Big Auto Doubling Down on Big Data

Source: ZDNet.com

Ford’s new CEO eyes software, tech stack as differentiator vs. rivals

New Ford CEO Jim Farley’s plan for the automaker includes a heavy dose of software and services for its commercial vehicle business as well as new consumer experiences to drive loyalty.

Why It’s Hot // The convergence always-on connection and data commercialization brings a world of new opportunities to marketers and brands seeking to redefine their businesses – while also adding fuel the the fiery debate about the trade-offs between privacy and personalized experiences.

Tech and the future of transportation: From here to there

Ford, which is in the middle of a turnaround of its core business, is trying to navigate a shift to electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles as well as an industry that is increasingly more about software. Farley takes over for Jim Hackett, who streamlined the automaker over the last three years.

Farley outlined a series of leadership changes and a plan that includes “expanding its commercial vehicle business with a suite of software services that drive loyalty and recurring revenue streams” and “unleashing technology and software in ways that set Ford apart from competitors.”

In addition, Ford is looking to develop connected vehicles and create new businesses from the Argo AI self-driving system.

Ford is also looking for a new CIO as Jeff Lemmer is retiring Jan. 1. His successor will lead Ford’s technology and software platform.

The tech strategy from Farley lands after a Sept. 16 investor presentation by Kenneth Washington CTO. Washington outlined the connectivity required from smart vehicles in the future that will include 5G, satellites and edge, cloud, and fog computing.

ford-connectivity.png

Washington added that Ford has hired more than 3,000 advanced computing experts to work on the tech stack and surrounding technologies including things like smart cities, mobility services, edge computing, and analytics.

ford-tech-stack.png

He said:

If you were to tear down a future Ford, say, 10 years from now, the biggest difference you’d see is that the software, compute and sensing services are being serviced by a central compute module. And that’s really important because that’s more like we’re accustomed to seeing with the smartphones and the smart devices that we surround ourselves in our homes with every day. So this design that you would see would enable us to really leverage the power of high bandwidth connectivity that happens around the vehicle.

In the future, vehicle changes will be handled with updates via software and algorithms instead of hardware, said Washington. These updates would start with software, but design of electrical architecture as well as shared memory and power systems for various zones of the vehicle would be critical.

Other key points about Ford’s tech stack include:

  • Ford uses QNX, Autosar and Linux to develop is operating system and tech stack.
  • The automaker builds on top of that OS with middleware from its internal software team.
  • In 2020, Ford began equipping most of its redesigned vehicles with the ability for advanced over-the-air updates.
  • The data from those updates on vehicles like the F-150 and Bronco will help Ford iterate.
  • There are 5 million Ford connected vehicles in the field today.
  • Ford sees opportunities in services to optimizes Ford fleets for small business owners.

Levi’s launches used-jeans shopping ecosystem

From Green Matters:

Levi’s Secondhand is one of the first buyback initiatives of its kind.

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.

According to Vogue, Levi’s is the first major denim brand to start a buyback initiative.

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.

 

Source: Green Matters

 

Life Beyond the Cookie

With 3rd-party slowly-but-surely going the way of the dodo, the drive for marketers to develop data strategies that accelerate 1st-party data growth and utilization is fast becoming an existential imperative.

WHY IT’S HOT:  Relationships and Relevance will matter more than ever, as marketers of all shapes and sizes strive to survive and thrive in a fundamentally changed world. (From “nice-to-have” to “mission-critical”)

From Digiday:

‘Re-architecting the entire process’: How Vice is preparing for life after the third-party cookie

Vice Media Group pulls in 57.5 million global unique visitors a month, according to Comscore; Vice itself says it has a global audience of “more than 350 million individuals.” But only a minority of those users are logged in at any time. With third-party cookies soon to be obsolete and Apple clamping down on the free-for-all sharing of mobile IDs, Vice’s first-party data strategy aims to improve its registration process and double down on contextual ads.

In the latest example of bolstering its first-party data offering for advertisers, Vice Media Group is using a new tool from consumer reporting agency Experian and data platform Infosum.

That tool, Experian Match, those companies say, offers publishers more insights on their audiences without needing to use third-party cookies or requiring users to log in. In turn, they can offer advertisers more precision targeting options.

