create an abstracted score, though you can dig in and view details on your REM sleep and other metrics. One small innovation that the Halo band shares with the new Fitbit is temperature monitoring. It uses a three-day baseline when you are sleeping and from there can show a chart of your average body temperature when you wake up.
HALO LABS, PARTNERSHIPS, AND THE SUBSCRIPTION
Finally,Finally, Amazon has partnered with several third parties to create services and studies to go along with the Halo service. For example, if your health care provider’s system is compatible with Cerner, you can choose to share your body fat percentage with your provider’s electronic medical records system. Amazon says it will also be a fully subsidized option for the John Hancock Vitality wellness program.
The flagship partnership is with WW, which syncs up data from Halo into WW’s own FitPoints system. WW will also be promoting the Halo Band itself to people who sign up for its service.
There are dozens of lower-profile partnerships, which will surface in the Halo app as “Labs.” Many of the labs will surface as four-week “challenges” designed to get you to change your health habits. Partners creating Labs range from Mayo Clinic, Exhale, Aaptiv, Lifesum, Headspace, and more. So there might be a lab encouraging you to give yoga a try, or a set of advice on sleeping better like kicking your pet out of your bedroom.
Amazon says each Lab needs to be developed with “scientific evidence” of its effectiveness and Amazon will audit them. Data crated from these challenges will be shared with those partners, but only in an aggregated, anonymous way.
Virtually all the features discussed here are part of the $3.99/month Halo subscription. If you choose to let it lapse, the Halo band will still do basic activity and sleep tracking.
In charging a monthly subscription, Amazon is out on a limb compared to most of its competitors. Companies like Fitbit and Withings offer some of the same features you can get out of the Halo system, including sleep tracking and suggestions for improving your fitness. They also have more full-featured bands with displays and other functionality. And of course there’s the Apple Watch, which will have deeper and better integrations with the iPhone than will ever be possible for the Halo band.
Overall, Halo is a curious mix. Its hardware is intentionally less intrusive and less feature-rich than competitors, and its pricing strategy puts Amazon on the hook for creating new, regular content to keep people subscribed (exercise videos seem like a natural next step). Meanwhile, the body scanning feature goes much further than other apps in directly digitizing your self-image — which is either appealing or disturbing depending on your relationship to your self image. And the emotion tracking with Tone is completely new and more than a little weird.
The mix is so eclectic that I can’t possibly guess who it might appeal to. People who are more serious about exercise and fitness will surely want more than what’s on offer in the hardware itself, and people who just sort of want to be a little more active may balk at the subscription price. And since the Halo band doesn’t offer the same health alerts like fall detection or abnormal heart rate detection, using it as a more passive health monitor isn’t really an option either.
That doesn’t mean the Halo system can’t succeed. Amazon’s vision of a more holistic health gadget is appealing, and some of its choices in how it aggregates and presents health data is genuinely better than simple step counting or ring completion.
We won’t really know how well the Halo system does for some time, either. Amazon’s opening it up as an early access program for now, which means you need to request to join rather than just signing up and buying it.
KFC is temporarily dropping the ‘It’s finger lickin’ good’ slogan it has used in its advertising for 64 years and launching its first global campaign in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
A campaign launching today (24 August), created by agency Mother, shows various images of KFC– including an outdoor ad and a number of shots of its infamous bucket of chicken – with the ‘finger lickin’’ part of its slogan pixelated out. It ends with the line: “That thing we always say? Ignore it. For now.”
The campaign will run across TV, press, social media and digital. Outdoor ads will feature KFC buckets with disclaimers, saying things like: “Lick fingers at own risk.”
KFC UK and Ireland’s head of retail and advertising, Kate Wall, tells Marketing Week: “We’ve been using that slogan for over 64 years and it’s arguably one of the most famous in the world – for a reason, we know our guests always lick the crumbs off their fingers because the chicken is so delicious.
“This year has thrown everyone – all brands – and we took a bit of a global stance that actually right now our slogan is probably the most inappropriate slogan out there, so we need to stop saying it.”
The decision to both drop the slogan and run a global campaign was prompted by the insight that encouraging finger licking was “inappriopriate” in the middle of a pandemic.
Why it’s (not) hot
Not This premise is a bit of a stretch considering licking your fingers is not a vector of transmission, and it’s a little condescending to the public, as in, did anyone really need this message from KFC? Brands want credit for seeming to care about the world and its people, and sometimes the ways they go about eliciting this credit is tone deaf or just off the mark.
Hot Removing part of the tagline does encourage the million+ viewers on Youtube alone to try to remember it, which further instills their slogan in their minds, so that part is clever.
Type in the name of an ongoing wildfire into Google search, and the site will now bring up a map featuring a near-real-time boundary of the fire. Google revealed the feature today, which was piloted in California last year and will now be available across the US.
Google Maps will also update users with road closures and provide them with directions that help them avoid danger and roadblocks. If someone is looking at an area near a blaze on Google Maps, they’ll get an alert.
Getting accurate information to people near a wildfire can save lives. It’s also a constant challenge for emergency responders because the situation can change rapidly, while hearsay online can quickly drown out reputable sources. Google developed the new mapping feature with input from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) as part of an effort to make important updates easier to find.
The problem came to the attention of Yossi Matias, vice president of engineering at Google, in 2010 during the Mount Carmel fire near Haifa, Israel. Matias was working in Google’s Haifa office when his team saw billowing smoke outside. A Google search failed to turn up anything more helpful than what they could already assess from their windows. “While we did find some details confirming what we already knew—a large fire was taking place outside of our door—we experienced a potentially life-impacting information gap,” Matias wrote in a blog post announcing the new mapping feature today.
Now, the same Google search would result in more curated content. The scare Matias and his team experienced led to the development of Google’s SOS Alerts in 2017. Beneath a red banner labeled “SOS Alert,” the search results offer top stories, followed by official updates for emergency situations. Starting today, searches for wildfires will also include a more detailed map showing the boundaries of an active blaze.
