Down with Dongles

I hate flying. I especially hate flying without headphones. So when I was at the airport for a flight to Austin earlier this year, and realized I’d forgotten my headphones, I was in a panic. But no worries! I’ll just buy some. So I bought some headphones. Problem solved! Except my Google Pixel doesn’t have a headphone jack, it has a USB-C.

I survived the flight, sure, but clearly you see how a lesser person would have died under such circumstances.

Samsung was the last major smartphone maker holding out against the shift away from wired headphones but renderings of their upcoming Galaxy Note 10 show that’s all over with.

The images were leaked to the site SamMobile and show it would come with a dongle that converts the standard 3.5-mm headphone jack to a USB-C connector. Of course, this means you can only use wired headphones with the dreaded dongle, Best Buy’s top-selling iPhone accessory.

But perhaps most unforgivably, Apple’s decision to ditch the headphone jack led to a string of other smartphone makers jumping onboard. Google, HTC, Motorola, Huawei, Xiaomi, Nokia, and Sony all have started releasing phones without a headphone jack. Samsung previously announced that the Galaxy A8 would not have a headphone jack, but it hasn’t made the change consistently across its product line—the Galaxy S10 did have a jack. But this new leak suggests that Samsung is indeed moving in the direction of killing the headphone jack.

Why its (not) hot

I hate the dongle. Not only is it just bad user experience, but then, of course, they get the added revenue from selling dongles. They’re small and easily lost, and if you don’t have one, and don’t have wireless headphones, you can’t listen to music, watch movies, etc. in silence. What am I supposed to do, talk to the people around me? Interact with the world? I live in New York City – that is not an option.

Finding Home Outside of the Home

IKEA recently published their annual Life at Home report for research done in 2018. The study, in its 5th year, is extensive, reaching 22,000 people across 22 countries. The goal is to better understand how people actually use and see their homes in today’s changing world.

This year IKEA found a shift. In 2016, 20% of survey respondents felt most at home somewhere besides the place where they live. In 2018 that number increased to 29% for people who live outside of cities and 35% for people who live in cities. IKEA identifies 5 needs that contribute to feeling at home: privacy, comfort, ownership, security, and belonging. The suggestion is that a growing number of people are satisfying these basic needs elsewhere.

Why it’s Hot

Increase in population, urbanization, and economic stratification mean less living space for individuals and families. When the basic needs of feeling at home are not met where people live, people will search elsewhere. Brands and governments will be asked to respond.

Fly Responsibly

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KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is asking potential customers whether they really need to take a flight. A new initiative launched last month asks passengers to consider whether their journey would be better undertaken by train. Travelers are also invited to travel light, and to offset flight-related CO2 emissions. Part of KLM’s Fly Responsibly campaign, the initiative invites other airlines to become partners in its Corporate BioFuel Program, paying a fee to cover the difference in costs between kerosene and sustainable fuel.

Why it’s hot: Walking the walk and take on real responsibility to achieve sustainability will capture the modern consumer’s heart for the long term.

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Smarter Smart Phones

UK design agency morrama came up with three concepts to give users more control over the way their smartphones work through physical design. This concept was a built as a solution to the idea that smartphones give people too much access to the internet, apps, etc. and the impact on health.

“We’ve taken a different approach and set out to change a persons interaction with their smartphone through subtle changes to it’s physical design, attempting to improve their behavior and start using their phone as a tool for better things.”

  1. Screens on both sides of the phone to prevent distraction of phone lighting up
  2. Screen flipping for less app usage
  3. On the back, there is a tilt so the user has to physically interact with the devise to see notifications

Why its hot

A new take on combating smartphone overuse. There are apps and features on smartphones that help with regulating the users behaviors (essentially telling the user that they are or have a “problem”) but this is an interesting approach as the physical phone is being changed and the user’s behavioral patterns shift as a result.

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The doctor is ready to see you – at the mall

With the steady rise of online retail, brick-and-mortar retail has been having a hard time for a few years now. Nearly 5,900 stores were closed in the US in 2018, and nearly 6,000 are expected to close in 2019. Which means that mall vacancies are at all-time highs in many parts of the country.

Mall of America in Minneapolis, America’s largest mall, announced plans last week to open a 2,300-square-foot walk-in clinic in November with medical exam rooms, a radiology room, lab space, and a pharmacy dispensary service. Mall of America is teaming up with University of Minnesota physicians and a Minnesota-based health care system to operate the clinic.

Here’s another example of the growth of “medtail”. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is planning a 34,000 square-foot oncology and hematology outpatient facility in the Patriot Place shopping center in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Mall leases for apparel retailers declined by more than 10% since 2017, while leases for medical clinics at malls have grown by almost 60% since then.

