D2C might not work for everything

https://marker.medium.com/why-all-the-warby-parker-clones-are-now-imploding-44bfcc70a00c

An illustration with different characters representing direct-to-consumer startups such as Casper, Harry’s, Away, Brandless.

This blog post analyzes the Direct-to-consumer market and how the trend that was started by Warby Parker and Dollar Shave Club may not be replicable by others. Fitness brands, private label household goods, mattresses, luggage have all go to the D2C model, with lots of funding.

Why its hot:

Brands like Away and Casper have developed a solid following and popularity amongst their customers, but are their business models sustainable. In the blog, it states that how often do people buy a mattress or a suitcase? Once every few years? sometimes 5-10 years. Is their product like Warby Parker where they found a significant savings from the incumbents and margin expansion through direct distribution? Other D2C brands were also started in down economies and they bootstrapped their businesses.

Casper, Away, Brandless (failed), Outdoor Voices (recently fired CEO) have all been well funded by the venture community and they spend heavily on customer acquisition and branding through Google and Facebook, events, pop-up stores, flag ship retail, influencers, etc.

If these D2C brands cannot reduce their CAC and increase retention rates or broaden their category, could there be industry impact of reduced digital media spending that flows through the whole system?

Keep an eye out!

Indie performing artists embracing Twitch amidst widespread tour cancellations

Due to COVID-19, Twitch, the streaming site popular with gamers is beginning to have a new constituency: Musicians. “50% of millennial males in America use Twitch. If you want to reach millennial males (which odds are, you do) Twitch is a good place to do it.” But now that musicians are using the platform more, Twitch may draw in more than just the male/18-34 demo.

From The Verge:

Mark Rebillet is part of a fast-growing community of musicians who are migrating to digital platforms to perform “quaranstreams” during the pandemic. Many larger artists, like Charli XCX, John Legend, and Diplo are choosing Instagram, but indie artists are overwhelmingly flocking to Twitch.

There’s one likely reason: while Instagram is an easy option to reach lots of people en masse, Twitch offers an abundance of ways to make money. “It’s more financially focused,” says musician and longtime Twitch streamer Ducky. “It supports different tiers of subscriptions and donations. People can subscribe to a channel for free with their Amazon Prime account. Fans can tip in micro amounts with things like Cheers. Other platforms usually just pay out on ad revenue or number of plays.”

Will the interactivity of live-streamed performances be enough to draw a crowd comparable to what an artist might draw on tour? It might not matter, because musicians have multiple revenue streams that are compatible with the Twitch platform. The vibe of a live show will never be captured via Twitch, but live-streaming shows may be a bigger part of the future of music due to covid.

Why it’s hot:

Artists might end up making more money

1) Because they can now reach a worldwide audience all at once, and eschew the high costs of touring, including the cuts venues and ticket vendors take on ticket sales.

2) Because of the ease of “tipping” on Twitch, audiences may end up paying their favorite artists more than they would for a ticket to a concert.

Musicians streaming on Twitch may offer brands a new way-in to the platform.

Aside from going the gamer route, brands may want to get in front of viewers watching a concert in real time. What kind of interesting interactive activation could brands do that would not undermine the musicians credibility?

Source: The Verge

Social Platforms are Banning Covid Misinformation

Social platforms are taking a stand against Covid misinformation. Both individually and as a group of brands. Twitter statements below:

Some of misinformation that Twitter has removed:

  • “Coronavirus is not heat-resistant—walking outside is enough to disinfect you.”
  • “Use aromatherapy and essential oils to prevent COVID-19.”
  • “Drinking bleach and ingesting colloidal silver will cure COVID-19.”
  • “COVID-19 does not infect children because we haven’t seen any cases of children being sick.”
  • “Coronavirus is a fraud and not real—go out and patronize your local bar!!”
  • “The news about washing your hands is propaganda for soap companies, stop washing your hands.”
  • “Ignore news about COVID-19, it’s just an attempt to destroy capitalism by crashing the stock market.”
  • “The National Guard just announced that no more shipments of food will be arriving for 2 months—run to the grocery store ASAP and buy everything!”
  • “If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you do not have coronavirus.”
  • “If you have a wet cough, it’s not coronavirus—but a dry cough is.”
  • “You’ll feel like you’re drowning in snot if you have coronavirus—it’s not a normal runny nose.”
  • “People with dark skin are immune to COVID-19 due to melanin production.”
  • “Reading the Quran will make an individual immune to COVID-19.”
  • “Avoid businesses owned by Chinese people as they are more likely to have COVID-19.”

Here is a joint statement from the social platforms jointly:

Why it’s hot?

We’re living in an era of misinformation at the time where being able to rely on is mission critical. Facebook’s past mistakes with leaving up misinformation (as well as during the current election season) has reduced their credibility. Personal hypothesis: More are flocking to Twitter and Reddit to get information, giving these other platforms a boost right when everyone is spending a lot more time online.

Will Coronavirus Change the Materials We Build With?

When influenzas, bacteria like E. coli, superbugs like MRSA, or even coronaviruses land on most hard surfaces, they can live for up to four to five days. But when they land on copper, and copper alloys like brass, they begin to die within minutes and are undetectable within hours. “We’ve seen viruses just blow apart,” says Bill Keevil, professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton. “They land on copper and it just degrades them.”

Copper is still widely used in power networks—the copper market is, in fact, growing because the material is such an effective conductor. But the material has been pushed out of many building applications by a wave of new materials from the 20th century. Plastics, tempered glass, aluminum, and stainless steel are the materials of modernity—used for everything from architecture to Apple products.  Brass door knobs and handrails went out of style as architects and designers opted for sleeker-looking (and often cheaper) materials.

With funding from the Copper Development Association (a copper industry trade group), Keevil, working in his lab with some of the most feared pathogens in the world, has demonstrated that not only does copper kill bacteria efficiently; it also kills viruses. (In 2015, he even demonstrated this phenomenon with a precursor to COVID-19, coronavirus 229E).

In 2015, researchers working on a Department of Defense grant compared infection rates at three hospitals, and found that when copper alloys were used in three hospitals, it reduced infection rates by 58%. A similar study was done in 2016 inside a pediatric intensive care unit, which charted a similarly impressive reduction in infection rate.

But what about expense? Copper is always more expensive than plastic or aluminum, and often a pricier alternative to steel.  But given that hospital-borne infections are costing the healthcare system as much as $45 billion a year—not to mention killing as many as 90,000 people—the copper upgrade cost is negligible by comparison.

As for the rest of the world’s buildings that haven’t been updated to rip out the old copper fixtures, Keevil has a piece of advice: “Don’t remove them, whatever you do. These are the best things you’ve got.”