“What interests me the most is that there’s so much bias within data — for example, proxies to get into the definition [of an a target audience on an advertiser brief],” said Ryan Simone, Vice Media director of global audience solutions. “We are looking to eliminate bias in every instance. If a client says ‘this specific … group is what we are looking for,’ we can say on Vice — not through the proxies of third-party data or other interpretation’ that product A [should target] this content, this audience [and that’s] different from product B. It’s a much more sophisticated strategy and re-architecting the entire process.”

Publishers provide a first-party ID, IP address and timestamp data, which is matched with Experian’s own IP address and household-level socio-demographic data. This initial match is used to create the Experian Match mapping file, which is then stored in a decentralized data “bunker.” From here, all matching takes place using InfoSum’s decentralized marketing infrastructure, with publishers creating their own private and secure ”bunkers” and advertisers doing likewise, so individual personal customer data is never shared between publishers and advertisers.

Privacy and security were important considerations before committing to use the product, said Paul Davison, Vice Media Group vice president of agency development, for international in statement. But, he added, “Those concerns are solved instantly as no data has to be moved between companies.”

As for login data, Vice’s user registration process is fairly basic and doesn’t offer users much explanation about the benefits they will receive if they do so. Updating that is a work in progress, said Simone.

“There will be a lot more front-facing strategy” for encouraging sign-ups, he said. “We are looking to create greater value …. for our users.” (The company also collects first-party data through newsletters and experiential events, such as those held —pre-covid, at least — by Refinery29.)

Vice has worked with contextual intelligence platform Grapeshot long before it was acquired by Oracle in 2018. Beyond offering advertisers large audiences around marquee segments like “fashion” or “music,” Vice has begun working more recently to open up more prescriptive subsegments — like “jewelry” for example.

“People are scared to send out smaller audiences — but I’d rather provide something that’s exact. Opening that up provides greater insights,” especially when layered with first-party data sets gleaned through partnerships like Experian and Infosum, said Simone.  Vice might not have a wealth of content around high fashion, for example, but consumers of a particular fashion house might still visit the site to read about politics or tech.

“Contextual has evolved and with the absence of the third-party cookie it’s all the more significant,” said Simone.

Publishers’ biggest differentiating features for advertisers are their audiences and the context within their ads will sit, said Alessandro De Zanche, founder of media consultancy ADZ Strategies.

“If they really want to progress and be more in control, publishers need to go back to the basics: rebuilding trust with the audience, being transparent, educating the audience on why they should give you consent — that’s the very first — then building on top of that,” De Zanche said.

“With all the technical changes and privacy regulations, if a publisher doesn’t rebuild the relationship and interaction with its audience, it will just be like trying to Sellotape their way forward.”

Facebook is Watching… for Research

~100 Facebook employees will be wearing AR research glasses at work, at home, and in public around San Francisco and Seattle to gather data about how the glasses perceive the world and what kind of privacy considerations they may need to make people feel comfortable around them.

The goal of these? To help Facebook develop a pair of augmented reality glasses that can layer 3D graphics and information over the wearer’s view of the real world. The eventual goal is to create a device that will enable virtual social interactions, like being able to have a lifelike conversation with a faraway friend who’s projected across from you at your kitchen table.

The Facebook employees participating in “Project Aria” will use their test glasses to gather data that will help the company’s researchers and engineers understand how AR can work in terms of tech and of the privacy protection users will demand, obviously being a huge concern for Facebook product users.

How this research will work: The glasses capture video and audio from the wearer’s point of view while collecting data from the sensors in the glasses that track where the wearer’s eyes are going.

“We’ve just got to get it out of the lab and get it into real-world conditions, in terms of [learning about] light, in terms of weather, and start seeing what that data looks like with the long-term goal of helping us inform [our product],” says Andrew Bosworth, vice president and head of Facebook Reality Labs, who is overseeing the project.

The research disclaimer: The wearer of the research glasses will wear a shirt that identifies them as Facebook employees working on an AR research project and it will show a website where people can get more information. The research glasses will display a noticeable white light that indicates when data is being collected, and the devices will have a physical mute button that will shut down the sensors and microphones.