Why it’s hot: Mall landlords are betting that when patients visit for a flu shot or eye exam, they’ll shop around for clothes or electronics. Adding medical clinics also makes sense for mall owners because they draw in doctors, nurses and technicians every day who may shop and eat at restaurants.

Sources: CNN. NYT.

Apple and New Museum launch AR art tours

A new way for people to experience the city!

A new way for artists to engage the public!

A new way to think about experiencing space!

Brought to you by Apple! Apple’s brand and value proposition permeates this entire experience.

Why it’s hot

Apple is positioning itself as a brand that can bring a new magical realm to life. As we work out the ways in which AR will play a role in our lives, this project sells AR in a surprising and fun way, perhaps warming people up to the idea that a life lived with a layer of AR mapped over the physical world would be desirable.

Source: Dezeen

Make getting drunk great again

British data science company DataSparQ has developed facial recognition-based AI technology to prevent entitled bros from cutting the line at bars. This “technology puts customers in an ‘intelligently virtual’ queue, letting bar staff know who really was next” and who’s cutting the line.

“The system works by displaying a live video of everyone queuing on a screen above the bar. A number appears above each customer’s head — which represents their place in the queue — and gives them an estimated wait time until they get served. Bar staff will know exactly who’s next, helping bars and pubs to maximise their ordering efficiency and to keep the drinks flowing.”

Story on Endgadet

Why it’s Hot

Using AI to help solve these types of trifling irritations is better than having to tolerate other people’s sense of entitlement, though it also highlights the need to police rude behavior through something other than raising your kids well.

Conversation-as-a-Platform

The search for a solution to the perennial problem of shrinking click-through-rates has led us down a lot of interesting paths. In so many cases it seems like trying to bail out a sinking ship with a Grande Starbucks cup. But sometimes a breakthrough idea gives us a temporary “bilge pump”, to keep us afloat for another day.

With all of the recent buzz around conversational interfaces and chatbots, it’s easy to be skeptical of their commercial value, and see them as the latest passing fad. Enter, “chatvertising”: conversational-style advertising that’s been shown to deliver 3.2% – 4.4% engagement rates, compared to the the 0.044% CTR banners have grown used to.

“Cavai is a platform pioneering conversational-style advertising, using a decision-tree based model, and we are seeing first-hand how this highly engaging advertising model is growing mainly in response to the needs of the consumer. Those needs are for example expressed by 9/10 consumers globally who want to use messaging to talk to businesses. 72 trillion messages were sent via chat apps in 2018, surpassing social media and browser interactions. Also, 53% of consumers say that they are more likely to buy from a company that they can contact via a chat app ( eMarketer).”

Why It’s Hot

A whole new opportunities, to build enduring relationships between brands and people, by creating stronger rational & emotional connections – engaging with humans on human terms.

Volvo backfilling a moat?

Volvo has built its brand around “being the safest cars on the road”.

For years, the company developed research and processes that lead to numerous vehicle safety innovations that established their credibility.

At Volvo, the Accident Research Team has compiled real-world data since the 1970s to better understand what happens during a collision.

Two truths:

  1. At the industry-level, women tend to be underrepresented in data (male crash test dummies are the standard). But not Volvo (they’ve incorporated men, women and children in their data over 40 years of research)
  2. More importantly, new car manufacturers are stepping up to the “Safey” arena (specifically Tesla) and looking to take on Volvo.

Dare:

So what do you do? Do you protect your moat with yet-another-ad saying how Volvo is a “different kind of safety”?

Well, yes and… (if you’re Vovlo) you build a library with all of your safety knowledge and make it publicly available.

 

Why it’s hot:

Looking beyond the obvious advertising play, what this Campaign (Big C) is helping solve for is the core brand challenge: trying to go from being simply the provider of cars to something that offers mobility on a broader scale.

The execution of it is flawlessly told with a gripping narrative, and maintains Volvo’s thought leadership in “Safety”.

 

Tattoos as Health Trackers

Tattoos could be a way for people with serious health issues, such as diabetes or kidney disease, to track their conditions in real time.

A team of scientists at the Technical University of Munich in Germany developed a way to tattoo the skin with a fluid that changes color as certain properties in the blood spike or decline.

This fluid is made up of different dyes that react with elements of a person’s metabolic system. The Technical University team tested three of those elements: pH levels, glucose, and albumin, which is a type of protein found in the blood. They injected the different dyes into patches of pig skin and chemically adjusted concentrations of the three biomarkers. The tattoos changed colors as the concentrations of pH, glucose, and albumin shifted. To evaluate these changes, the researchers developed an app that detected the color of the tattoo and gave a reading of what possible heath concerns it might indicate.