Why its hot
Coronavirus is already drastically changing how the world works, how we get around, and how we function in our jobs. But it will be interesting to see some of the other ways it alters the world around us, including the materials we use to build with, ad how we can find ways, even resurrecting old ways, to combat emerging diseases like Coronavirus.

Socializing in the Age of Corona[virus]

Digital dance raves. Streaming soundbaths. Book readings by phone. Now we’ve gotta get creative.

Where once technology was thought to be the death knell of human social interaction, it is now bringing us together under quarantine. The housebound are nimbly pivoting to virtual social gatherings.

They’re holding birthday parties and bar mitzvahs over video chat, broadcasting D.J. sets and streaming concerts (some from the luxurious confines of celebrity homes), and establishing quarantine movie nights on Twitter for “virtual companionship.”

A lot of communal events are taking place on Zoom, a videoconferencing app now being used by many classrooms and businesses (thus transforming it into one of the few companies doing well on the stock market). But it’s not just Zoom.

There are, for example, a small but highly vocal number of people gathering in the digital plazas, pet stores and pizza shops of Club Penguin Online. There are happy hours being held on Google Hangout, and poker games taking place over FaceTime. There are flute meditation sessions on Instagram and thousands of people participating in dance raves that are broadcast on Twitch.

It’s a lot for the internet. On Monday, Discord, the chat app popular with gamers, announced that it would increase its capacity by 20 percent to keep up with demand; it crashed shortly thereafter.

Jeff Baena, a film director, loves organizing social activities; it was at one of his game nights, in fact, that he met his girlfriend, the actress Aubrey Plaza. The couple have been in self-quarantine since March 11, and were feeling extremely antsy.

“Our house is one of those hubs where people are always over and hanging out,” Mr. Baena, 42, said by phone this week. “It’s strange to not be able to do that. I was kind of jonesing.”

So he got people together virtually. At 9 p.m. on March 14, a dozen friends — including the actress Alia Shawkat, who said she left the set of a television series she was working on early, before it had been officially shut down because of the new coronavirus — joined a group chat for a few hours of Quiplash and other games by Jackbox, an internet game company.

In order for remote players to see the game screen, Mr. Baena joined FaceTime from two devices, with one camera aimed at his TV.

Of course, the pandemic loomed large over the course of the night. At one point, someone coughed and a chorus of concerned voices wondered who it was.

“It was me!” said Almitra Corey, 40, who is currently working as the production designer for the final season of the Netflix show “GLOW.” (Filming was paused, as for all other Netflix shows, last Friday.)

“I just smoked weed,” she said. “Relax.”

A Remote Rave for 5,000 Guests

In New York this past Sunday, the city’s hottest nightclub was a virtual day rave. Nine hours of electronic music were streamed from an empty warehouse in Brooklyn to nearly 5,000 guests from around the world, including some in Berlin and Seattle, all of whom were watching on Twitch.

The event, which showcased nine electronic musicians, was put together by Christine McCharen-Tran, a founder of Discwoman, a talent agency in Brooklyn and collective of femme and nonbinary D.J.’s and music producers.

“I texted all the D.J.’s that I know that need support right now,” Ms. McCharen-Tran, 31, said. After gatherings of more than 500 were banned in New York on March 13, she said, “I was seeing so many artists being affected directly.”

So last Friday, she reached out to a lighting designer friend named Michael Potvin, who provided a physical space and a domain name (harrisonplace.nyc). Ms. McCharen-Tran got to work building out the site and booking artists.

By the afternoon, harrisonplace.nyc was live and vibing.

“For all of the talk about tech distancing us, it felt very intimate and joyful,” said Jess Ramsey, 35, in a phone interview. Ms. Ramsey, who works on hardware and gaming partnerships at Spotify, projected the rave onto her living room ceiling.

“We’re the most stressed we’ve probably ever been, and there’s no place to go, but you can dance in your living room,” she said. “It was the first time we had danced in a week, and it felt really special.”

Strict safety and hygiene protocols were in place even in the empty warehouse. All D.J.’s wore latex gloves and had access to disinfectant wipes and soap. The suggested size of gatherings has shrunk daily and rapidly, from 500 people to 50, and most recently to 10. At the time, Ms. McCharen-Tran’s 10-person maximum was out of an abundance of caution; now it would be pushing the limit.

Many other bands are performing in empty concert halls for the digital masses. The metal band Code Orange performed a record-release concert with an elaborate multimedia production to an empty room, for example, streaming to more than 12,000 fans.

In order to help fans support the artists in real time, Ms. McCharen-Tran and other producers of these events display the Venmo user names of artists at the bottom of the screen during their sets.

A Google Hangout Happy Hour

Lauren Ashley Smith, a TV writer from St. Louis who lives in Los Angeles, turned to Google Hangout this past Saturday to host a digital happy hour with a few close friends. That turned into 57 close friends, and then, over 60 once her sisters invited friends of their own.

“I know it seems like I invited a lot of people,” Ms. Smith, 34, said, “but I did carefully curate the people that were invited.”

To fit the criteria, a guest had to be someone Ms. Smith felt “wouldn’t take it too seriously” and who was “more extroverted — or would be willing to talk to a bunch of strangers they didn’t know.”

She knew everybody was just home alone, bored or scared. So, she said, “I made a run of show.”

The activities include a game Ms. Smith invented (“in 30 seconds,” she said) called “Who’s That Girl?” She would hold up photos of celebrities (saved on her phone) to the laptop’s camera, and players earned points by being the first person to correctly type the subject’s first and last name in the chat section of the Hangout window.

The celebrities were “obscure, to some,” Ms. Smith said. (They included Lala Kent from “Vanderpump Rules,” the singer Keke Wyatt, Christine Brown from “Sister Wives” and Esther the Wonder Pig, whom Ms. Smith described as “a pig influencer on Instagram.”)

The winner received a prize of $50 on the cash-sharing app Venmo. It was ultimately donated to the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles, which provides services to currently and formerly homeless women.

After the hangout, Ms. Smith said she received “a lot of heartfelt messages” from participants thanking her for including them. She “absolutely” intends to do it again.

“It’s really easy,” she said. “Social distancing is for the greater good of everyone. And you can still make it really fun.”

Before the event, it struck her that she and her wife had yet to host a party at their new home. “But now I feel like we have.”
Conspiracy Theories on Club Penguin

There once was an online Disney media platform called Club Penguin, which was a kid-friendly social media hub where users could interact as animated penguins in a virtual world. It was formally discontinued in 2017.