Why it’s hot:
As the climate crisis worsens, how much more will we rely on information services such as this? And what forms will that information take with regards to mass migration, air pollution, heat waves, droughts, floods, etc?
Will our phones help us survive? No doubt those with access to such services will be advantaged.
Mary Ann Evans and Amantine Aurore Dupin probably don’t ring much of a bell for most people, even those who are avid readers of literature. Definitely not as much as these women’s exalted noms de plume “George Eliot” and “George Sand”, pseudonyms these brilliant women took on in order to get their work published and read in a world that overwhelmingly ignored or disdained the expression of women. Some smart folks at VMLY&R decided to help change that, and to honor women authors, by publishing their work in their true names in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in the UK.
Baileys has partnered The Women’s Prize for Fiction to create a collection of novels that were written by women but originally published under male pseudonyms.
Over the centuries, many female writers have felt compelled to publish work under a male name to be taken seriously. To highlight this, the Baileys’ collection celebrates the work of writers including Mary Ann Evans, Ann Petry and Amantine Aurore Dupin (pen names George Eliot, Arnold Petri and George Sand, respectively) to mark 25 years of The Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Last year, the Irish liqueur brand launched a series of events around the Women’s Prize for Fiction, including a “Baileys book bar” pop-up at Waterstones on Tottenham Court Road, London.
From Creative Brief.com:
The campaign honours and celebrates female authors and will include the first ever publication of Middlemarch under George Elliot’s real name, Mary Ann Evans.
Each of the 25 books in the library features newly commissioned cover artwork which was created by female designers and the full collection will be available to download as free e-books. The team carefully selected each of the 25 books, searching archives, online and university resources to identify female writers who disguised their gender with pseudonyms. The collection includes A Phantom Lover by Violet Paget (pen name Vernon Lee) and Marie of the Cabin Club by Ann Petry (pen name Arnold Petri).
Liz Petry, daughter of Anne Petry, explained her pride at her mother’s inclusion under her own name. She says: “When I was asked if my mother’s work could be included within such a worthy collection of books along with other impressive female writers, I was honoured. I’m incredibly proud of my mother’s work and it excites me that her writing has been introduced to a new audience through this collection. I know she would be thrilled to be a part of this as it’s an incredible conversation starter for such an important cause. My mother always believed in a world with shared humanity and I think this project encapsulates that.”
Tamryn Kerr, Creative Director, VMLY&R added: “Many of the authors we selected were suffragettes and staunch feminists. I’d like to think of this project as our way of thanking them for what they did for us, and of supporting a new generation of artists through the new cover art that 13 inspiring female illustrators, from all over the world, created for the Reclaim Her Name collection.”
1.Middlemarch, first published in 1871, will be published under the author’s real name for the first time.
2. This gives other publishers more permission to publish these titles with the authors’ true names. And on the flip side, in this day and age, would a publisher be bold enough stupid enough to continue to publish Middlemarch under the name George Eliot? In 50 years, will Mary Ann Evans be more well known than George Eliot?
3. Baileys seems like an odd pairing, but it’s smart of them to attach themselves to an undeniably positive movement in the literary world.
After 25 years the Ford Bronco is back for 2021. The model was discontinued in 1996 after the market shifted, to make room for a new breed of over-sized family SUVs that allowed suburbanites to feel like they weren’t over the hill. No, it was not discontinued because of OJ, but it’s a common assumption.
They had a lot to cover to make this relaunch a success.
Connecting the new model to its storied history as “America’s first SUV” and educating the audience about that history? Check.
Authentically tapping into the spirit of adventure and escapism that defines the category? Check.
Triggering the public’s wanderlust after being cooped up for months by Covid? Check
Embodying the power and rugged emotionality of wild horses and the Great American West? Check.
Shrugging off Ford’s weak “Ford-Focus” image. Check.
The copywriters had a field day in the ads, with gems like:
Literally calling the vehicle a “horse”.
“You need something that can look adventure in the eye, and give it a firm handshake.”
You need something that’s not happy until it takes you through whatever creek or snow or mud or mountain trail or dune or logging road or landmark with death in its name. You need a Bronco.”
“Built as wild as what you’re looking for.”
Launch it like it’s the blockbuster event of the summer
OPENING LINE: “There’s still some wild out there…”
Explain why it’s the antidote to the disappointment of the American mythology’s unfulfilled promise of a life of adventure
OPENING LINE: “This country has a strange relationship with the wild. As much as we talk about it, and paint paintings of it, and sing songs about how we’re destined to be it, we seem to spend every waking hour in places that keep us away from it… so to get back to the wild, we need something built for it.”
Tap into our primal instincts of auditory association
Show off your history / remind people you’re a legend
Use the old to sell the new
Make it a lifestyle
Get the nerds to geek out on features
Ford Press Release:
“Academy Award-winning director and acclaimed cinematographer, photographer and professional climber, Jimmy Chin, collaborated with Disney CreativeWorks, Disney’s award-winning creative agency, to co-create network reveal stories with the Ford team.”
From Tech Crunch:
The launch of the Bronco looks to be a masterclass in nostalgia. For the last few weeks, Ford has been feeding journalists with media assets — pictures, staged interviews and upcoming advertisements. I’ve yet to see the full vehicle because in the end, Ford is not relying on the Bronco itself to drive sales, but rather, is digging deep into the power of nostalgia to move the Bronco off lots.
Recalling the past can help companies develop a unified theme around a product or service. In this case with the Bronco, only recalling part of the past helps companies dial in messaging. With Ford, the company wants consumers in agreement: This is a tough vehicle and it’s always been a tough vehicle. Forget about OJ, these adverts say. Instead, look at how the Bronco was used by two burly men bounding over the rolling hills of a cattle ranch. Ford is digging deep into American lore to show the Bronco as a rugged conqueror of the frontier instead of a conqueror of parking lot flowerbeds.
Why it’s hot:
They treated the relaunch like a summer blockbuster, teasing it for weeks.
They let viewers in on the R & D process and let the car nerds talk it up.
They connected to powerful auditory sensations in ads.