“We’ll also start to think through the privacy conversation that’s going to be so important when we get to augmented reality,” Bosworth says.

Why it’s hot? Facebook is constantly at the center of data privacy controversies and this will likely bring up the same concerns. Time will tell how “secure” this data is.

Source: FastCo

Walmart tests drone deliveries for household goods and groceries

Walmart has started making its first deliveries by drone, launching a small pilot program this week in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The retailer will be delivering “select grocery and household essential items” using automated drones operated by Israeli startup Flytrex. Walmart has offered few details on the program, including how many drones are involved in the pilot and what checks (if any) customers need to make before receiving a delivery.

Each of the drones can fly at speeds of 32 mph, travel distances of 6.2 miles in a round trip, and carry up to 6.6 pounds (that’s roughly “6-8 hamburgers,” according to converted units offered on Flytrex’s website).

But don’t expect to see drones from Walmart (or any other retailer) buzzing over city streets any time soon. As Flytrex mentions on its website, its aircraft are “designed for the suburbs.”

Why it’s Hot:

There’s been talk of using drone delivery for years now, but was COVID-19 the final push toward making it a reality? And, what would it take for this to become the standard for delivery (even if just in suburban/rural areas)?

Source

What won’t Amazon know about us…?

Amazon Announces a New Fitness Tracker

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 three color options for the Halo Band
The three color options for the Halo Band
 Amazon
Amazon will sell lots of different band styles and colors
Amazon will sell lots of different band styles and colors
 Amazon

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.

Halo’s body scanning feature, which calculates body fat percentage.
Halo’s body scanning feature, which calculates body fat percentage.
 Amazon

BODY SCANS

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.

Halo scans your body with four photos
Halo scans your body with four photos
 Amazon video

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.

Halo uses AI in Amazon’s cloud to create the 3D scan and calculate body fat percentage
Halo uses AI in Amazon’s cloud to create the 3D scan and calculate body fat percentage
 Amazon video

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.

Halo listens to your voice and guesses at your emotional state
Halo listens to your voice and guesses at your emotional state
 Amazon video

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.”

The Halo app’s main screen
The Halo app’s main screen
 Amazon

DATA PRIVACY

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.
Halo’s activity tracker does more than count steps
Halo’s activity tracker does more than count steps
 Amazon

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.

Halo’s sleep tracking feature
Halo’s sleep tracking feature
 Amazon

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.

The Halo Band’s sensor array
The Halo Band’s sensor array
 Amazon

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.

Burger King angers Twitch streamers with stunt campaign

Burger King has been known for creating campaigns that tap into new technology to create PR, sometimes risking backlash (remember their tv spot that purposefully activated Google Home smart speaker in people’s homes?). Well, this time Burger King angered Twitch streamers by exploiting a donation feature that lets streamers collect donations from fans.

The donation feature in Twitch was designed to incentivize streamers to continue creating content that their audience appreciate by tipping them. The way it works is that a viewer can have a typed message read out aloud by a computer whenever they donate money to a streamer. In this case, Burger King targeted some of the most popular streamers and used a bot to donate $5 (a BK value meal) to have its message (unsolicited by both the streamer and the viewer) read out loud to everyone watching.

There’s been huge backlash and the campaign merely lasted a few hours on Twitch. Researches show gamers tend to be more open to advertising than the average person but not when done in such a scummy way that disrupts the experience to everyone involved and takes advantage of talent/influencers who have worked hard to build their audiences.

“Unlike other audiences, consumers in the video game arena are very discerning, protective and don’t appreciate marketing stunts that disrupt their experiences or minimize the work of their favorite streamers”

“Seeing a giant brand like Burger King coming into the space and marginalizing both the audience and the talent certainly doesn’t land well with the people they are trying to market to,” says Chris Erb, CEO of gaming-focused agency Tripleclix.

 

Sometimes, there’s a (not so) fine line between being a savvy and a scummy marketer. For brands to have success with these consumers they need to actually build relationships with gamers and their influencers, and not market to them.