According to the study, published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, the Technical University researchers believe that applying these color-shifting tattoos to patients whose health conditions must be monitored by measuring levels of these elements could be a low-cost way to offer them a consistent way to track their health.

Each of the elements measured tracks with specific health concerns. Changes in a person’s pH levels could indicate a range of issues, particularly with the lungs and kidneys, which help regulate blood acidity. As pH levels rose from five to nine (normal human pH levels are around 7.4), the tattoo ink shifted from yellow to blue. If a person tattooed with this ink, for instance, noticed their dermal artwork was turning yellow, they’d know their blood acidity was too low, and on the flip side, if it appeared dark blue, they’d know it was too high.

The glucose-detecting ink shifted from light green to dark green as concentrations of glucose increased. High blood glucose levels could indicate diabetes, which inhibits the body’s ability to metabolize sugars, so a person with diabetes could be clued in to if they’re experiencing a dangerous spike by the color of their tattoo.

To detect levels of albumin, the research team applied a dye that shifts from yellow (indicating low albumin) to green (indicating higher levels). Low albumin levels could signal liver or kidney failure or conditions like Crohn’s or celiac disease, which limit the body’s ability to absorb protein.

The changes in the tattoo ink are not diagnoses in and of themselves, but rather a potential way for a patient with longstanding health concerns to keep an eye on their condition in a relatively low-maintenance way. The idea is still new and preliminary, but the Technical University team will continue to study the feasibility of this dermal monitoring system.

Why it’s hot: Though this is not the first experiment of tattoos serving as a utility, this could be a cost-effective option for those with long term conditions to monitor fluctuations.

Source: FastCo

German Staycations Made Possible by Real-Time User Data

72% of Germans travel abroad for their holidays. With that knowledge, German Rail set out to encourage Germans to vacation in their home country by focusing on price and picturesque German locations that mirror famous foreign tourist destinations.

German Rail targeted travel enthusiasts interested in specific destinations on Instagram and Facebook. Then, through geo-tagging technology and Google Search, the audience was served video ads updated with real-time prices, comparing two gorgeous locations (one in Germany and one abroad), detailing the cost of travel from their closest airport to the foreign country and carbon emissions created by travel.

Why it’s hot:

Brands talk about using data all the time but we don’t always see it done in a smart, multi-dimensional way. German Rail successfully tapped into the insight that the record of the holiday (on Instagram & Facebook) is just important as the holiday itself and leveraged real-time user data to influence behavior of the German traveler.

Source: Contagious.io

Mayonnaise + Leftovers = Gourmet Restaurant?

Unilever-owned mayonnaise brand Hellmann’s is so familiar that it can get overlooked in the fridge, along with other ingredients that often get thrown away when we don’t think we can use them.

In the brand’s newest campaign, Hellmann’s highlights the food waste caused by unused leftovers. To prove that mayonnaise can be a key ingredient that turns leftovers into a meal, the agency opened a temporary restaurant in São Paulo, Brazil: The Restaurant With No Food.

Diners were sent Hellman’s branded cool-bags to bring their fridge leftovers, and invited to dine for free at the restaurant. A handful of celebrity chefs then created gourmet meals from the ingredients and Hellman’s mayonnaise. Following the meal, Hellmann’s gave them the recipes for what they had been served.

During its two-day activation, the campaign generated more than 200 news reports and 50 million impressions. Sales of Hellmann’s went up by 8% and it’s estimated that over 2,700 ingredients were saved. The Restaurant With No Food also received an official endorsement from the UN World Food Programme, and Hellmann’s plans to repeat the initiative in other key markets in Europe this year.

Why it’s hot:

This campaign is a perfect example of what a good insight can do. The brand likely saw the decline in mayonnaise purchases, but this unique insight around food waste allowed them to unlock a solution to the problem in a new way. Viewing their business challenge through a wider lens than just “nobody’s buying our mayonnaise” allowed Hellmann’s to tap into a larger cultural conversation.