They showed us all the places we wish we could go, tapping into our pent-up covid wander lust.
They re-worked their famous tagline just for this: From Built Ford Tough to BUILT WILD
The Ford logo is nowhere to be found, even on the vehicle itself. This is all about the BRONCO franchise.
They built an affinity community around it with tons of features to make it a lifestyle.
Stitch Fix Is Attracting Loyal Customers Without a Loyalty Program
As their customer base has grown in recent years, so too has the revenue they generate from each active customer. Even amidst the pain the apparel industry has been experiencing, over the last few months of the coronavirus pandemic, Stitch Fix has managed to weather the storm with only a slight revenue decline – mostly due to the decision to close warehouses for a period.
WHY IT’S HOT: In a world where “loyalty” tends to cost businesses and marketers money, in the form of deals and discounts, Stitch Fix is a testament to the the power of data to drive true personalization across the customer experience.
From The Motley Fool:
A personal stylist armed with a powerful data-driven selection algorithm creates a great customer experience.
In the highly competitive clothing industry, loyal customers are worth their weight in gold. Stores go to great lengths to attract repeat customers with programs that provide rewards, discounts, or exclusive offers for loyal members. But even with these programs, customers are hard to keep. A 2019 survey by Criteo found that 72% of apparel shoppers were open to considering other brands, which is why what Stitch Fix(NASDAQ:SFIX) has done to create loyal clients without a loyalty program is so special.
Let’s look at this personalized online clothing retailer’s loyal customers, how data science is helping build loyalty into the process, and what management is doing to further capitalize on the company’s momentum.
Loyal customers spend more
Clothing stores have seen a significant drop in spending in the past few months, but Stitch Fix’s most recent quarterly revenue only declined by 9% year over year. Impressively, this decline was not due to a drop in demand, but because the company chose to close its warehouses for part of the quarter as it put safety measures in place for its staff. This strong result against a backdrop of abysmal retail clothing spending was powered in part by the company’s auto-ship customers.
In the most recent earnings call, CEO Katrina Lake indicated that customers who sign up to receive “Fixes” (shipments of clothes) automatically and on a regular basis “achieved the strongest levels of ownership retention in the last three years.” She added that “this large contingent of loyal and highly engaged clients” are “very valuable.” Having a stable base of repeat clients helps the company better predict demand trends, shape inventory purchases, and forecast appropriate staffing levels.
Additional benefits from Stitch Fix’s loyal customers show up in the revenue-per-active-client metric. At the end of the day, consumers vote with their wallets. And impressively, this number has increased for the last eight quarters in a row. It’s clear Stitch Fix clients love the service as they are willing to spend more over time.
Possibly the biggest reason clients are spending more is that they are better matched with items they love.
Data science helps improve the customer experience
Making great clothing selections is key to the client experience for Stitch Fix. The job of keeping this recommendation engine humming and improving it over time is the company’s data scientist team. This group is over 100 strong and many of its members have Ph.D.s in data science or related fields. The team received a patent on its Smart Fix Algorithm and has other patents pending. You can see the amazing detail that goes into this process on the Algorithms Tour section of the Stitch Fix website.
This algorithm is also driving selections for the direct buy offering, which allows clients to purchase clothing without the commitment of the five-item fix. This new service is taking off and its low return rates show that clients love it. Lake shared that “people keeping things that they love is ultimately like the true Northstar of our business and that’s really where we’re orienting a lot of our efforts again.” One of these new efforts is focused on pushing the envelope of how stylists engage with clients.
Doubling down on personalized service
On the last earnings call, Stitch Fix President Elizabeth Spaulding discussed a pilot program that “provide[s] clients with increased stylist engagement and the opportunity to select items in their fixes.” This program, currently being tested in the U.S. and the U.K., connects the client on a video call with a stylist while their fix is being created. This allows the client direct input into their selections and enables the stylist to become better acquainted with the client’s clothing choices.
This innovative approach plays to the company’s strengths and could further build its loyal client following. Spaulding indicated that more would be shared in upcoming calls, but said that “We believe this enhanced styling experience will appeal to an even broader set of clients as consumers seek high-touch engagement while not going into stores.”
I’ve recently been thinking about returns and the increase of shopping online due to retail locations not being readily available. Returns are pretty painful in store but online, they are even more so. Not only because they are not immediate but you have more to keep up with. No surprise but people return more when shopping online than in-store.
Because online experiences are lacking.
Long have we searched for a ways to combat returns from online sales. (A link to Ben’s previous return post here.) There is video content of the model in the clothing items, reviews from fellow shoppers, Instagram influencers, and content like YouTube Try-On Hauls.
These additives have not abolished the need to get just a little bit closer to seeing, feeling and trying the clothes on in person, albeit retailers/brands have inched closer with those additions. Consumers long for an in-store experience with and online stock room.
Every online buying experience is the same, looking at clothes on a mostly static model, and scrolling through pages of poses. Enter Yeezy Supply website. A different way to shop, a video-game-esque way to buy your ‘elevated basics’.
Choose a model. These aren’t just your regular models. They have a story, and have done something to better their community. They are nurses, firefighters, and public school teachers. Along with different body shapes that you can then choose.
This unto its own I think speaks to the introspection that I’ve been seeing more and more. These people aren’t a deemed extravagant ideal, they are beautiful for substantive and meaningful reasons. Essential heroes that we can respect because of their story and we can connect to physically. In this video game we are them, we aren’t a cartoon or a model.
Dress yourself, I mean the model. The clothes scroll through your 3D model and you choose what you want to see them in. After a choice is made, your model vanishes out of frame in a transport-like fashion, then walks back into frame in the choice you have made.
Ability to mix and match clothes that you would wear or pair on your own. There is control here, no stylist needed to bring about the ideal pairing. You are your own stylist, as you are one in your own room.
Information can be gathered on the product by hovering and choosing the ‘i’ icon.
This answers a few concerns and closes the gap on seeing a more realistic view of product but also simultaneously creating a memorable online experience with a story that melds into your own.
Is this realistic for everyone?