The DNC’s Role Call Goes Viral

Rhode Island’s Calamari is having a moment!

https://twitter.com/business/status/1295926733921820678

The DNC goes digital in our Coronavirus/zoom marathon era. Instead of what is usually groups of delegates gathered in an arena with their respective state name, we got a demonstration of the diversity of humanity and geography that is the USA. This was a breath of fresh air to those who have been feeling fed up with politics.

Why it’s hot?

What could have been very technically tricky was considered a huge success. A typically very skeptical Twitter agees. It made a really stagnant tradition into an uplifting moment.

 

 

 

The New AI That Had Everyone Talking This Week

If you popped into Twitter this week you probably came across GPT-3. It was created by research lab OpenAI, and is a new AI language model that can do some truly incredible things, from writing poetry to composing business memos to generating functioning code.

The company launched the service in beta last month and has gradually widened access.

The AI has basically been “trained” on an archive of the internet called the Common Crawl, which contains nearly one trillion words of data. That’s why it can demonstrate so many different capabilities like creating a website similar to Google to finishing a VC’s blog post.

Super interesting but still has some bugs to work out too.

Why it’s hot: It’s a huge leap forward in terms to AI, which can enable a lot of different applications. That said, it still has some kinks to work out but we can only imagine what something like GBT-4 will be like. If you think about it, the first iPhone has come a looooooong way and it’ll be interesting to see where this AI goes in the future.

Johnnie Walker Paper?

Diageo will start releasing its Johnnie Walker whiskey in a paper bottle in early 2021. Nothing about the caramel-colored liquor will change, but the environmental impact will be significantly lessened.

Whereas the current bottle is made of translucent glass and plastic, the new one is made from sustainably sourced, food-safe wood pulp. It’s finished in a moody and alluring opaque matte black, with the name in contrasting white type. It’s also 100% plastic-free and completely recyclable, according to the company. Yes, glass is recyclable, too, but it tends to have a bigger environmental footprint because it’s heaver it ship, which adds to its carbon footprint. And even though the original glass bottle doesn’t have much plastic, any decrease is a good thing—91% of the 300 million tons of plastic we produce a year isn’t recycled at all, according to the NRDC.

Diageo’s new bottle is a bigger deal than just a change in one whiskey’s package design. Through it’s new sustainable packaging R&D company, it’s creating a consortium with major brands, and Unilever and Pepsi have already signed on to roll out paper bottles in 2021.

Diageo hasn’t disclosed whether it will roll out paper bottles to its other spirits, but if packaging design continues in this direction, it could very well be time to pour one out for plastic.

Why it’s Hot:

Innovation like this could potentially change the future of packaging (and it’s a much-needed change).

Much like Allbirds has done for sustainable shoe manufacturing, Diageo could become the gold star for other spirits manufacturers. Diageo positioning itself as a leader for eco-friendly packaging within the spirits space could potentially help them attract new customers and retain existing ones.

Source

Genius Introduces Live Interactive Concerts

Genius Live is a new experience platform by Genius.com that aims to fill the current void in live concerts due to COVID-19. Their first event will feature a headlining performance by Wiz Khalifa, who is donating all proceeds to the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP).

Genius is calling the event an “interactive benefit concert” because there are actions attendees can take throughout–some free and some for purchase–that will affect the show in real-time. After signing up for free, fans can vote on the setlist (free), join a private watch party ($10), ask for a shoutout ($100), and ask a question ($200). Fans can also chat with each other throughout the experience.

The event will be streaming on the Genius Live platform, as well as simulcast on YouTube Live, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, and Twitch. While this is the only event Genius has announced so far, they plan to expand the program with more artists over the next few months.

Why It’s Hot

While many others have been experimenting with how to take in person experiences online at this time, the interactive nature of this event sets it apart from other livestream concerts, and gives the audience new ways to interact with their favorite artists that a large stadium event would not allow.

Source

Walmart poised to capture the summer movie market?

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

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

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

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

From The Verge:

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

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

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

Why it’s hot:

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

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

Source: The Verge

Prescription Game

Designed to help kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), EndeavorRx is the first game that’s allowed to be prescribed by doctors as medical treatment.

The game should not be considered an alternative to medication, but is officially approved by the US FDA. The game, aimed at patients age 8-12, can be plaid on an iPad or iPhone and has been found (after clinical trials for 7 years) to reduce attention-deficit for 1/3 of participants.