Source

‘Claw is the law’

“If you think about it, LaCroix is just a virgin White Claw”

For years we’ve contemplated craft beer’s impact on big beer – and thought long and hard about Aeperol Spritzs and Natural wine, but this summer, a new trend has made itself (very well known) – Hard seltzer.  (Forbes, Esquire, Business Insider, Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance)

“The category, currently worth $550 million, could grow to reach $2.5 billion by 2021, said Sean King, an analyst at UBS. That implies an annual growth rate of 66% and a jump in consumption from 14 million cases in 2018 to 72 million cases in 2021.” (BI)

“Hard seltzers will continue to take share from: 1) wine & spirits (especially vodka/soda, as hard seltzer in cans is more convenient), 2) non-beer drinkers who don’t like the taste/calories in beer, and 3) domestic light beers, plus Corona Premier/Michelob Ultra drinkers,” (Yahoo)

Why it’s hot:
It’s hot because it’s a pretty monumental trend in the beverage world

To me, this is one of those ‘it was all so obvious’ sort of things, where key players noticed the continually growing health and wellness mentality colliding with peoples love of drinking.
+ It feels reminiscent/parallel/likely related to the success of La Croix and development of ‘Bubly’ by Pepsico.

Chase commits to AI after machines outperform humans in copywriting



“Chase is getting more creative with its marketing language—by tapping machines to write it. The bank announced Tuesday it has signed a five-year deal with Persado, a New York-based company that applies artificial intelligence to marketing creative.”

Welp …. ummm… hmmm…

Article Link
Agency Link

Why it’s hot: 
The conversation around automation continues to evolve – and it has countless implications.
At a SUPER high level, relative to our industry, it feels important to consider how our value proposition can remain unique in a world in which writing copy can be automated.

The Closest Drone to Bike Delivery is Here

The newest entrant into the drone food delivery space is using slower speed to gain a competitive edge. The Rev-1 by Refraction AI is unique in that operating at a max of 15 miles per hour, it can travel both on the road and in bike lanes–giving it more flexibility to avoid causing traffic. The company’s vision is for the drone to emulate the patterns of a cyclist.

The vehicle is currently being tested in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where it delivers food from local restaurants in a range of .5 to 2.5 miles. It’s 6 cubic feet of space is enough to hold around four grocery bags.

Another competitive advantage is the Rev-1’s lower cost of $5,000. Instead of using lidar sensors like most other drones, it uses multiple cameras in combination with ultrasound to see and navigate.

Why It’s Hot

The smaller, slower drone is well-positioned for local deliveries, with a high potential to help solve the last-mile delivery challenge in a cost-efficient manner.

Source

More beer + health trend: Anheuser-Busch’s craft brand, Golden Road Brewing, announces multi-year sponsorship of USA Swimming

USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport of swimming in America, U.S. Masters Swimming and Golden Road Brewing has announced a new multi-year partnership, marking the first-ever alcohol sponsorship for USA Swimming.

As part of the partnership, Golden Road will serve as co-presenting sponsor of VIP hospitality experiences at USA Swimming House and USA Swimming Live at next year’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Neb. The brewery will also hold activation rights in the Toyota Aqua Zone and serve as presenting sponsor of the “Last Session Show” and the Golden Goggles red carpet show. In a unique extension, Golden Road will also implement an athlete support program that provides financial support to adult athletes, as well as industry exposure and professional training.

A former captain of the Yale University swim team, Gill co-founded the Los Angeles, California-based brewery in 2011 when she was just 25. In 2015, Anheuser-Busch bought Golden Road.

“My dream since I was a little girl was to spread the passion and excitement I felt for swimming with others. My second love, beer, happens to have the ability to bring fans together and add to the enjoyment of watching competition,” Gill said. “By chance meeting last summer at the Nationals, I realized USA Swimming’s leadership team had a big vision of taking the sport of swimming to new heights — so our teams have worked on a truly unique partnership to help drive excitement for fans and athletes leading into a major year for swimming on the global stage. I can’t wait to enjoy a Golden Road beer while watching my favorite swimmers compete for a spot in Tokyo next summer.”

Source: Craft Brewing Business

Why It’s Hot

Just last week we had a post on “Performance Beer” and discussed how beer + healthy lifestyle coming together is a trend. Here is further support of that.

 

Pop-up teeter totter wall

Rael San Fratello, <em>Tettertotter Wall</em> (2014). Courtesy of Rael San Fratello.
Over the weekend, there was a rare moment of celebration at the US-Mexico border: children from both countries played together on pink seesaws straddling the steel border fence separating El Paso and Juárez, Mexico. The almost surreally joyous scene was a temporary art piece titled Teeter-Totter Wall, meant to foster a sense of unity between the two nations.

Why it’s hot
Turn a highly charged area into a simple emotion about the joy of children’s playground
How can we inspire such simple meaningful ideas for our clients and brands?