This is very expensive to do. The old layout works because its available and usable for everyone in almost every browser. The ability to handle traffic and show the product is easier on this type of model. What is still unclear is how the Yeezy Supply site will handle users scrolling through and what check out will look like, and how fast users will be able to adapt to this different layout.
Why it’s hot:
Bringing human to the shopping experience.
Connecting through a story, with a body that may not be a size 00.
Better visualization of product. A ‘3D’ realistic view of clothes on a body similar to yours.
And because it is a ‘3D’ view, it changes an experience that may last but also aids in a business problem, like returns. You’re able to visualize and see a article of clothing.
It’s sadly not surprising that the first false arrest attributed to faulty facial recognition was of a black man in Michigan.
Boston on Wednesday banned municipal use of facial recognition technology, becoming the largest East Coast city to do so, public radio station WBUR reports.
“Boston should not be using racially discriminatory technology and technology that threatens our basic rights,” said city council member Michelle Wu at a Wednesday hearing, CNET reports.
Facial recognition technology has fallen under heavy criticism, with numerous research reports finding the technology does relatively poorly at recognizing people who aren’t white men. IBM recently announced it would stop offering “general purpose” facial recognition software, and Microsoft and Amazon both announced moratoriums on offering such technology to police.
Boston joins neighboring municipalities Somerville, Cambridge, and Brookline in barring local agencies from using the technology. Other cities, including Oakland and San Francisco in California, already ban the technology as well.
The new ordinance drew praise from civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which in a tweet called attention to Robert Williams, a Black man living in Michigan who was arrested after being falsely matched by such software to someone captured in surveillance footage.
This is a crucial victory for our privacy rights, and individuals like Robert Williams, who have been arrested for crimes they didn’t commit because of a technology that law enforcement shouldn’t be using. https://t.co/33MVBCoBoW
City officials are still allowed to use facial recognition to unlock their own devices, and they can still use the technology to automatically spot faces to redact from photos, CNET reports.
Why it’s hot:
1. We’ve talked about inherent bias in AI before, but whether or not to use it has largely been left up to tech companies and the market. Major municipalities have been reluctant to outright ban the use of facial recognition algorithms in surveillance and policing until recently (maybe because mass surveillance is super appealing to governments looking for a cheap way to police the population). Current events could be turning the tide toward a more just and less dystopian future…but maybe this is just a bump in the road for facial recognition.
2. It’s telling that the current complaints lobbed at facial recognition technology focus on its problems with bias, but focus less on its fundamental problems concerning civil liberties and privacy. Maybe because it’s hard to notice until it affects us. Also maybe because those apps using it are just too much fun.
From The Guardian: Test to promote informed discussion will ask users if they want to retweet unread links
Twitter is trying to stop people from sharing articles they have not read, in an experiment the company hopes will “promote informed discussion” on social media.
In the test, pushed to some users on Android devices, the company is introducing a prompt asking people if they really want to retweet a link that they have not tapped on.
“Sharing an article can spark conversation, so you may want to read it before you tweet it,” Twitter said in a statement. “To help promote informed discussion, we’re testing a new prompt on Android – when you retweet an article that you haven’t opened on Twitter, we may ask if you’d like to open it first.”
The problem of users sharing links without reading them is not new. A 2016 study from computer scientists at Columbia University and Microsoft found that 59% of links posted on Twitter are never clicked.
Twitter’s solution is not to ban such retweets, but to inject “friction” into the process, in order to try to nudge some users into rethinking their actions on the social network. It is an approach the company has been taking more frequently recently, in an attempt to improve “platform health” without facing accusations of censorship.
In May, the company began experimenting with asking users to “revise” their replies if they were about to send tweets with “harmful language” to other people. “When things get heated, you may say things you don’t mean,” the company explained. “To let you rethink a reply, we’re running a limited experiment on iOS with a prompt that gives you the option to revise your reply before it’s published if it uses language that could be harmful.”
That move has proved less effective, with the company’s filter picking up as much harmless – if foul-mouthed – conversation between friends as it does genuinely hateful speech targeting others.
“We’re trying to encourage people to rethink their behaviour and rethink their language before posting because they often are in the heat of the moment and they might say something they regret,” Twitter’s global head of site policy for trust and safety said at the time.
Why it’s hot
Social media continues to grapple with the pandora’s box its technology has released, rightly criticized for fanning the flames of our worst instincts and becoming inadvertent accomplices in the proliferation of hate speech, real fake news, and conspiracy theories.
Though it may be the bare minimum, it’s interesting to see them employing psychology to try to curb the spread of misinformation. A simple pause can go a long way.
Anifa Mvuemba, founder of DTC fashion label Hanifa, was looking forward to holding her first runway show at New York Fashion Week this year. But when the coronavirus torpedoed those plans, she came up with a new way to unveil her latest designs to the world.
In May, she held a virtual fashion show, streamed over Instagram Live, in which each garment appeared in 3D against a black backdrop, as if worn by invisible models strutting across a catwalk, the garment hugging every curve. Tens of thousands of Hanifa’s quarter of a million followers tuned in.
The Instagram show was striking and also slightly eerie, since the garments looked like they were being worn by a parade of ghosts. But without the distraction of a backdrop or of live humans wearing the outfits, it was easier to take in every detail of the clothing. And at a time when social distancing has made the traditional fashion show impossible, Mvuemba’s high-tech approach allowed her to create buzz around her new collection and gather preorders. Thanks to the show, she says she’s likely to grow her business this year despite the recession.
Mvuemba had been tinkering with the idea for a 3D fashion show months before the pandemic arrived. She was intrigued by the realistic 3D animation that began appearing in movies and was curious about how she could apply this to fashion. Three years ago, she hired a developer who works with CAD and animation software to help her with her design work. During the pandemic, she found she had more time to play with the technology herself, especially since she had to do photoshoots remotely. This gave her the idea of creating an entire 3D fashion show.