But the internet being the internet, there are still multiple simulacra of Club Penguin around: unlicensed duplications hosted on independent servers, filled with the same population of late-born millennials and first wave Gen Z-ers that flocked to the Disney version by the hundreds of millions.

Last Friday, masses of users assembled in a popular fake iteration of the original pretend world — this one called Club Penguin Online — to share their anxieties, wishes and predictions for the uncertain future, and to ask everyone where they were from. Also, to keep frantically serving one another digital pizza.

There existed eerie similarities between the cartoon penguin world and humanity’s own, under quarantine. The sports stadium was devoid of chatting penguins. The skate park was nearly empty; ditto the dance club.

In other corners of the penguin universe, users delighted in that activity increasingly outlawed by public health officials: congregating in large groups.

Although conversations can be hard to follow on Club Penguin Online — a user’s typed message appears briefly above his or her representative penguin’s head wherever on the screen that penguin happens to be standing (or dancing), before disappearing forever — the pizza shop became, around midday, a kind of political salon.

One penguin asked another penguin that purported to be from Italy if, in real life, the grocery stores were out of pasta. Other flightless birds lamented the quality of their officials’ responses to the crisis.

A penguin in a chef’s hat approached and said, “They aren’t telling anyone anything,” before walking away to take another penguin’s pizza order.

Outside, in the plaza, a navy blue penguin was spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories. This penguin had presented itself as an expert on the novel coronavirus, imploring fellow penguins to pose to it any medical questions.

One penguin wondered how likely it was to become infected; the blue penguin replied confidently: “if ur under 60years old odds are 0,2.”

“Do you think someone created coronavirus?” a coral pink penguin said.

This was the opening the blue penguin had been waiting for. “YES,” it said. “Have u heard of 5g”? It went on to describe (in halting increments, because messages typed in Club Penguin Online have a limit of 64 characters) an online conspiracy theory that attributes virus symptoms to radiation caused by wireless internet.

The penguins in the plaza did not seem convinced.
Relaxing Gatherings

Online social gatherings are also taking meditative forms. Justine Stephens, 27, guided a live flute meditation on her Instagram account last weekend to help about 40 friends and viewers deal with stress and anxiety during the pandemic.

“Needed this and didn’t know it. Super anxious about the start of the week,” read one comment during the livestream. “Thank you for curing my Sunday scaries,” someone else added.

This past Sunday, Mikael Acatl, an energy worker and shaman who uses the pronoun “they,” held a healing session from their Brooklyn apartment, surrounded by plants, burning copal and bathed in golden-hour light.

And Josh Peck, 39, and Eliza Philpott, 31, who operate a retreat space in the Hudson Valley in New York, livestreamed a sound bath for about a hundred digital participants. They used two high-end microphones to funnel dual sources of audio to listeners simultaneously, which created the sensation of being in a three-dimensional space.

Other soothing practices included a reading by the writer Ashley C. Ford, of poems by Pablo Neruda. More than 100 people tuned in to the half-hour broadcast on YouTube.

There was also free “mom” advice dispensed by Mary Laura Philpott, an author in Nashville, who tweeted that she had “Big Mom Energy to spare. (Seriously, my teenagers are over it.)”

“I was like, Who needs the mom to tell you to drink your water, to wash your hands, that it’s going to be OK, to get off the internet?” Ms. Philpott said by phone. (She was surprised that the answer was: lots and lots of people.)

Gamers are getting into it, too. On Twitch, Nick Polom, a streamer with some 400,000 subscribers, took a break from streaming rounds of Apex Legends starting on March 11, to share more timely “Just Chatting” broadcasts.

Each is hours long, with names like “Doomsday cooking stream” (in which he livestreamed his stir fry, grocery rundown, and jokes about frozen chicken tenders) and “Girlfriend and Boyfriend stuck in quarantine!” (in which he livestreamed himself playing virtual reality games with his partner, for a remote audience of thousands).

As the novelist Sarah Schulman put it after a reading of hers was canceled in New York (and she offered her own individual readings by phone): “If all the institutional theaters are closed and all the competitive curated spaces are closed, we’re back to just entertaining each other.”

Online Twelve Step Meetings

Alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery frequently warn each other that isolation is a route to relapse; going to in-person Twelve Step meetings, sharing personal stories and talking with other addicts and alcoholics is a means of connection for many in recovery.

While long-distance Twelve Step recovery has existed since at least World War II, and moved to email and online chat and video with the rise of the internet, much of Twelve Step recovery still relies on in-person meeting.

With the health guidance for people to not congregate in large groups, those who rely on Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery groups have organized quickly. Many meeting chairs across the country are creating regular meetings on Zoom.

“Many of us have been saying in these online meetings that if we were still drinking and using drugs this would be the perfect environment to self-destruct — fear of the unknown, lack of support, isolation, financial insecurity,” said Nanea, who asked to be identified by only her first name in accordance with recovery guidelines.

She created her own version called the Online Recovery Group. In addition, the central offices of regional Twelve Step groups have jumped in to show what meetings are canceled and which are replaced by chat, video or email.

“We need to have a way to share our experience, strength and hope to new people struggling with addiction and alcoholism,” Nanea said. “I know a lot of people, not just people in recovery, are afraid and feeling isolated right now. I feel very fortunate to have an active community that knows how to support each other.”

On Sunday morning, the Redemption Church in Costa Mesa, Calif., set up its first livestream, in part to broadcast two infants’ dedication ceremonies.

Kristin Castillo, 30, a brand and marketing consultant, and her husband, Nate, 30, had originally planned to gather their family, friends and loving congregation (about 200 members strong) to witness and participate in the religious service, which would officially welcome their newborn son into the church. Afterward, there was to be a celebratory lunch.

“Obviously,” Ms. Castillo said, “that didn’t happen.”

Instead, Kristin and Nate’s in-person guest list was trimmed to one of each of their parents. When the ceremony reached the point where their infant’s “spiritual aunts and uncles” were meant to affirm their support, the family and friends that were asked to accept this duty participated remotely.

“They were texting us in real time: ‘Yes! Yes!’” Ms. Castillo said.

While she found the experience of being on camera “nerve-racking,” she described their baby, nearly 8 months old, as “surprisingly cooperative.”

“Watching a crazy little guy having a good time, hopefully that lifted someone’s spirits,” she said. “And, ironically, by stripping all of the social trappings away, it helped us focus more on the intent of the actual ceremony.