 

Don’t hold the phone

Soli Pixel 4 Sensors

For the past five years, our Advanced Technology and Projects team (ATAP) has been working on Soli, a motion-sensing radar. Radar, of course, is the same technology that has been used for decades to detect planes and other large objects. We’ve developed a miniature version located at the top of Pixel 4 that senses small motions around the phone, combining unique software algorithms with the advanced hardware sensor, so it can recognize gestures and detect when you’re nearby.

Pixel 4 will be the first device with Soli, powering our new Motion Sense features to allow you to skip songs, snooze alarms, and silence phone calls, just by waving your hand. These capabilities are just the start, and just as Pixels get better over time, Motion Sense will evolve as well.

Why it’s hot?
The beginning of the end of touchy feely devices.
How can we bring the insights that inspire our teams to create ideas using project soli?

 

Rise of the digital neighborhood watch

Old-school video cameras have long watched over stores and gas stations. Now, a new wave of technology, once too expensive and complex to be used by anyone but the police, is making its way into mom-and-pop shops, front porches and residential streets.

  • Video cameras that flag unusual movements and recognize faces are being stuffed into popular “smart” doorbells that constantly send footage to the cloud.
  • AI-powered “video analytics” can identify specific actions like smoking, and search thousands of hours of archived footage for one person. It’s popping up in public schools, like in Broward County, Fla., which includes Parkland.
  • License-plate readers are now guarding the entrances of wealthy neighborhoods, tracking every vehicle that passes and automatically flagging blacklisted cars.

Forget doorbell cams — some Denver-area neighborhoods are now equipping their streets with cameras that will photograph your car and scan your license plate. Such license plate readers stand ever vigilant in 10 neighborhoods in Denver, Lone Tree, Sheridan and Aurora, according to Flock Safety, the company that sells them.

Images of the vehicle are then uploaded to the company’s Amazon Web Services cloud server and the data collected from the image becomes part of a searchable database. The HOA members with access can then search the database by time or vehicle description. They can also give police access to the footage if a crime is reported

Companies like Flock Safety charge about $2,000 a year for the installation, maintenance and data storage for each solar-powered camera. Most customers are homeowner associations or neighborhood groups that pay for the cameras collectively.

Why it’s hot:

Because peoples’ perceptions of crime often don’t align with reality, crime rates have dropped precipitously since the 1990s. Crime is often based more on media representations and anecdotal evidence than statistics. The growth of private security technology like license plate readers seems inevitable, showing that people are still willing to trade safety for privacy—for now.

Cheers to ‘Performance Beer’

For years beer and running have been closer exercise buddies than you might think—marathon bibs often come with tickets you can trade in for a beer after crossing the finish line, running clubs often end their treks at a bar, and local microbreweries hand out new IPAs at the end of a race

Sufferfest was created in San Francisco in 2016 by Caitlin Landesberg, a trail runner herself, who wanted to make beer that would work with runners after grueling workouts—often called “sufferfests”—and not set them back. The FKT (or “Fastest Known Time”), a pale ale, for instance, is low in gluten—like all of Sufferfest’s beers—and brewed with black currant and salt to supply the electrolytes and sugars that runners typically crave at the end of a race. Repeat, a kolsch brewed with bee pollen, is supposed to help with muscle recovery

Bill Shufelt quit his job in finance and in 2017 launched a company dedicated to creating nonalcoholic but still delicious and thoughtful beers under the name Athletic Brewing. In addition to opening a taproom in Connecticut last year, he has signed a deal to distribute Athletic along the East Coast, with plans to expand nationally. Shufelt also sells Athletic beers directly to consumers, which is much easier to do when there’s no alcohol involved.

“Wellness” has emerged in the past few years as both a buzzword and a $4.2 trillion industry. It encompasses everything from green juices to yoga, the Whole30 meal plan to natural skin-care products, SoulCycle to Goop crystals. Also: running. Since 2012, the number of running events has risen steadily in the U.S. Younger generations, as Amanda Mull recently reported in The Atlantic, are less interested in drinking alcohol. Hard kombucha and seltzer, meanwhile, are on the rise.

Athletic beers like Sufferfest and Athletic Brewing are cementing their position by sponsoring events like the annual Big Sur Marathon or the massively popular Spartan Race.

Why its hot

Not drinking alcohol is a big sacrifice for a lot of people into a “healthy lifestyle.” You miss the social aspect of grabbing a beer with your friends, and then there are holidays and time off. Not every active person is sober, but many make that choice to drink very little or none at all. Drinks like “performance beer” give people that feeling back without the guilt of alcohol. It’s a really simple problem that just needs a product to solve it and big breweries are smart to get in on it.