Over the last eight years, Mvuemba has grown her direct-to-consumer brand entirely through social media and without a brick-and-mortar presence. (She was about to open her first-ever store in Baltimore this year, but those plans have been put on hold due to the pandemic.) And she’s never had a real runway show. “I think it’s hard for many black designers to make it in the system,” she says. “To make it, you have to know the right people and be in the right places. I decided to just do things my own way.”
When it came to her fans, many thought the show was groundbreaking and thrilling to watch, but some had hesitations. Some pointed out that Mvuemba is among a small group of designers that almost exclusively use black models. Transitioning to 3D shows might make her less inclined to tap these models in the future. While she notes it’s a “valid concern,” she says she’ll never “exclusively use technology to replace people. I like working with real models too much.”
Why it’s Hot:
This is such a perfect example of necessity breeding innovation. We’re increasingly seeing that businesses who are able to find innovative solutions to their challenges during COVID are uniquely positioned to succeed both now and in the future.
When David Velasquez went home to California for a week in April, he found out that his parents didn’t have internet access anymore. Velasquez, a medical student at Harvard, needs Wi-Fi for work. However, his parents don’t own a computer. “They don’t shop online, they don’t watch Netflix,” he says. So when the connection got too expensive, they stopped paying for it.
With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the country, that decision worried Velasquez. His parents also speak very little English, and doctors and clinics in the US were canceling in-person appointments and asking patients to schedule virtual visits for any health problems instead.
Without internet access and with limited English, Velasquez’s parents wouldn’t be able to make that switch. “I knew that as our healthcare system started transitioning over to telehealth as opposed to in-person, in-clinic care, their access to health care — and other individuals like them — would be disrupted,” he told The Verge.
Telehealth is convenient for some people: it cuts out the drive to an office and the time in a waiting room, trimming an hours-long event down to minutes. But it isn’t easily accessible to the 25 million people in the United States who speak little English, who are more likely to live in poverty, often work service or construction jobs, and may be more at risk of exposure to COVID-19.Even if they are able to get online, most of the systems that support telehealth — like hospital portals and video visit platforms — are hard to access for people who primarily speak other languages.
Why it’s hot
The dream of a techno-utopia often forgets that human biases and systemic problems left unaddressed become embedded in new technology and can exacerbate inequality. So, until we solve those issues, they will be perpetuated.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Because the site tends to attract the lonely and despondent, there is a “Feeling Down?” button that links the user to mental health services.
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.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Oakland-based band Thao & The Get Down Stay Down had a problem. Their plan to shoot a music video for their single “Phenom” was abruptly canceled as shelter-in-place orders rolled in. The band, crew, and dancers could no longer meet up in person, and they were faced with a decision: put everything on hold or figure out a way to make the music video remotely. “At first we didn’t know if we would even release the song because it’s about people unifying,” Thao tells The Verge. “So it was never an option for me to shoot the video solo.” But then her manager had an idea. What if they shot the music video entirely within Zoom?
Featuring Thao alongside eight dancers, the “Phenom” video went from concept to completion within a week. There was one pre-production meeting, one five-hour rehearsal, and one shoot day, all of which took place on Zoom. “If we were going to do such a thing and commit to it,” says Thao, “we had to do it really quickly because it is so of the moment.”
Why it’s hot:
It’s cool to see creative people using the medium of the moment (video conferencing) to create art in a short amount of time. It goes to show that what’s most important is not having the highest production value, but connecting with your audience.
Using Zoom as a medium places the viewer in emotional proximity to the band, making them relatable, but the creative approach to choreography within the Zoom frames heightens the medium from mere communication to the level of art.
Apparently this ad came out in September, but I was just served it on Instagram a couple of days ago, and it’s just plain fun.
Most political ads are easy to ignore, but not this one. It plays like a trailer for an action movie, and only at the end do we discover that Valerie Plame is a democrat running for Congress. It piques the viewers interest first, eschewing the common tendencies of both tuning out political ads and of ignoring messages from outside one’s political cohort.
Why it’s hot:
1. Democrats have a huge messaging problem. They’ve long been criticized for being kind of lame and generally unable to inspire voter turnout, which is the main thing they need to do in order to win elections. Valerie Plame is bringing a new edginess to the party.
2. Congressional races have entered the national stage. As Democrats are looking to turn Congress more blue to combat a nearly inevitable Trump win, democratic candidates are hoping to appeal not just to their future constituents, but to the country as a whole, to fund their campaigns. To do so, this ad focuses on key national political issues (“national security, health care, and women’s rights”) and takes direct aim at Trump.
The San Fransisco tech-forward restaurant Creator has made their new airlock system (for providing take-out orders during the coronavirus crisis) open source for any other businesses that need to protect their workers from the many possibly infected people coming to their locations.
The chamber is pressurized by a Sanyo Denki 24-volt 65CFM blower regulated by simple LM317 voltage regulator circuit. The conveyor belt feeds itself through a 5 gallon bucket of quaternary sanitizing solution. Customers can order through an intercom, and their takeaway bags are heat-sealed and labeled with a tamperproof sticker just to be extra super sanitary.
“Retail workers are on the front lines, exposed to hundreds of strangers every day in enclosed spaces,” says Creator founder Alex Vardakostas. “If retail workers fall ill, they are in turn at risk of infecting delivery workers and customers. We can’t restart the economy until retail and restaurant workers are protected. They’re some of the most important people to keep virus-free.”
This falls directly in Creator’s wheelhouse, as they are known for being the first to automate the making of a fully prepared burger with the beautiful machine above. Fast-moving innovations like the airlock promote the restaurant brand as a function of doing good for their workers, which is of such concern with service workers right now, and gives customers more piece of mind as they look for safe places to procure food and have a sense of normalcy in these difficult times.
The restaurant’s team has unusual engineering skills—when Creator opened in 2018, it became the first in the world to make fully prepared burgers with a robot that handles everything from slicing the bun and cooking the patty to chopping up onions and tomatoes. For customers in the current pandemic, there’s some added comfort in the fact that the process minimizes human contact; the machine even packages each burger itself. But the storefront still needs staff to get the food to customers waiting to pick it up, and last week, engineers and fabricators set to work on the new airlock-like window.