Why it’s hot: The internet has meant a lot of things to many people, it first brought many together far and wide, and then got a bum rap for making us feel like we’re closer to others when we’re actually just voyeurs into other people’s lives. But now, in the time of COVID-19, the internet and social media are enabling a more positive mandatory social distancing experience. From conference calls for work to concerts and raves, games nights and virtual happy hours, to religious celebrations, people are leveraging creative ways to use the internet in a time that could lead to excessive isolation and depression – way to go internet age!

Source: NYTimes

Live-streaming event helps Chinese cosmetics chain achieve 200% growth

Lin Qingxuan is a Chinese cosmetics company with more 300 retail stores and over 2,000 employees. When forced to close 40% of its stores during the coronavirus crisis, the company acted quickly to leverage WeChat and TaoBao (owned by Alibaba, it’s the world’s biggest e-commerce site) to engage with its customers virtually.

The store sent coupons to their customers and redeployed their 100+ beauty advisors from the closed stores into online influencers. On February 14th, the store launched a large-scale live stream shopping event and were able to engage with 60,000 customers live (they currently have 6 million followers). The sales from one shopping advisor in two hours equaled that of four retail stores.

From “online clubbing sessions” to streamed music festivals, many Chinese brands turned to live streaming during this crisis. It’ll be interesting to see how this industry will grow in the US.

 

 

INSIGHTS | Brands turn to livestreaming as China stays home

Interesting to note that despite having a pretty big following and social presence online, Sephora has canceled all its North American in-store classes and services as of 3/12.

Why it’s hot: This crisis will likely force brands to be braver and creative and, ultimately, expedite their digital transformation.

Social Distancing Late-Night Editions

Out of necessity and through personal good will,  late-night hosts are offering much-needed respite during this time. Taking to youtube sometimes with just their smartphones, they are performing without live in-studio announcers, without live bands. But the struggle is not only due to Covid-19. For months, late night hosts have been struggling with changing viewer habits especially in the younger co-hort who doesn’t watch SNL on Saturday nights.

The debate about whether late-night programs need to be viewed in their traditional time slot has been bubbling for months, particularly as the hosts, writers and producers have ramped up a slew of ancillary pieces of content: jokes posted all day on Twitter; traveling exhibits; Facebook video exchanges and more. Seth Meyers’ “Late Night” often posts its signature “Closer Look” commentary segments on Twitter several hours before the NBC program kicks off at 12:35 in the morning.

Why it’s hot: Having to test new ways to engage viewers could change the way late-night operates.

Source: https://variety.com/2020/tv/news/late-night-tv-coronavirus-jimmy-fallon-stephen-colbert-jimmy-kimmel-1203538149/

The Corona Running Boom?

It is clear that the Corona pandemic will radically change people’s behavior for the foreseeable future. What is less clear is precisely how behaviors will change and whether new habits will stick around after the pandemic is over (fingers crossed).

The New York Times reports that a running boom is happening–which makes sense given the number of people who can no longer exercise at gyms or indoors. But with potentially millions of people taking up running, how many of them will discover that they enjoy the habit and continue even when their gym membership is available again? The impact could be huge for years to come.

Running along the Hudson River.

Why it’s hot: What other activities are taking off? What activities are being displaced? What long-term impact could new habits have after the pandemic ends?

How LVMH Transitioned From Perfume to Hand Sanitizer in 72 Hours

LVMH is home to high-end fashion brands like Christian Dior and Givenchy, but right now they are providing critical supplies to those in need due to the coronavirus. When the French government called for brands to help produce key medical supplies, LVMH stepped up right away to turn one of their factories from manufacturing luxury perfume to hand sanitizer.

The LVMH hand sanitiser rushed out amid the pandemic

They created and packaged a solution at a Dior factory within 72 hours, and are on track to donate 12 tons of hand sanitizer to local French hospitals this week. The company plans to ramp up production at nearby Givency and Guerlien factories as well, saying in a statement that “LVMH will continue to honour this commitment as long as necessary.”

The reason LVMH was able to move so quickly on this is multi-faceted. Luckily, sanitizer only requires three main ingredients — purified water, ethanol and glycerine — all of which LVMH already had on hand. And cosmetics factory equipment isn’t far off from pharmaceutical equipment, so it could quickly be repurposed. For example, a metal tank normally used to distill scent was turned into a machine used to mix the ingredients. Moreover, the viscosity of sanitizer is quite similar to the soaps and moisturizers LVMH was already producing, so the same filling machines, plastic bottles and pump dispensers could all be reused.

Why It’s Hot

While some brands were obviously linked to COVID-19 from the outset, a luxury fashion brand did not have a clear role and could have just as easily stayed out of the conversation. LVMH halting their production and using their resources for good is a major shift that will help people stay safe now, and generate positive brand sentiment for the future.

Source

This Brand Turned Carbon-Negative Vodka into Hand Sanitizer

Air Co., a startup vodka brand, is one of the distilleries shifting their production from alcohol and to hand sanitizer – but what stands out is that Air Co.’s product is carbon-negative. Their mission is to make goods that do good, so they’ve created a carbon-negative vodka using captured CO2 instead of yeast to make alcohol is now using that captured CO2 to make a carbon-negative hand sanitizer.

“As of last week, we temporarily shifted our entire vodka production efforts to make a carbon-negative hand sanitizer,” the company wrote in a statement today. “Sanitizer is 70% ethanol, our technology’s main output, and we will produce as many bottles as we can during this crisis.” The company is donating the bottles it produces to the people that need it most.

This carbon-negative hand sanitizer is made from captured CO2

Other distilleries across the country are doing the same – the Old Fourth Distillery in Atlanta started producing hand sanitizer when local stores ran out, and it offered free bottles to the community, as did the Shine Distillery and Grill in Portland.

But what makes Air Co. stand out, is that it’s environmentally friendly. The company uses CO2 from nearby factories and runs it through a process that combines it with water to make alcohol, distilling the final product in equipment running on solar power.

Why It’s Hot:

A great example of how a brand totally quickly shifting its priorities to address pandemic especially a brand that isn’t in the cleaning or sanitizing market initially and in a way that is true to their brand values.

Source

During this pandemic, there is a market for Coronavirus themed products online

As Covid-19 turned into a global pandemic within the last few days, some sellers saw an opportunity to sell Coronavirus themed products on Amazon and Etsy. While some of these products are harmless, many made misleading claims about protecting from or curing Covid-19.