“Consumption-as-a-Platform”, in a connected world

 

Amazon is taking another step in their ambition to connect-the-data-dots between our digital and our physical lives, doubling-down on smart home technology, as a critical new frontier. Recognizing the importance of new home purchases as a primary trigger to consideration of an end-to-end tech upgrade, Amazon is partnering with the nation’s real estate brokerage company (Realogy), to connect prospective buyers with the right home and the right technology for them.

All parties seem to get something out of the deal, but by offering customers aggressive discounts on smart home tech, Amazon hopes to unlock massive new revenue opportunities, through what’s being referred to as New Retail. The underlying idea is that the ubiquity of connected tech will ultimately create “a perpetual state of consumerism, one in which the consumer is by definition the channel and can consume anything he or she wants anywhere, anytime. Consumption can occur within the home, at work, in a store, while driving, etc. — it does not matter. It can happen anywhere.”

(Oh, and just think of all that data!)

Why It’s Hot: 

Removing frictions between physical and digital experiences, as well as between consumer intent and consumption action, will offer marketers more efficient means of transacting – in real-time, and at speed and scale.

Pinterest adds stress relief to your feed

Compared to the increasingly polarizing internet, Pinterest is commonly known as a collection of personalized happiness filled with wedding inspiration, street fashion, expertly styled living rooms, and tips for taking care of your plants. 

The company noticed their users were searching “vegan lasagna” and “hair ideas,” but increasingly they were also searching for pins related to “anxiety” and “stress.” These searches resulted in a perfectly nice collection of platitudes, but Pinterest’s product team thought they could do better. 

Today, they’re introducing an entirely new experience designed around emotional wellbeing, called “Compassionate search.” This is Pinterest’s attempt to offer its users a dose of comfort without veering too far from its core product.

How it works: When you type in an anxiety-related query—something like “work anxiety,” or “dealing with stress”—Pinterest will now display a box above the stream of pins that says “If you’re feeling sad or stressed, here are some resources that may help improve your mood.” 

If you click in the box, you’ll find a dozen exercises created in collaboration with Brainstorm, a mental health innovation lab at Stanford’s School of Medicine, and two other mental health organizations. A grid shows options for exercises like “refocus your attention” and “recognize your strengths.” Some, like “relax,” are guided meditations with audio. 

While Pinterest doesn’t see itself as a player in the mental health space, it says that it’s trying to recognize and respond to its users’ needs. 

In the past, Pinterest has approached emotional well-being by focusing on mitigating risk. “For a number of years, we’ve worked with emotional health experts to address pinners in distress,” says Ta. If someone searches for terms related to suicide, the platform nudges them toward the appropriate resources, like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Those and other terms, like “self harm” and “cutting” or “bulimia” and “thinspiration,” won’t display pins at all. Pinterest blacklisted those queries several years ago and instead surfaces a message encouraging pinners to get help.

The new exercises are modeled after clinical research from Stanford, which focused on short sessions to improve someone’s mood or reduce stress levels. The “micro treatments” are designed to work in any context, whether you’re on the subway or at the office, and completely for free.

Why it’s hot: This simple solution addresses a problem identified directly from its users. And while there are thousands of mental health-focused apps out there, deciding to download one can be a barrier in getting help in and of itself. Pinterest has an opportunity to serve people who need a pick-me-up, but aren’t ready to pay $60 a year for a subscription to Calm. Meanwhile, the new feature brings Pinterest even closer to its ultimate goal: being the place on the internet you go to find happiness.

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/pinterest-compassionate-search/?bxid=5bea014d24c17c6adf0fdcde&cndid=51832394&esrc=subscribe-page&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_DAILY_ZZ&utm_brand=wired&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=WIR_Daily_072219&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nl&utm_term=WIR_Daily

Netflix’s Kind Of But Not Really Ads

Even though Netflix doesn’t do ads on the platform, they seem to be testing out a new form of “ads” by integrating brands into their shows, but not as a copromotional deal, purely as part of the “storyline”. Stranger Things Season 3 integrated brands like Burger King and Coca-Cola supposedly without any prior copromotional deal and obviously ended up advertising on their own. Netflix came out with a statement (after being called out for “branded content”) that they didn’t receive any payment or placement from third parties and “[the products are] all part of the Duffer Brothers’ storytelling, which references 1980s consumer and popular culture,” so essentially they are saying they did it all on their own, no conversations about promo with Coke or BK.

