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

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

MeetUp tests new revenue model, faces immediate backlash

Users who have a stake in MeetUp are privy to the fact that it’s owned by the currently discredited and struggling WeWork, so when the platform started testing a new revenue model in which it charged users $2 to RSVP to certain events (even free ones), people assumed it was a shortsighted way to pad the pockets of its cash-strapped parent company, and they weren’t happy about it.

1. Users made their plans to abandon the site clear on Twitter.

2. Open-source projects took the opportunity to court spurned MeetUp users to their own coming-soon event-scheduling platforms:

“To be 100% clear: the freeCodeCamp.org community is still hard at work on an open source alternative to Meetup, and we are making steady progress.”


For now, I’m calling it “MeetingPlace”, and have put up a super simple landing page up here: http://meetingplace.io 

Enter your email there to get updates, and to share the features you’d need to switch your group away from meetup.

MeetUp responded quickly to say they were only testing this model on a small number of events, but tech and business news outlets picked up the story, and it’s not a good look for the brand.

Whether this actually hurts MeetUp in the long run remains to be seen, but it seems to have made them vulnerable.

Why it’s hot: Between offering ad-supported, fremium, and subscription services, platform-based tech companies must navigate a tenuous relationship with users when extracting money from them.

This negotiation with the public happens within a consumer culture that increasingly requires business transparency and imposes a collectively agreed-upon level of “fairness”.

Companies that violate this perceived fairness, or don’t offer a (perceived) commensurate level of value in return are liable to find themselves on thin ice.

 

 

dorito’s solves its age old problem…

Who doesn’t love Dorito’s? Nacho, Cool Ranch, Flamin’ Hot, whatever you fancy, they’re a classic and delicious snack. But for as long as they have existed, eating them has come at a price – Dorito’s fingers, the unshakeable film of Dorito’s dust that ends up all over everything you touch unless you clean your hands after each chip. 

But your clothes, furniture, pets, and gaming controllers no longer have to live in fear, for the Dorito’s Towel Bag is here, giving Dorito’s lovers a way to clean their hands while eating their favorite snack.

Why it’s hot

It’s a beautiful example of a brand embracing its essence, while improving its experience. Dorito’s dust is part of what makes Dorito’s the chip they are. But instead of eliminating it and changing the product, they created a new one to embrace their product’s dark side.

Reasons Why Millenials Follow Brands

eMarketer compiled a list of why millenials follow a brand or company on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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Why It’s Hot

We live in a world where advertisers need to cater to their client, versus how it was years ago.  For advertisers, understanding the reasons why users follow brands allows brands to give them exactly what they want.  For example, the #3 reason why people go to the pages is to get a coupon, so utilize that knowledge!

The Brands of #Bendgate

Recently the Internets have been a-buzz the past few days over the purported #Bendgate phenomenon, where consumers’ new iPhone 6 Plus phones have developed bends after being sat on for extended periods of time. An aside, we really didn’t go with #Bendghazi instead?

While Apple has come out to acknowledge bending has occurred among a small set of users, that hasn’t stopped brands from shamelessly trying to jump on the trending bandwagon.

Some were good, like Kit Kat who incorporated the bend into their product while subtly reinforcing their co-marketing alliance with Google.

 

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Papa John’s gave a more overt, but solid effort.

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Coca-Cola tried to be witty, but instead came out a bit cheesy.

coca cola

 

Then we have LG, who is trying way too hard to push their curved products:

LG

And let’s not forget Dockers, whose awkward model pose makes you wonder why they even bothered.

dockers

Why It’s Hot

As with anything Apple, #Bendgate news is everything right now.  Brands have jumped at the chance to demonstrate their “relevance” with consumers, but clearly some have done it far better than others. The best social posts combine relevance and humor with shared beliefs held by their communities. They don’t try too hard to be cool, they are effortless and natural. If consumers can see the effort you put into writing that post, then chances are it isn’t good marketing.

The (Potentially Serious) Repercussions of a “Like”

General Mills, the maker of major global brands like Cheerios, Bisquick and Betty Crocker may have bit off more than they could chew (yes, pun intended) with some stealthy new conditions written into their digital corporate policies this past Tuesday.

Under the new terms, consumers who perform digital activities like download coupons, “join” it in online communities like Facebook, or enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes withdraw their right to sue General Mills. And according to the New York Times, “Instead, anyone who has received anything that could be construed as a benefit and who then has a dispute with the company over its products will have to use informal negotiation via email or go through arbitration to seek relief, according to the new terms posted on its site.”

 

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Further, “The change in legal terms, which occurred shortly after a judge refused to dismiss a case brought against the company by consumers in California, made General Mills one of the first, if not the first, major food companies to seek to impose what legal experts call “forced arbitration” on consumers.” The move follows a precedent set in 2011, with a Supreme Court decision found in favor of AT&T Mobility to “forbid class-action lawsuits with the use of a standard-form contract requiring that disputes be resolved through the informal mechanism of one-on-one arbitration.”

Why It’s Hot

Frankly, it’s not. But it’s incredibly important to consumers and marketers alike. When considering the nature of General Mills’ products–edible and potentially lethal if an allergic reaction occurs–this revision is significantly broadening the precedent set forth. Moreover, the provisions put a “choke hold” of sorts on any consumer who is purported to receive a “benefit” from General Mills or any of its brands, regardless of whether the company is at fault or liable for the would be damages in a lawsuit. And as marketing terms and conditions continue to morph in the digital landscape, marketers need to be cautious about the legal ramifications that engagement may now have. The ripples across sites and properties could be enormous and seriously impact who we market, serve, and interact with brands online.