Why it’s hot:
1. The world needs fast-moving innovation right now, and there’s nothing like giving your innovation away for free to garner media recognition and positive public sentiment. The earned media from their design and their gesture will pique the interest of many, who will discover even cooler offerings coming out of the brand’s innovative approach — like a $6 gourmet burger in San Fransisco.
2. Making this design open-source may help other restaurants move quickly to implement solutions that work for them — but it mostly promotes the brand as being next-level, and getting it hyped in publications like Fast Company.
What IP do brands have that could function in a similar way, helping the public in a way that shows off their unique offerings or abilities (instead of donating money), while garnering positive sentiment and media attention?
How Piramal Sarvajal is using IoT to tackle safe drinking water issue for rural India
“Water is wealth; water is life. Without water, life would not endure, and access to freshwater and sanitation is a basic fundamental right of humans.”
Having said that, the availability of freshwater is still a significant challenge in India, especially in rural areas. According to reports, 25 million people in India lack access to safe drinking water, and rural Indian women waste 700 hours annually collecting water. It is also estimated that by the year 2025, almost more than half of the urban population of India will live in water-stressed areas as this precious commodity is becoming scarce rapidly.
In this context, Piramal Sarvajal is committed to leveraging innovative technology to create easy access to safe drinking water in rural areas. Seeded by the Piramal Foundation in 2008, Sarvajal has been working in the water space to provide clean drinking water in the far-flung rural regions of India.
Even today, three-quarters of India still drink unfiltered water, which, in turn, leads to diarrheal deaths and permanent fluorosis. To change this, Sarvajal founder Anand Shah created a program to achieve low-cost scalable solutions serving “safe water for all.”
Why it’s Hot: (In case you’re not sure if you want to read the loooong case study.) This is a really innovative convergence of technology, data and business model – aligned to solve a pervasive public health challenge, which negatively impacts the lives of millions of people every day. Interesting perspective, as we collectively consider ways in which clients might respond to the current global public health challenge.
A Mission To Provide ‘Water For All’
Water scarcity has been a global issue; however, Piramal Sarvajal believed that the problem is multidimensional, and therefore the solutions had to be locally suited. Additionally, the voluminous nature of water, coupled with its vulnerability to contamination demanded a localised and efficient purification-cum-distribution system. While many well-intentioned NGOs have tried to implement charity-based water delivery solutions, these ventures have not proven financially sustainable over time. And therefore, the need of the hour was to apply business thinking to solve public service delivery problems.
In recent years, decentralised solutions for community-level drinking water installations have achieved significant success in creating safe water access, even in remote rural areas. Serving large enough numbers at affordable prices leads to financial sustainability while creating a local entrepreneurial ecosystem. A market-based, pay-per-use model aims to democratise drinking water access and achieve operational break-even by selling drinking water to the community at affordable prices. Piramal Sarvajal has been at the forefront of developing technologies and business practices in the safe drinking water sector that are designed to ensure sustainable solutions in both rural and urban deployment conditions. Sarvajal created a business model that operates at community levels to provide decentralised drinking water solutions to underserved communities.
During its inception, Piramal Sarvajal had their first version of its purification unit, which had no governance-based technology involved, and all the operations were done manually. Since the initiative was bound to be a multi-location affair, distributed operations posed a severe challenge to efficiently and cost-effectively managing the project. Besides, generating sufficient demand meant breaking existing taboos around buying water by educating consumers about water-health linkages was also a challenge. Sarvajal’s team, therefore, innovated a solution that could be customised for the water contamination profile of any location with pioneering remote monitoring technology. It also invested in community awareness activities while tapping into local entrepreneurial drive and resources by adopting a franchise model.
The company used to charge to the franchisee, based on the volume of water purified by our unit. Although there was a mechanical flow meter installed in the unit that used to measure the volume of water purified by our unit, every month, a person had to go to the field to note down the reading from each unit. This process, therefore, used to take about two weeks to complete the round and collect the data. This manual reading process created a delay in the billing cycle. Additionally, they noticed some tampering with water meters at various locations, which indeed is a separate challenge altogether. To resolve these, Piramal Sarvajal explored applying cloud-based technology in order to create a smooth process by using sensors for the measurement of vital parameters like quantity, quality, pressure etc.
Water ATMs: Automated Water Dispensing Units
The company started its technological journey using the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) with sensors and Human Machine Interface (HMI), which were attached with the PLC. “PLC-based automation has helped us in automating the unit’s operation and in remotely managing and monitoring the purification unit from our centralised location,” said Anuj Sharma, the CEO of Piramal Sarvaja. “Due to the fast-paced changes in PLC technology, we needed to update our software frequently. This triggered the design of our own, micro-controller based, control unit.”
Being the first organisation in India to develop the Water ATM, Piramal Sarvajal, operated the project in collaboration with a local entrepreneur or the local panchayat and community-based organisations to create sustainable livelihood opportunities within the chosen community. These cloud-connected and solar-powered WaterATM dispenses purified water 24×7. Villagers were issued RFID cards for collecting water, and these cards have a pre-paid balance, which can be recharged periodically as per consumption pattern. The RFID card gave the consumer the convenience of taking water anytime, anywhere across connected ATMs in a given location of flexible litres.
The IoT enabled technology installed at the purification level, ensuring the quality of every drop dispensed and supported oversight management on a real-time basis, while remotely managing locations for better governance. “The dispensing solution via Water ATM not only helps us manage and monitor user-level data but also supports targeted subsidies and variable pricing to support equitable and sustainable solutions at the last mile,” said Sharma.
The adoption of IoT technology for remote monitoring of the units helped the company in bringing transparency in operations across every transaction and ensured governance of widespread locations for both the service provider and the donor. This technology also assisted in managing the pay per use model, which, in turn, helped the consumers to pay an affordable price for clean drinking water — paying only for the service.