A research firm (Concave Brand Tracking) estimated that there was $15 million worth of product placement in the new season. It is definitively a risk as the brands don’t have to advertise the show as a normal copromotional deal would require, but these product tie-ins could be the segue for Netflix to get into a new wave of branded content. (Read more here)

Why It’s Hot:

It’s interesting that Netflix is so adamant about not wanting to advertise and making sure that image stays in tact aka not being a “selling out” for branded content (even though there are so many rumors or predictions about ads coming to Netflix).

They are definitely leveraging their own “cultural clout” other companies’ desire to reach the “Gen Z” or “Millennial” audience (Coke with their podcast on leadership + sustainability initiatives and BK with plant-based burgers + push in the digital space) to take full advantage of the advertising and partnership opportunities without there being an official transaction. It will be interesting to see if more shows adopt this form of partnership with brands as essentially get free ad campaigns and they are a subscription based business.

Smart Diapers – it’s about more than just poop!

Pampers has announced a new product called Lumi by Pampers, a “connected care system” to monitor your baby. The package includes a special “smart” diaper, which tracks your baby’s pee and sleep patterns, a mobile app, and Logitech video monitor. The one thing it doesn’t track? Poop.

Introducing the world's first all-in-one Connected Care System

Pricing has yet to be announced, but as a disposable product, they’re likely to become expensive. The bigger question is why, especially since this tracker tracks everything except your child’s poop patterns. This is a bigger trend in the diaper and baby industry overall. Getting “smart” keeps companies and products relevant and as people are starting families later and having fewer babies, Pampers, and other big diaper brands (Huggies) are trying to maintain their bottom lines.

Why it’s hot:

In addition to the “smart” revolution in which we’re currently in the midst, these types of innovations and new utilities don’t always come naturally to every brand. It’s interesting to see how the diaper industry is trying to find its way. We’re also seeing this challenge on Enfamil, which is trying to partner with companies to show their commitment to both babies and moms — while not every baby needs this type of monitoring, it could be an interesting partnership opportunity for the brand.

Article source: Mashable
Additional product links: Pampers

Retail wants a Minority Report for returns

In what now seems inevitable, an online fashion retailer in India owned by an e-commerce startup that’s backed by Walmart is doing research with Deep Neural Networks to predict which items a buyer will return before they buy the item.

With this knowledge, they’ll be better able to predict their returns costs, but more interestingly, they’ll be able to incentivize shoppers to NOT return as much, using both loss and gain offers related to items in one’s cart.

The nuts and bolts of it is: the AI will assign a score to you based on what it determines your risk of returning a specific item to be.This data could be from your returns history, as well as less obvious data points, such as your search/shopping patterns elsewhere online, your credit score, and predictions about your size and fit based on aggregated data on other people.

Then it will treat you differently based on that assessment. If you’re put in a high risk category, you may pay more for shipping, or you may be offered a discount in order to accept a no-returns policy tailored just for you. It’s like car insurance for those under 25, but on hyper-drive. If you fit a certain demo, you may start paying more for everything.

Preliminary tests have shown promise in reducing return rates.

So many questions:

Is this a good idea from a brand perspective? If this becomes a trend, will retailers with cheap capital that can afford high-returns volume smear this practice as a way to gain market share?

Will this drive more people to better protect their data and “hide” themselves online? We might be OK with being fed targeted ads based on our data, but what happens when your data footprint and demo makes that jacket you wanted cost more?

Will this encourage more people to shop at brick and mortar stores to sidestep retail’s big brother? Or will brick and mortar stores find a way to follow suit?

How much might this information flow back up the supply chain, to product design, even?

Why it’s hot

Returns are expensive for retailers. They’re also bad for the environment, as many returns are just sent to the landfill, not to mention the carbon emissions from sending it back.

So, many retailers are scrambling to find the balance between reducing friction in the buying process by offering easy returns, on the one hand, and reducing the amount of actual returns, on the other.

There’s been talk of Amazon using predictive models to ship you stuff without you ever “buying” it. You return what you don’t want and it eventually learns what you want to the point where you just receive a box of stuff at intervals, and money is extracted from your bank account. This also might reduce fossil fuels.

How precise can these predictive models get? And how might people be able to thwart them? Is there a non-dystopian way to reduce returns?

Source: ZDNet

Burger King Sweden: Meat Roulette

Burger King Sweden recently released two plant-based burgers, the Rebel Whopper and Rebel Chicken King.

To introduce the burgers, and to show customers that plant-based burgers make convincing meat substitutes, the food retailer created 50/50 Menu. Customers who order a Whopper or Crispy Chicken Burger from the 50/50 Menu could instead receive the Rebel Whopper and Rebel Chicken King. Customers can then guess if they are eating a plant or meat-based burger, and they can find out if they have guessed correctly by scanning the box using the Burger King app. There is no reward for guessing correctly, but the 50/50 Menu is cheaper.