Introducing Akili

Akili, the creator of the game aims to reimagine what medicine can be. They are pairing neuroscience with the latest technology and video game entertainment in the hopes of challenging the status quo of medicine.

Why it’s hot: Gaming addiction was declared a legitimate disorder by the WHO last year and has taken flak in regards to violence. But, with Covid lockdowns and their ensuing madness, more and more people of all ages are realizing the benefits of gaming.

Sources:

CNBC – See the first-ever game approved by the FDA as a mental health treatment
Distractify – How the EndeavorRX game works
Forbes  – Games are great for your mental health study finds

Titk-Tok to expand into live-streaming and educational content

TikTok is looking to expand into more live broadcasts and educational content as the social video app diversifies away from the dance and music videos that have fueled its rapid growth in the past two years.

According to Tiki’s Tok, people are spending more time watching videos on the app during the pandemic, while creators are broadening the range of content they share to include sports, gaming, cooking, fashion and beauty videos.

Diversifying its content slate could help TikTok extend its audience beyond the 16-to-24 demographic that makes up 43% of its user base and appeal to brands that want to reach consumers with greater spending power. Live video has certain advantages in creating a sense of immediacy among viewers, while educational content can help to cultivate the types of enthusiasts that are important for niche marketing. Both are areas that have experienced a sharp uptick in interest due to the coronavirus pandemic, as people spend more time on social media to stay entertained and informed while outdoor activities are restricted.

While TikTok could be gunning for more older users over the long term, its predominantly young core users are a large draw for advertisers that struggle to reach those groups elsewhere. TikTok’s expanded range of programming may become a bigger threat to rivals like YouTube and Instagram that also are dominant among younger audiences. U.S. children ages 4 to 15 spend an average of 82 minutes a day on TikTok — twice as much as last year — compared with 86 minutes for YouTube and 50 minutes for Instagram, per a recent study by digital safety app maker Qustodio.

Why it’s hot: It’ll be interesting to see if Tik-Tok can expand to attract older audiences while keeping its cool factor.

KPop Stans Use Their Online Powers to Support BLM

Kpop stans are using their vast powers for good. Kpop fans (known on the internet as “stans”) are known for some typically bothersome behavior. Adding “fancast” videos to already trending threads (videos that focus on a favorite band member even in group numbers). These videos seem out of context on threads and are put in to jack up the view counts on the videos and introduce the star to new audiences.

Now, they’re flooding the feeds of white supremacists with videos of Kpop stars.

They’re also matching donations of their favorite bands BTS!

Why its hot?

Kpop fans KNOW the internet, they know how to manipulate algorithms. They’re being “summoned” for good. Who else might use these tactics as time goes on?

 

 

Twitter wants to make sure you did your homework

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s hot

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

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

Source: The Guardian

Hanifa puts on a virtual 3D fashion show

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s Hot:

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

Source

New developments in the digital divide

From The Verge:

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

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

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

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

Why it’s hot

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

Source: The Verge

Custom webcam system lets you take Zoom calls on your TV

Crestron, which offers services to help people customize their smart homes, has teamed up with Logitech and Zoom to make an at-home video conferencing setup using technology you’d typically find in an office conference room.

The setup could, for example, let you use your living room TV and a conference room-quality video camera to take Zoom meetings while reclining on your couch instead of being hunched over a laptop. That could be a much more comfortable way to take meetings or host group calls with family and friends while at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The setup, called Crestron HomeTime, doesn’t require a specialized TV — it should work with any TV with an HDMI portHomeTime also takes advantage of the Zoom Rooms software, which is typically used in enterprises to help start and manage Zoom calls in conference rooms.

You’ll be able to start Zoom meetings using your HomeTime setup right from the remote or using the Zoom Rooms app – but it won’t be cheap. The standard cost for a single-room setup is $6,100, and tacking on additional rooms costs $3,100 each, according to the company. HomeTime will be available on Monday, June 1st.

Why it’s Hot:

With so much of life taking place over video conferencing, it makes sense that someone  came up with a solution that won’t involve everyone hunched over on a laptop. While this wildly expensive option won’t be for everyone, it feels likely that other companies will be scrambling to come up with similar, more wallet-friendly options.