Quarantine Cup COVID-19 2020 image 0

Screenshot of product listings on Amazon

Why it’s hot: In the age of Covid-19, digitally-focused companies have an added responsibility to make sure that their customers aren’t falling for fake news or unproven product claims. Facebook is using AI to stop people from posting fake news, Twitter is asking people to remove fake Coronavirus-related tweets, and Amazon has removed one million products for false Coronavirus claims.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

This tool reveals if your local hospitals will have enough beds to treat coronavirus patients

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, there’s been a lot of talk about the importance of “flattening the curve.” In that term, the “curve” refers to the number of people who will be infected at any given time. The higher any point on the curve, the more people infected at that point in time. A curve with a dramatic peak—that is, a steep rise and then fall in the number of cases over a short time—is something public health experts want to avoid.

The reason for this comes down to the ability of healthcare systems to cope. If everyone gets sick all at once, hospitals aren’t going to have the number of beds needed (and other tools) to care for them all. But if everyone takes their turn, so to speak, getting sick over a longer period of time, hospitals don’t need as many beds because the patients aren’t coming in all at once.

If a hospital has 1,000 beds and 5,000 coronavirus patients needing those beds, 4,000 of those patients aren’t going to get beds if everyone is sick during the same time period. But if those same 5,000 coronavirus patents get sick over a longer time frame, say interspaced over six months instead of two weeks, the hospital’s 1,000 beds could be enough for all 5,000 patients. This last example is what happens when you “flatten the curve.”

ProPublica built a tool to use data released by the Harvard Global Health Institute that shows whether local healthcare systems (made up of multiple hospitals) will have the needed beds should 20%, 40%, or 60% of the population become infected over time periods of 6, 12, or 18 months.

To use the tool, just enter your location in the search box and it will spit out a wealth of data revealing how many beds the local healthcare system has, as well as whether more beds are needed depending on how much the curve can be flattened. For example, by entering New York City as your local healthcare region, ProPublica’s tool says this:

In a moderate scenario where 40% of the population is infected over a 12-month period, hospitals in Manhattan, NY would receive an estimated 345,000 coronavirus patients. The influx of patients would require 11,500 beds over 12 months, which is 3.8 times times the number of available beds in that time period.

Why it’s hot: This leverages data to highlight how important social distancing is so we can flatten the curve as much as possible.

Source: FastCo

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 Pandemic? Big Tech to the rescue!

This week Trump announced that 1,700 engineers at Google were working on a coronavirus test-finding tool that would be ready in a few days. This announcement caught Google completely off-guard, forcing the company to scramble to “build a website”. The result was rather disappointing.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, China has been aggressively leveraging its technology infrastructure to monitor its people, in an effort to “flatten the curve”:

 

Why it’s hot:
Question for the community: What is the right way for brands, especially in technology, to respond to this crisis? What is the right balance between providing information and social engineering?

 

Have no fear, sports fans. The Marble Racing League is here

Where do sports fans turn when every major league across the country, and even the world is cancelling seasons? The Marble Racing League. What else would you expect?

The company’s now-viral marble races, which appeared on ESPN’s 2019 ‘The Ocho’ programming, started in 2006 as a YouTube channel called “Jelle’s Knikkers,” which is Dutch for Jelle’s Marbles.

  • Jelle’s Marble Racing has seen a 339% increase in YouTube views and >999% spike in subscribers in the last week as fans tune in for the Rojo Rollers and Savage Speeders.
  • A video of an old Marble League sand race went viral, racking up 33.3 million views, almost 781,000 likes and landing on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

The league plans to continue with its two weekly uploads through the end of the current Marbula One season. Once a champion is crowned, Jelle hopes to prepare the studio for the upcoming Marble League 2020 season, which will begin in May/June.

Why it’s hot:

With seasons cancelled and teams closing down facilities, it’ll be interesting to see how other outlets or organizations thrive. Or will nostalgia take over and people consume old school content? It’ll be interesting to see.

Chipotle Virtual Lunch

In line with social distancing, on March 16th, Chipotle Mexican Grill launched Chipotle Together sessions. For one week, each day at lunchtime (11am Pacific Time/2pm Eastern Standard Time) there will be an opportunity for people to connect with the brand via videoconferencing site Zoom.

Each session will include Chipotle-inspired presentations, celebrity appearances, Q&As and the chance to win free voucher codes for online delivery.

Every day, the restaurant chain will be posting a link to the virtual hangout session on its Twitter account, where up to 3,000 people may join the event.

The first session was hosted by reality star Colton Underwood, who appeared on The Bachelor in 2019.

In addition to its Chipotle Together sessions, the brand is offering its customers free deliveries on all orders over $10 via its app and website throughout March 2020. Chipotle is also responding to COVID-19 by introducing dedicated hygiene teams in its kitchens, specific ingredient stations for online orders, tamper-evident packaging, and an in-app delivery tracker to give customers step-by-step real-time updates.

Why it’s Hot:

People are looking to connect even more with the rise of social distancing. And, as restaurants struggle to stay afloat amidst coronavirus fears, this effort by Chipotle could help keep them top of mind with customers.

Source

Ikea’s Life-size Pizza Table

Ikea and Pizza Hut have teamed up to create furniture inspired by the tiny white “pizza saver” table that sits in every pizza box. And of course, the tabletop perfectly fits a pizza box.

Pizza Hut x IKEA Säva Table Collaboration White Pizza

Each table arrives in a humorous package that resembles a pizza box and, like other products, comes with details on how to assemble the product. IKEA illustrates a step-by-step process on unpacking the different parts, assembling the legs, calling Pizza Hut, receiving the pizza and placing it on the perfectly-sized table.

Image result for ikea pizza hut

Earlier this week, the Hong Kong division of IKEA and Pizza Hut teased a menu option centered around the furniture and home furnishing purveyor’s famed Swedish meatballs, the Swedish Meatball Pizza.

Why It’s Hot

The unexpected collaboration is a fun way to generate buzz around a basic white table and cross-promote both brands.

Source

Brands see big potential in ‘nighttime nutrition’

Late-night snacks may be due for a healthy makeover.

A small but growing number of products designed for pre-bedtime snacking are entering the market. They are described as healthier than traditional late-night fare and carry the added benefit of promoting sleep and relaxation.

Nightfood, Inc., Tarrytown, N.Y., launched a “sleep friendly” ice cream line last year. Available in a variety of flavors such as Full Moon Vanilla, Midnight Chocolate and Cherry Eclipse, the products contain more fiber and protein and fewer calories than traditional ice cream. Nightfood ice cream contains magnesium and glycine, which promotes relaxation, while ingredients that may disrupt sleep, such as excess sugar, fat and caffeine, are reduced or eliminated.

“Just being delicious isn’t enough these days,” said Sean Folkson, chief executive officer at Nightfood. “Neither is just being different. You need to be different, but in a way that actually matters to the consumer.”