Since the campaign (which lasts three weeks) launched on Monday, July 7th, 60% of customers have guessed correctly and 40% have been unable to tell the difference.

Why it’s Hot: 

As the conversation around plant-based meat substitutes continues to grow, Burger King’s activation successfully answers one of skeptics’ main concerns: do they actually taste good? The activation’s challenge-style approach and simple tech integration make trying plant-based burgers fun, even for those who aren’t on the plant-based bandwagon.

Source

ConCreates: A Stigma Breaking Agency

Vincent Bragg served five years, one month, and 22 days in federal prison on drug charges. In that time, he studied corporate and real estate law and read more than 400 books.

He also started a creative ad agency.

Today, though, marks the official launch of ConCreates, a creative shop staffed entirely by men and women who have been, or are currently, incarcerated, with an overall goal to challenge the stigma society so often applies to people with criminal histories. The agency operates on a crowdsourcing model, tapping into a network of 436 men and women currently behind bars, and 319 former prisoners on the outside, for skills depending on the work needed.

“We built a creative network based on certain individual skill sets,” says Bragg. “Where most might see a bank robber, we see a strategist.”

“Our mission is to challenge the stigma of how society views people with a criminal history, as well as how people with a criminal history view themselves,” says Bragg, who cofounded ConCreates with Janeya Griffin. “If we’re able to show them they’re not just a bank robber, or not just a drug dealer, that they have creative potential, then we can show them an opportunity to take a new career path.”

The original idea for ConCreates came to Bragg while serving time. While in prison, ConCreates contributor Joe Nickson consulted with MeUndies cofounder Jonathan Shokrian on a few campaigns. “We were able to give that founder some ideas that took his company from doing $50,000 in sales a month to $934,000 with only two campaigns,” says Bragg. “That was the birth of ConCreates.”

When he was released from prison on March 1, 2016, Bragg enlisted in the entrepreneurship program at Defy Ventures, an organization that works to help steer currently and formerly incarcerated men, women, and youth toward the creation of legal business ventures and careers. Through that program, he met Tim Jones, executive strategy director at 72andSunny New York, an agency that works with such brands as Smirnoff, Samsung, Facebook, Seventh Generation, and more.

What really impressed Jones was how ConCreates wasn’t just about helping former inmates successfully reintegrate with society but taking it a step further and actually using the skills that may have landed them in prison and aiming them at a different outcome. “That was the real light bulb for me,” says Jones. “That criminality is often just creativity without opportunity. We don’t think one mistake should define a human lifetime. We think there is this raw creative force that resides in prison today. How do we help that become a positive force for society and for those locked up?”

The best phone calls Bragg has are with prisoners who have seen an avenue for their talents beyond crime. “Some of them think this is all they can ever do, and it’s all they know,” says Bragg. “It’s really powerful to give these individuals the idea that their skills are useful.”

Why it’s hot:

According to a 2018 report from Prison Policy, the unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is more than 27%. ConCreates is seeking to give former prisoners a second chance in life by using their talents in a positive way.

Electronic Taste Test

IBM pushes boundaries once more with it’s latest development from IBM Research, IBM corporation’s innovation engine. Hypertaste, an AI powered electronic taste test.

IBM has called Hypertaste an ‘AI-assisted e-tongue for fast and portable fingerprinting of complex liquids.’ The portable device can reportedly recognise individual elements in liquids extremely rapidly without the need for a high-end laboratory.

Source: https://www.contagious.io/articles/tongue-in-drink

How it works:

  • Electrochemical sensors (made up of pairs of electrodes) respond to voltage signals that capture the checmical information of a liquid
  • The data is then sent to the cloud where AI crossreferences it with a database of known liquids
  • Results are relayed to the device within seconds

Hypertaste can be used in industries such as pharma, fragrance, or healthcare as a quality gauge. It could also be used to test liquids for human and animal consumption and environmental monitoring. Among the benefits are speed and reduced cost for specialized instruments and equipment. But it’s biggest value may come from filling a large gap in the chemical analytics market. Currently lacking a portable tool capable of rapid fingerprinting of complex liquids.

Why it’s hot:

Aside from creating efficiency and lowering costs, Hypertaste can help brands ensure that their products remain up to standard to meet consumer expectations and build trust.

Area51, Memes, and brands

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

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

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

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

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

Growing the Meat-Free Market with… Vampires?

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

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

Why It’s Hot

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

Source