The Path to Enduring Loyalty

Stitch Fix Is Attracting Loyal Customers Without a Loyalty Program

As their customer base has grown in recent years, so too has the revenue they generate from each active customer. Even amidst the pain the apparel industry has been experiencing, over the last few months of the coronavirus pandemic, Stitch Fix has managed to weather the storm with only a slight revenue decline – mostly due to the decision to close warehouses for a period.

WHY IT’S HOT:  In a world where “loyalty” tends to cost businesses and marketers money, in the form of deals and discounts, Stitch Fix is a testament to the the power of data to drive true personalization across the customer experience.

From The Motley Fool:

A personal stylist armed with a powerful data-driven selection algorithm creates a great customer experience.

 

In the highly competitive clothing industry, loyal customers are worth their weight in gold. Stores go to great lengths to attract repeat customers with programs that provide rewards, discounts, or exclusive offers for loyal members. But even with these programs, customers are hard to keep. A 2019 survey by Criteo found that 72% of apparel shoppers were open to considering other brands, which is why what Stitch Fix (NASDAQ:SFIX) has done to create loyal clients without a loyalty program is so special.

Let’s look at this personalized online clothing retailer’s loyal customers, how data science is helping build loyalty into the process, and what management is doing to further capitalize on the company’s momentum.

Loyal customers spend more

Clothing stores have seen a significant drop in spending in the past few months, but Stitch Fix’s most recent quarterly revenue only declined by 9% year over year. Impressively, this decline was not due to a drop in demand, but because the company chose to close its warehouses for part of the quarter as it put safety measures in place for its staff. This strong result against a backdrop of abysmal retail clothing spending was powered in part by the company’s auto-ship customers.

In the most recent earnings call, CEO Katrina Lake indicated that customers who sign up to receive “Fixes” (shipments of clothes) automatically and on a regular basis “achieved the strongest levels of ownership retention in the last three years.” She added that “this large contingent of loyal and highly engaged clients” are “very valuable.” Having a stable base of repeat clients helps the company better predict demand trends, shape inventory purchases, and forecast appropriate staffing levels.

Additional benefits from Stitch Fix’s loyal customers show up in the revenue-per-active-client metric. At the end of the day, consumers vote with their wallets. And impressively, this number has increased for the last eight quarters in a row. It’s clear Stitch Fix clients love the service as they are willing to spend more over time.

Possibly the biggest reason clients are spending more is that they are better matched with items they love.

Data science helps improve the customer experience

Making great clothing selections is key to the client experience for Stitch Fix. The job of keeping this recommendation engine humming and improving it over time is the company’s data scientist team. This group is over 100 strong and many of its members have Ph.D.s in data science or related fields. The team received a patent on its Smart Fix Algorithm and has other patents pending. You can see the amazing detail that goes into this process on the Algorithms Tour section of the Stitch Fix website.

This algorithm is also driving selections for the direct buy offering, which allows clients to purchase clothing without the commitment of the five-item fix. This new service is taking off and its low return rates show that clients love it. Lake shared that “people keeping things that they love is ultimately like the true Northstar of our business and that’s really where we’re orienting a lot of our efforts again.” One of these new efforts is focused on pushing the envelope of how stylists engage with clients.

Doubling down on personalized service

On the last earnings call, Stitch Fix President Elizabeth Spaulding discussed a pilot program that “provide[s] clients with increased stylist engagement and the opportunity to select items in their fixes.” This program, currently being tested in the U.S. and the U.K., connects the client on a video call with a stylist while their fix is being created. This allows the client direct input into their selections and enables the stylist to become better acquainted with the client’s clothing choices.

This innovative approach plays to the company’s strengths and could further build its loyal client following. Spaulding indicated that more would be shared in upcoming calls, but said that “We believe this enhanced styling experience will appeal to an even broader set of clients as consumers seek high-touch engagement while not going into stores.”

Survival of the Fastest

Innovation in the Age of COVID-19

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

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

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

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

From econsultancy.com:

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

Cheeky Food Events

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

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

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

Budweiser, Rémy Martin, Carlsberg & Pernod Ricard

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

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

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

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

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

Goat2Meeting

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

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

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

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

Frame

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

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

How the fitness industry is responding to coronavirus with digital push

Kings Place

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

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

Whole Foods

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

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

Experience Virtual Travel from Yosemite to Amsterdam with These Livestreams

Virtual Travel: Webcams activated around the world are giving millions of shut-ins access to new ways of keeping cabin fever at bay. A low-fi solution for people facing bandwidth challenges, or burned out on Netflix.

Why It’s Hot: In a world where people are disconnected from one another in so many ways – unified by a common tragedy, but primarily “seeing” one another through the lens of news media – it’s nice to nice to have real, unfiltered reminders of the amazing and beautiful things that are still out there, connecting us all to one another.

As more cities around the world feel the effects of the coronavirus and government shutdowns, virtual travel is becoming more of a necessity. Cities and hotels around the world are opening up webcams, so you can tap into life far, far away from your own home. These live streams let you see Hawaii’s oceans, Croatia’s islands, Tokyo’s streets, and Kenya’s highlands (among others) in real time, making it even easier to picture yourself in far-off places. So grab a plate of your favorite food, snuggle up in your comfiest chair, and get ready to virtually visit some seriously beautiful destinations.

Sydney, Australia

Easily one of the higher-quality videos on this list, Webcam Sydney provides a gorgeous livestream of the Sydney Harbour. You can easily spot the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay, and The Rocks in the panoramic shot; make sure to sneak a peak when the sun goes down (which is about when the sun comes up in the U.S.) to see the harbor’s glittering nighttime lights.