Nightfood ice cream wasn’t the company’s first functional late-night snack. It launched a sleep-promoting nutrition bar in 2015. The brand struggled to generate consumer excitement around the product, but Mr. Folkson said its modest results led to an important insight: When it comes to late-night snacking, consumers aren’t searching for better-for-you products like nutrition bars. They’re reaching for more indulgent items like potato chips, cookies, ice cream or candy.

“I now understand that providing night snackers with nighttime nutrition bars is like giving an 8-year-old a pet rock,” Mr. Folkson said. “Interesting, but not exciting or life-changing. On the other hand, providing night snackers with nighttime ice cream is like giving that 8-year-old a puppy.”

Other companies, including Nestle-backed Goodnight and Milwaukee-based Good Source Foods, also are getting into the late-night, sleep-friendly sweets game.

Goodnight launched last year through Foundry Foods, an internal incubator from Nestle USA, Arlington, Va. Available in milk and dark chocolate varieties, the brand’s before-bed bites contain L-Theanine, magnesium and casein protein, which interact with metabolic processes related to sleep regulation.

“(Goodnight) is confirming our beliefs that people are looking for a natural remedy for something they normally take in supplement form such as melatonin,” said Doug Munk, director of new business ventures for Nestle USA. “We are also finding people are looking to replace some of their junk foods before they go to sleep with something that is a little better.”

The company currently is gearing up to launch updated “Goodnight 2.0” products following last year’s successful test run.

Good Source Foods uses dried cherries, which contain melatonin, and lavender, which is known for its calming effects, to make its Evening Calm variety of chocolate clusters. Designed to promote sleep and relaxation, the chocolates also contain turmeric, honey, oats and walnuts.

Nightfood, Goodnight and Good Source Foods are some of the handful of brands tapping into nighttime nutrition, which Mintel called “one of the most compelling and category changing trends” in its annual Food and Drink Trends report. More than 80% of consumers snack regularly before bed, Mintel said.

There may be a biological component driving consumers to the kitchen at night. Appetite tends to peak in the evening, when cravings for sweet and salty foods are strongest. Willpower weakens throughout the day, so the later it gets, the easier it is to reach for the cookie jar or bag of candy.

At the same time, interest in better-for-you snacks is at an all-time high. As many as 80% of consumers seek healthier snacks that pack an added functional benefit.

“Scientific research over the last several years has helped us more clearly understand why people snack the way they do at night,” said Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona and adviser to Nightfood. “It seems we’re biologically hard-wired to default to sweets, salts and fats as it gets later in the day.”

This may explain why more than 50% of consumers report dissatisfaction with their own night snacking behavior, despite spending an estimated $1 billion per week on snacks consumed between dinner and bed.

“More than half of that money … is being spent in a dissatisfied way, by people that want something better,” Mr. Folkson said. “That speaks to not only the size of the opportunity, but the immediacy and the motivation on behalf of the consumer, which is really powerful stuff.”

Source: Food Business News

Why It’s Hot

Good example of how healthy eating and mindfulness trends can translate into product development, and also how the nuances of those trends can make a difference in how consumer needs are met.

Brand agency plays “social safety net” for SXSW service industry workers whose incomes were canceled by COVID-19

From Fast Company: “A branding agency in Austin, Texas, has launched a GoFundMe page to tip the local service workers impacted by the cancellation of this month’s South by Southwest festival. “Thousands of Austin service workers and musicians will be hit significantly from canceled events, lost wages and tips. We’ll take the funds to Austin music venues, restaurants, bars and hotels and distribute them to individuals from March 13-22,” write the fund’s creators, from the agency T3.

Nearly half a million festival-goers were expected to arrive in Austin beginning this week. The giant culture festival that mingles artists, musicians, and startups was canceled on Friday by the city of Austin over COVID-19 concerns, following the pullout of companies such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as an online petition with over 55,000 signees calling for a cancellation. Festival organizers said they are “devastated,” and local hotels and venues that depend on attendees’ spending say they may be put out of business.”

Amid talks of a $15 minimum wage and Medicare For All in the US, the coronavirus is making it even more painfully clear how many people are living just on the edge of ruin.

Why it’s hot:

Covid-19 is wreaking havoc on the economy, and since no one wants to gather in the places where these people work, service workers are going to be hit particularly hard. A hyper-aware public seems receptive to brands that “protect their people”, so it’ll be interesting to see how brands attempt to spin that in their favor.

“We’re not doing this for publicity, but to help our city.” They say they aren’t doing it for publicity, but they sure are getting a lot of publicity for it. This is a do-gooder publicity stunt that everyone can get behind, coming not from a consumer brand, but from an agency. Unfortunately, they’re unable to innovate on actually helping service workers, and this stunt continues to perpetuate the system that keeps service workers in such a vulnerable position.

It’s a nice story that brands can do good in the world, but everyone should remember that sometimes brands just can’t solve certain social problems.

Source: Fast Company

get in the game digitally, by getting in the game physically…


Addidas just announced “GMR” – a digital insole that connects to FIFA Mobile. So, when people play football in real life, it scores them points in the game.

Why It’s Hot:

Clearly at least part of the appeal of games like FIFA is to feel like you’re truly making moves and scoring. What’s even better is to be able to be the one making those moves and scoring, but getting digital points for it. It’s an interesting example of the digital transformation of physical things around us, especially with all the talk about e-Sports being a big part of sporting future.

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What’s in a name?





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.

Source: Muse by Clio

Dove creates “Girls Room”, a web-series targeting teens

Dove launched “Girls Room”, a new online video series focusing on teen girls and their experience dealing with social media pressures, body image issues, and bullying.

Dove co-created the series with Lena Waithe, who is almost as well-known by her acting career as her activism (he’s been called a “queero” in 2018 for creating meaningful work that inspires and tells the story of queer Black people coming of age).

The series has just launched ahead of Women’s History Month which, a perfect time to elevate stories about the challenges of young women in today’s culture.

Dove’s strategic move to connect with today’s teens shows the brand is willing to invest and play the long game by nurturing these relationships early so that they can hopefully become top of mind for years to come.

Why it’s hot: Although Dove has promoted body positivity and “real beauty” for over a decade, they’re looking for newer and fresher ways to bring this message to life in a way that aligns with today’s teens and their mobile-first media consumption. When it comes to fighting body issues and anxiety, Instagram is today’s biggest culprit so creating a series fit for this medium and mindset makes perfect sense.

 

Coronavirus Researchers Are Using Technology to Predict the Viral Path

As Coronavirus fears spread and hand sanitizer and face masks fly off the shelves, the question is, how to we prevent and mitigate.