The technology that the company deployed was the Internet of Things (IoT), which required GSM/GPRS network as it acts as a backbone for communication between device and server. And, Sarvajal’s devices communicate with their centralised server over GSM/GPRS (2G) network. And ensuring that every installed unit has the availability of proper signal strength at the desired location. “Sometimes, we have noticed that even though there is a proper signal strength available at the place, still there is a delay in data exchange, which was due to the network latency,” said Sharma. And, hence, the company considered other network options like NB-IoT, which works on LTE (4G); considering its availability in most of India. The company also considered other alternate non-standard options, where telecom network is still not available, but it is under feasibility study.
Piramal Sarvajal also has enabled a technology device called Soochak, which is a remote monitoring device designed to be mounted on a commercial-scale water purification plant, to capture minute-by-minute machine status. This process works on Piramal’s technology backend, which allows the company to bring affordable, safe drinking water to underserved communities sustainably. At the same time, the touch screen of the machine easily guides the local operators on the daily functioning of the plant in the local language.
The company aimed to deploy technology at every stage — for specific parameter measurement Piramal Sarvajal have used state of the art sensors. As part of their regular preventive maintenance, these sensors are calibrated periodically so that they provide accurate data. With the help of IoT, the company gets its data from all units installed in the field, and these data are stored in their server’s database system. Also, considering the received data is large in volume; it practically wasn’t possible to do analysis manually, hence, decided to apply data analytics that provided them with meaningful information from the available data. “This helped us to know how many units are working in normal condition and how many units require attention from our maintenance team,” said Sharma. “Our devices are intelligent enough to provide real-time alerts to our operations team for any attention needed by them. Our operations team immediately acts on alerts and attends the situation.”
Application & Benefits
Sarvajal’s proprietary technology played a vital role in providing a comprehensive solution for delivering low-cost drinking water at the last mile. The various components of the technology include — water purification plants, monitoring device, the water ATM, and Sarvajal’s enterprise management system.
Sarvajal’s purification model was agnostic of the method of filtration and was utilising purification technology as per the source water. The water was getting purified through a site-designed five-step filtration process including media filtration, micron filtration, reverse osmosis (RO) filtration and UV purification. The employed proprietary technology of Sarvajal helped them in monitoring and controlling the machine operations, the source water quality, product water quality, litres produced (both rate and total), the overall health of the machine, and the amount of effluent created in the process. This real-time online monitoring enabled the company to assure a greater uptime in machine usage.
Sarvajal’s Enterprise Management System is the information processing hub of the entire company’s network of distributed installations. The SEMs receives all data sent over the cellular network for the Soochaks and Water ATMs and serves as the conduit for all operational activities within the business, such as inventory management, maintenance tracking, accounting, and asset tracking.
Additionally, the water ATM devices were solar-powered, cloud-connected, and operated automatically, which was designed to dispense water at the swipe of an RFID card. The ATMs tracked every transaction that took place, which enabled a sophisticated market forecasting and proactive multi-unit management. It also enhanced the scale of impact and optimised net investment per installation. Consequently, the ATMs established water-price transparent markets and assured 24×7 access to safe drinking water. Sarvaj’s initiative also presented an option to provide direct-targeted subsidies through government-run programs. Currently, the company is serving more than 7.30 lakhs of people daily, directly from our 1765+ touchpoints in 20 states.
While there are many players in the water space, Sharma believes, “What sets us apart is our effort of conducting community engagement activities to improve impact to increase the off-take.” Also, “Soochak throws data about machine health, so all maintenance activities are planned. Service tickets are even generated to track and also study the data generated. Our database shares information on all machines functionality at any given point in time.”
Sharma further added, “Being a technology expert in the water sector, we also aim to help the government by demonstrating the use of technology, so that the government can monitor the water supply schemes very effectively.” Sarvajal has extended the application of this model for a water pipe model too. The company partnered with the central government-run Jal Shakti mission to create a pilot model of monitoring the IoT-based water tracking mechanism at villages of Gujarat, Assam and Bihar.
Hershey is making good use of its own name for International Women’s Day, launching a campaign in Brazil that includes the creation of “Her” and “She” chocolate bars—with packaging celebrating great women musicians, illustrators and other artists.
“International Women’s Day is marked by the struggle of women for their rights,” says Ana Costa, HR director at Hershey Brazil. “Having this in mind is crucial when sharing experiences with our employees, to assure they know they’re working for a company that acknowledges their value and believes in their potential.”
Hershey says 52 percent of its leadership is female, including Michele Buck, global CEO.
Hershey is encouraging other women artists to share their work in social media. Posts tagged #HerShe and #HerSheGallery could have their posts shared by the brand.
Why it’s hot? Great use of something that’s inherent in the brand to seamlessly become part of a hot topic in our culture. Unlike so many other brands that are making forced efforts to become part of this conversation related to equality and progress of women, guess Hershey got lucky with its name. But very surprised this has not been done before.
A skincare startup is tackling the complexity consumers face when navigating the category to select the best products for their skincare needs. Rather than adding to the clutter of products, ingredients and “proprietary formulas”, or attempting to educate consumers through exposure to research + science, Proven Skincare simply prescribes personalized solutions for each individual.
After collecting customer input based around 40 key factors, Proven Skincare’s AI combs through a comprehensive database of research, testimonials and dermatology expertise, to identify the best mix of ingredients for each person’s situation.
“The paradox of choice, the confusion that causes this frustrating cycle of trial and error, is too much for most people to bear,” says Zhao on the latest edition of Ad Age’s Marketer’s Brief podcast. “There’s a lot of cycles of buying expensive product, only for it to then sit on somebody’s vanity shelf for months to come.”
As the human body’s largest organ, skin should be properly cared for—using products and ingredients that have been proven to work for specific individuals. That’s the core mission behind Proven Skincare, a new beauty company that has tapped technology to research the best skincare regimen for consumers.
Why It’s Hot: In a world where the benefits of things like AI and big data are not often apparent to the “average” person, this is an example of technology that solves a real human problem, while remaining invisible (i.e. it’s not about the tech).
Delta Airline is adopting new screen technology to add another layer of personalization to customer journeys.