Source

Google releases Action Blocks for people with disabilities

Google released a new tool called Action Blocks for people with cognitive and motion disabilities. The system allows users and their caregivers to add Assistant commands to the home screen of Android phones and tablets. Each command is represented by a custom image and it can be controlled with just one tap. For instance, when a user taps an Action Block icon of a cab, the system might order a rideshare.

 

Also worth mentioning that Google has also improved its Maps apps to show if businesses or public venues have accessible entrance. When enabling this feature, you can see a wheelchair icon next to the location.

Why it’s hot: Embracing the diversity trend goes beyond race and gender. With something like 630 million people having some form of cognitive disability, this is not a niche group and it’s great that Google is providing services that ‘level the playing field’ for them.

Facebook launches Shops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s Hot

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

Source

Voices of Brussels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Source: Spectrum news 1

if you don’t like “camera on”, maybe you’ll like “avatar on”…


You’ve likely seen a lot of talk about how the effects of our current pandemic quarantine may forever change how we work. You may even feel the change happening.

Currently, we’re all enjoying full days of video chats on Teams, Zoom, Slack, take your pick. Spatial is a similar collaboration tool that allows teammates to converse and interact in AR/VR.

It may or may not be a substitute for in-person interactions, but at least solves for some of the challenges of brainstorming and ideating when we’re not all in the same “space”.

Why It’s Hot:

While it’s unclear how quickly these types of virtual interactions will begin to become commonplace, a company like Spatial signifies it’s coming. Not just for workplace interactions, but also social ones.

[Source]

Just Copy Paste from Real Life

Designer Cyril Diagne (AI/UX “artist” in residence at Google) has built a beta AR app that takes IRL objects and adds them to your photoshop work. It’s real world copy paste.

Here’s how it works: you point your phone at a book sitting on your desk, the software produces an image of just the book on your phone screen, you point the phone at your computer, and the book image gets pasted into the Photoshop document. It looks like straight-up magic (or at least like a scene from Minority Report or something):”

Check out Cyrils thread about how the sausage gets made:

Why it’s hot? Why it’s hot you ask?!

Well. The computers are taking our jobs. Just kidding. Their making our jobs easier. This is the kind of seamless transition that we wish our phones and work computers could have with each other. Our new digital first age (put on overdrive due to the coronavirus) is taking us to places we’ve only dreamed of — now we get to see our dreams as reality!

Self care as a video game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s Hot:

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

Source

Trendspotting: Making “Live Events” Work In the Pandemic (part 2)

Last week I posted about how live shows were moving online but what about typically “live” in person events that become fully digitized. Tonight the world gets excited for Travis Scott’s fortnight concert.

This viral tweet last week had the internet in a tizzy.

And tonight is the night:

https://twitter.com/FortniteGame/status/1253398297047425025

But he’s not the first to try it. DJ, Marshmello gives us a taste of what fortnight concerts will look like.

The ways that artists are going to be manipulating technologies to fit their needs is fascinating. Young people’s digital behavior is changing. Tik Tok is more viral than ever. Houseparty is taking off. Animal Crossing is making the world super conscious about radishes….

https://twitter.com/directedbyrian/status/1253365992849276934

(this one was just fun)

Why It’s Hot?

This is a great opportunity for MRM to help our clients navigate the brave new digital world. It’s really exciting and positive and allows us new ways to interact and share with each other. The pandemic has sped up the way that humans (so nimble!) make their social lives work and shift use cases of different tech to keep their connections alive.

 

COVID creates the perfect opportunity for cereal company Magic Spoon

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s Hot:

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

Source 

Survival of the Fastest

Innovation in the Age of COVID-19

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

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

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

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

From econsultancy.com:

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

Cheeky Food Events

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

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

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

Budweiser, Rémy Martin, Carlsberg & Pernod Ricard

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

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

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

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

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

Goat2Meeting

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

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

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

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

Frame

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

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

How the fitness industry is responding to coronavirus with digital push

Kings Place

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

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

Whole Foods

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

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

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

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

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

From Fast Company:

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

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

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

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

Why it’s hot:

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

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

Source: Fast Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s Hot:

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

Source