Researchers are looking to AI for the solution. “John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, built a tool called Healthmap after SARS killed 774 people around the world in the mid-2000s, his team built a tool called Healthmap, which scrapes information about new outbreaks from online news reports, chatrooms and more. Healthmap then organizes that previously disparate data, generating visualizations that show how and where communicable diseases like the coronavirus are spreading. Healthmap’s output supplements more traditional data-gathering techniques used by organizations like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The project’s data is being used by clinicians, researchers and governments.”

https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

https://healthmap.org/en/

Why it’s hot?

Data is magic! We need to use all the resources at our disposal to mitigate the effects of the epidemic.

How Facebook is Fighting Coronavirus

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has written a lengthy post on his Facebook page detailing the latest steps the company is taking against misinformation about the coronavirus virus on its platform. The latest steps include giving the World Health Organization (WHO) free ads on Facebook. As Zuckerberg says, “We’re giving the WHO as many free ads as they need for their coronavirus response along with other in-kind support.”

The idea here is that the WHO will be able to widely spread factual information about the coronavirus via a theoretically unlimited number of ads on Facebook. This means that factual information about the virus is more likely to show up in people’s feeds.

Zuckerberg also said that Facebook will give “millions more in ad credits” to other organizations that are working to spread factual information about the virus. Facebook’s coronavirus ad-giveaway comes after the company announced in January that it will remove posts with coronavirus misinformation and last month said it is banning ads that promise to prevent or cure the virus.

Besides the free ad initiative, Zuckerberg also announced that people who search for coronavirus on Facebook will now see a “pop-up that directs you to the World Health Organization or your local health authority for the latest information.”

Why its hot

Nice to actually see Facebook doing something good for a change

Hefty makes a brawny claim about reducing waste

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to recycling and reducing waste is in educating people on what it is, why it matters, and how to do it, all while not boring people to death about it, or coming off as preachy. Hefty takes on that messaging hurdle with a little humor and smartly keeps the details vague.

Another issue with marketing a brand’s waste reduction is in equating it to something people can understand. How do you wrap your head around the fact that globally we produced 275 million metric tons of plastic waste in 2010! You can’t. People need a frame of reference to understand these abstract numbers, and this campaign does that with the help of a somewhat goofy strongman pulling a passenger jet, which represents the weight of the plastics that Hefty has managed to reclaim.

Once interest is piqued, people are taken to a micro-site that explains in more detail Hefty’s sustainability efforts: Hefty Sustainability.com

And what they’re doing is actually pretty cool and innovative. They have created a special bag in which to put hard-to-recycle plastics (those that are not accepted by most residential recycling programs) such as plastic food packaging, straws, candy wrappers, etc., which would otherwise most certainly end up in a landfill, in a tree, or choking the windpipe of a seabird.

Why it’s hot:

1. It doesn’t require you to identify as “green” in order to get it: A lot of “sustainable” brands lean into the lifestyle of the eco-conscious in their messaging, but that can turn off a lot of people who don’t identify that way. For a nationwide brand like Hefty, it makes more sense to stay away from identity and focus on their product and accomplishments.

2. It’s not much of an accomplishment actually, but it’s a start, and it’s backed up by action: Given the fact that more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year, a well-informed consumer might scoff at Hefty’s accomplishment of converting one measly airliner’s worth of hard-to-recycle plastic into new materials. But they have a model that helps collect plastics that you can’t normally recycle, and uses their product in a way people are already using it to do so.

3. Mining trash is actually a way to generate revenue: This is a mostly untapped market for raw materials, which is essentially TerraCycle’s business model, of gathering material others can’t (or won’t) and reselling it, which had it earning $20+ million in revenue in 2018.

Source: Marketing Dive

Clothing brand walks the talk: Empowering women running for public office

MM.Lafleur, a US-based womens’ workwear brand, launched Ready to Run: a program loaning outfits to women running for political office. Available to candidates running for state, federal or local government, the initiative lends three item of clothing to women whose applications are approved. The brand will also allow candidates access to its free styling services. Ready to Run was inspired by upcoming elections in the US, and takes aim at the injustice that sees women in public life judged on their appearance and dress in ways that men are not.  The initiative ran from President’s Day (February 17) through March 3 (Super Tuesday) and saw over 500 candidates apply.

Why it’s Hot: The idea for Ready to Run came to MM.Lafleur when it sent an email to its community asking what more it could do to support womenMM.Lafleur’s initiative is a great example of how a brand can find innovative new ways to support a core ethical principle: in this case ‘female empowerment in the workplace’. The company leveraged an upcoming event – elections in the US – and pinpointed a specific and relevant group to support.

r/NoSleep Opens Up a Much Needed Conversation about Content Ownership

This Monday r/NoSleep (one of Reddits top 15 subreddits) shuttered its doors – albeit temporarily – due to content theft.

Try it for yourself: https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/ (closed at time of posting)

This blackout is taking a cue from writer T-Jay Lea who’s internet story went viral in 2012. His story The Expressionless, has been taken, adapted hundreds of times without his permission. His reaction was to start The Writers Blackout, a movement to prevent theft of internet writing by YouTubers.

Reddit’s R/NoSleep explains: “The Writer’s Blackout is a movement designed to help authors receive fair compensation from YouTube narrators via direct mediation and/or advice from experienced writers. In addition, this movement strives to provide writers with personal advice on individual negotiations, working out fee options such as revenue percentages, view to dollar ratios or royalty rights. In short, we must stress that the core imperative of the movement is to strictly enforce that writers receive fair pay for their work.”

“Within 24 hours it had exploded,” Lea told Mashable. “I mean *exploded* to the point that Twitter was freaking out over it, Snopes had to run a debunking article on it and YouTube influencers left, right and centre were jumping on it to react.”

“Ultimately, we want to achieve a standard baseline of pay for all writers when negotiating with any content creator that makes substantial profit on various platforms, build bridges with smaller or non-profit channels that can foster good relations as they grow, educate writers on what constitutes fair rates for their work (online adaptations pay differently to a publication, for example), educate narrators on copyright laws, and ensure everyone benefits,” Lea told Mashable.

“Craig Thompson, a YouTuber known as Mini Ladd, issued a public apology after his channel was threatened with deletion due to the copyright strikes it received from NoSleep writers.”

“After a particularly rough week involving our authors having their content stolen, I had the idea of shutting down the subreddit so that the content thieves couldn’t see it to take it,” Druga told Mashable. “Just kind of an angry, irrational thought that grew into an actual idea.”