Delta has struck up a partnership with technology company Misapplied Sciences to launch the Parallel Reality beta experience for flyers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Parallel Reality displays are an opt-in technology which, according to Misapplied Sciences, allow ‘a hundred or more’ consumers to view personalized content tailored to their unique journey needs via a single screen.
For Delta, adopting this technology means providing new way-finding opportunities: from displaying only relevant flight information to the viewer and translating that information into a language of the consumer’s choice.
For the beta launch in Detroit, almost 100 customers will be able to view content personalized to their needs. The partnership was announced at CES 2020, which makes Delta the first airline to keynote and exhibit at the event.
Why it’s hot: Delta is taking an existing technology and transforming it into a tool to improve customer experience. It’s taking the idea of one-to-one communication and personalization to the next level. Not to mention the company’s commitment to digital transformation unveiling several other consumer innovations alongside Parallel Reality at CES 2020. The announcements included an expanded partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft to help streamline journeys, a new AI-driven machine learning platform that analyses millions of data points, and even a wearable robotic exoskeleton for its employees.
Behavior change is very hard and the second-hand ecommerce fashion retailer ThredUp relies on it as a key component of their business model. To aid their efforts to convert new-clothing buyers into used-clothing buyers, they just launched their fashion footprint calculator.
We’ve all heard about the carbon footprint of our cars and our eating habits, but we mostly ignore our closets’ role in ruining the planet. However, the fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, thanks in large part to the the fast-fashion trend.
ThredUp is framing itself as the solution to this sustainability problem at the heart of fashion, by scaling second-hand clothing to the level of its new clothing counterparts. And it turns out that buying used clothing can have a pretty big impact.
“Lifecycle analyses of garments have found that buying used garments instead of new reduces your carbon footprint by between 60% and 70%.” -Fast Company
Why it’s hot:
1. Much like the global average temperature, awareness of our impact on the environment is ramping up exponentially. It’s interesting where different brands fall on the sustainability spectrum and how they use that position to promote themselves.
2. Our impact on the climate threat is a vague concept removed from our direct experience of short-sighted pleasure seeking and impulsive desire fulfillment. Personalizing the impact of one’s habits makes clear the need for personal change, and importantly, offers a simple way to make a difference, without sacrificing one of life’s chief pleasures.
3. ThredUp’s business model is based on the second-hand clothing market. Beyond the price savings, ThredUp needs to develop RTBs that will inspire loyal customers. If people are more aware of the impact their fashion-purchase habits have, they may be willing to consider the second-hand clothing platform, giving ThredUp a chance to turn them into loyal customers and advocates of reuse to their friends.
To mark the arrival of the series Dracula, BBC erected two billboards in both London and Birmingham that don’t directly depict the count himself, but through a clever play of shadows and stakes, see him emerge as a haunting ghost.
During the day passers-by will notice that the billboards are stabbed with stakes – alluding to the action of vampire killers. Yet, at night a light at the side turns on, and viewers realize the stakes have been placed with the utmost intention so that their shadows recreate the face of the TV series’ blood-thirsty villain.
To heighten the spooky billboard, beneath stands a ‘break in case of vampires’ box that contains a pointed wooden stake, ready to stab with.
Why it’s Hot: Innovation doesn’t always need to be a new digital platform or tool – sometimes the most interesting innovations come from rethinking how we use traditional channels.
“Scandinavian clothing brand Carlings has created an augmented reality T-shirt designed to reduce the environmental impact of fast fashion.
People can buy the T-shirt – which is white aside from a graphical logo at the top – from Carlings’ website for €39.90 ($44). The T-shirt is then mailed directly to the customer.
Upon delivery of the item, customers can visit Carlings’ dedicated Instagram account, select the filter icon and choose from a variety of designs, before pointing a phone camera at the T-shirt’s graphical logo. This will digitally superimpose the selected design onto the T-shirt.
The designs are emblazoned with environmentally conscious messages such as ‘Stop Denying Our Planet is Dying’ and ‘I’m Sure The Dinosaurs Thought They Had Time Too.’” (Contagious)
Why it’s hot
1. Designs that can be changed to match new causes extends the shirts timescale of relevance, combating fast-fashion disposability.
2. The shirt comes to life where it can have the most impact: on social media. Also gets folks going to the brand’s IG and creating lots of UGC.
3. Interesting how the 4th digital dimension is being employed to push social issues, in a cool, shareable, and potentially viral way.
4. Also, profits from the line go to a water charity, so seems like another fashion brand hoping their good works will turn into net profits.
Facebook’s AI division has been ethically producing deepfakes (manipulated videos or face swaps). The videos are part of a training data set that Facebook assembled for a competition called the Deepfake Detection Challenge that was launched yesterday. In this competition—produced in cooperation with Amazon, Microsoft, the nonprofit Partnership on AI, and academics from eight universities—researchers around the world are vying to create automated tools that can spot fraudulent media. Facebook has dedicated more than US $10 million for awards and grants.
The U.S. presidential elections in 2020 are an added incentive to get ahead of the problem, says Canton Ferrer (Facebook AI Red Team). He believes that media manipulation will become much more common over the coming year, and that the deepfakes will get much more sophisticated and believable. “We’re thinking about what will be happening a year from now,” he says. “It’s a cat-and-mouse approach.” Canton Ferrer’s team aims to give the cat a head start, so it will be ready to pounce.
It may seem odd that the data set compiled for Facebook’s competition is filled with unknown people doing unremarkable things. But a deepfake detector that works on those mundane videos should work equally well for videos featuring politicians. To make the Facebook challenge as realistic as possible, Canton Ferrer says his team used the most common open-source techniques to alter the videos—but he won’t name the methods, to avoid tipping off contestants. “In real life, they will not be able to ask the bad actors, ‘Can you tell me what method you used to make this deepfake?’” he says.
Why its hot: It’s interesting that Facebook is working to create this tech right after the infamous AOC versus MZ roast. Does this make up for the fact that they people make fake ads/is it going to be implemented on Facebook?