“So many people think that, because the stories are free to read, they’re also free to use,” lead r/NoSleep moderator, Christine Druga, said. “This is not the case at all. The stories are protected by copyright law the moment they are posted. We’re hoping that closing the subreddit will not only make those who take the content without permission, credit, and/or compensation see that they’ve been doing it wrong and change their ways, but that fans of both r/NoSleep (and anywhere that r/NoSleep content has been shared) will learn about the issue as well so that they can properly support the authors.”

Source: https://mashable.com/article/nosleep-subreddit-private-protest-copyright-theft/

Why It’s Hot?

So much of our jobs is based off of intellectual property. After the years of Barstool Sports, F*ck Jerry and The Fat Jewish stealing intellectual property, we thought these days are behind us. But on the internet, we can’t have nice things. Some of the internet’s most interesting stories come from Reddit, but without recognition, and compensation, we might lose out on some of the great things Reddit (and the internet community at large) has to offer.

This is a great way to bring attention to the content theft, people might not even be  Readers have to understand that “just because it’s free to read, it’s not free to use.”

Forget FOMO

 

Keeping up with the internet today is time consuming and almost impossible. Set up RSS feeds (yes they still exist), Twitter lists, Youtube channel notifications, email refreshes, phone notifications for all of your apps, that while living a well balanced life is impossible.

Like a super-powered RSS feed, Fraidycat is here to help you.

My Fraidycat home page

Fraidycat works as a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox or as an app for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It bundles together all of your favorite internet stuff into one easy-to-read page, much like a super-powered RSS reader. The best part is that it’s not algorithmic like the Social Network That Shall Not Be Named.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/tldr/2020/2/25/21153460/fraidycat-app-extension-internet-reader-rss-news-blogs-youtube 

How it works:

  1. Drop a link to a favorite website
  2. Label the lik approrpiately
  3. Watch as Fraidycat organizes the content and updates it according to your settings.

The site is lo-fi, reminiscent of the bygone era of individuals creating content, before the giants took over.

Say you want to know what a small, niche YouTuber you like has posted in a single week, but you’d rather know what your favorite tech blog posts every day. You can organize your Fraidycat lists to separate those out, so it’s easy to jump between either based on the frequency or by the individual tags you’ve given each respective item. (You can even use emoji as tags.) Fraidycat will pull new info every five to 10 minutes as it comes in for items designated real-time and once every one to two hours for daily ones. (There’s also self explanatory weekly, monthly, and yearly options.)

 

Sources:
https://github.com/kickscondor/fraidycat
https://www.theverge.com/tldr/2020/2/25/21153460/fraidycat-app-extension-internet-reader-rss-news-blogs-youtube

Why it’s hot: In a way, it’s bringing back the egalitarianism that made the internet so great in its infancy by dissolving the barriers between networks and allowing people to curate their own personal survailance network.

Seamless launches Seamless+

Seamless launches a paid offering, aligning to DTC trends of paid membership combined with rewards offerings.

For $9.99/month you get unlimited free delivery and 10% cash back.They also integrate donation match and “Elite Care,” an exclusive customer service offering.

https://www.seamless.com/plus

 

Why It’s Hot:

In looking at what drives loyalty vs. what rewards existing loyalty, it’s interesting to see how paid models are making their way into reward programs.

Panera coffee subscription is the new free-wifi, but it costs $9+/month

Panera has launched a coffee subscription as a part of its loyalty program. For $8.99/month, you get unlimited drip coffee — 1 cup every two hours for as long as you can handle it. They may be burning through beans, but what this really means is they’ll be selling a lot more sandwiches.

From Fast Company: “Though Panera is pitching the subscription as a way for you to save money on coffee, Panera’s 150 test locations over the last three months saw subscribers visit three times more frequently and purchase 70% more in add-on items than the average customer. In other words, watch your wallet. These metrics, in addition to a surge of new customers, are inspiring Panera’s quick nationwide rollout.”

Because most Panera locations are suburban, customers tend to drive to the location. When they’ve made the commitment to drive, people are more likely to “bundle” their shopping by also eating at Panera once they’ve picked up their subscriber coffee.

Bonus points: being mostly suburban, Panera also avoids the on-foot, in-and-out commuter coffee buyers who are not likely to purchase any additional goods.

For consumers, it’s a novel way to think about coffee purchase.

For Panera, it seems like a smart way to lure people into their stores, in order to sell them higher-margin products like sandwiches and soups.

Why it’s hot:

1. Data: Registered subscribers will give Panera a huge amount of consumer data that they could use to understand menu preferences by a variety of demographics, as well as better identify core customers and understand their habits.

2. Earn brand loyalty by exploiting commitment bias: If you get someone to buy into the subscription, they are far more likely to continue to go to you for their coffee fix even if they ultimately cancel their subscription as brains subconsciously associate their body’s physiological coffee high with your store, and those neural pathways are difficult (and cognitively costly) to change.

3. It’s a smart lure: A big challenge for suburban food and beverage shops is getting people in the door. This encourages that, and a lot of people who go into a shop to buy coffee end up buying a muffin, or a sandwich, which is where these companies really make their money. If you stay (or return) to Panera to take advantage of the every-two-hour refill, you’re likely to buy even more.

Source: Fast Company

Apple is teaming up with Johnson & Johnson to see if the Apple Watch can reduce stroke risk

Apple and Johnson & Johnson have announced they are teaming up for a new groundbreaking study to see if the digital health tools included on the Apple Watch could help reduce the risk of stroke by detecting anomalies with the heart earlier than a person would become aware of them.

The study, called Heartline, uses a proprietary app along with the ECG sensor on the latest Apple Watches to monitor a wearer for atrial fibrillation (AFib)–one of the leading causes of stroke. Apple Watch Series 4 models and later have an electrical heart sensor built in, which allows the watch to conduct electrocardiograms (ECGs) on wearers. Those ECGs have been regularly praised for saving lives due to their ability to detect AFib.

Now Apple and Johnson & Johnson want to see if the Apple Watch’s electrocardiogram could help identify stroke risk before a stroke happens and thus allow at-risk users to seek medical attention before a critical attack. As noted by Dr. C. Michael Gibson, cochair of the Heartline Executive Committee and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School:

Heartline is a study that has the potential to fundamentally change our understanding of how digital health tools, like the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature on Apple Watch, could lead to earlier detection of AFib, helping patients understand and directly engage in their heart health, prompting potentially life-saving conversations with their doctors, and improving health outcomes.

If you’d like to take part in the study, Apple and Johnson & Johnson is seeking volunteers. To qualify you must be 65 years of age or older, be covered under Original (Traditional) Medicare, and own an iPhone 6s or later.

Why it’s hot: Another example of wearables used for (potentially lifesaving) prevention.

Source: FastCo