Watch the livestream here.

Northern Lights, Canada

Trying to spot the elusive Northern Lights usually involves camping out in the cold in the middle of the night, desperately hoping for perfect weather and conditions (and even then it still might not happen). This Northern Lights webcam in Manitoba, Canada, makes the process much easier, letting us watch the night sky from the warmth of our homes. If the idea of waiting for a spark of light on your computer screen is still too much effort, the site also shows a highlights reel and lets viewers post screenshots of their findings.

Watch the livestream here.

Trevi Fountain, Rome

Possibly the most famous fountain in the world, the Trevi Fountain is a Baroque masterpiece depicting Neptune atop a chariot pulled by sea horses. The Roman landmark is typically surrounded by masses of tourists, but currently sits quiet thanks to Italy’s nationwide lockdown. The resulting livestream really shows off the fountain’s design—and it’s strangely relaxing, too.

Watch the livestream here.

Yosemite Falls, California

The Yosemite webcam is one of our favorites. It streams the 2,424-foot-tall waterfall’s top section, Upper Yosemite Falls, in its scenic, roaring glory. The peak flow occurs in early summer as the snow starts to melt, but it’s looking pretty awesome right now.

Watch the livestream here.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls is on display, thanks to a live webcam.

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Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda

Sailboats, yachts, sunsets: What more could you want while stuck at home? This webcam gives viewers an all-encompassing look into the waterfront life of Bermuda‘s historic Royal Naval Dockyard, which is still used to house cruise ships, museums, and artsy shops.

Watch the livestream here.

CN Tower, Toronto

Get sweeping views of Toronto from this webcam located on top of the CN Tower, the city’s tallest—and most iconic—landmark at 1,815 feet. You can switch between east- and west-facing cameras, letting you see Lake Ontario, the Toronto Islands, the Royal Ontario Museum, and much more.

Watch the livestream here.

Hvar, Croatia

The country’s most popular island for nightlife and yachters, Hvar is also Croatia’s sunniest spot. Luckily for those of us stuck with cramped quarters and cloudy weather, the Croatian island offers a 24/7 panoramic webcam showing off its port and the Pakleni islands in the distance. The view is especially gorgeous during sunrise and sunset.

Watch the livestream here.

Thailand

Thailand has just about everything we’re craving right now: Beautiful beaches, rich culture, and some of the most luxurious resorts on the planet. The Tourism Authority of Thailand has a live stream view conveniently located on YouTube, where people can take a look at a number of Thai destinations (arranged in a tidy collage) from the comfort of their home.

Watch the livestream here.

Cancun, Mexico

The beach is the main attraction at NIZUC Resort & Spa, located on the northeast tip of the Yucatán Peninsula. Anyone craving some waves and sunshine can now tune into the resort’s live webcam, which offers a perfect shot of the shoreline and stretches of water.

Watch the livestream here.

Shibuya Crossing, Japan

The Japan National Tourism Organization is currently encouraging people to satisfy their wanderlust remotely, with virtual experiences showcasing the best of the country. Our favorite is the Shibuya Crossing webcam, which overlooks Tokyo’s busiest intersection. It’s not quite as crowded as usual these days, but it’s still pretty crowded by current social-distancing standards—you might even end up grateful for your quarantine situation after watching the “Shibuya scramble” for a few seconds.

Watch the livestream here.

Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing is usually packed with pedestrians.

Getty

Kauai, Hawaii

Bring some real-time Hawaiian surf into your living room, courtesy of rental company Great Vacation Retreats. Their webcam faces the popular PKs surf break on Kauai, showing off the island’s natural landscapes among the killer waves.

Watch the livestream here.

Niagara Falls

While most of Niagara’s tours and visitor facilities are closed (on both the Canadian and U.S. sides), the surrounding state parks and trails are still open—for now, at least. But if you want to practice true social distancing, we recommend checking out the Niagara Falls live webcam, presented by the Hilton Fallsview Hotel in Ontario. The sound of the crashing water is pure white noise bliss, and the camera’s aerial view is better than what you’d see in person.

Watch the livestream here.

Dam Square, Amsterdam

Like many major cities around the world, Amsterdam has closed its attractions, restaurants, and bars to curb the spread of COVID-19. We love this webcam of Dam Square (the city’s hopping central spot), which oscillates to provide great shots of the area’s streets, sculptures, and stunning architecture. And if you’re feeling really lonely, there are still a few residents strolling around.

Watch the livestream here.

Central Kenya

Situated in the highlands of central Kenya, the Mpala Research Centre is a 48,000-acre “living laboratory” that welcomes scientist and researches from around the globe. Their webcam provides a 24/7 feed of one of the watering holes on their property, where you’re pretty much guaranteed to spot hippos, leopards, zebras, and more at any given moment. (I’m watching three very hungry giraffes as I type this.)

Watch the livestream here.

Wildlife webcams, multiple locations

Do you want even more action in your livestream life? Be sure to check out our compilation of wildlife webcams around the world, showcasing elephants in South Africa, endangered gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and tons of sea creatures in zoos and aquariums. The eerily hypnotic sea jelly cam at California’s Aquarium of the Pacific is a personal favorite.

Click-to-Buy Experiences take on a new (analog) life

‘Contextual shopping’: Publishers are using model homes for retail experiences

Home-related publications like Real Simple, Hunker and Domino are using model houses to create experiential retail experiences that can drive affiliate revenue.

Domino magazine has created staged homes for years. But this year’s house, located in Sag Harbor, NY was the first to include shoppable technology into the space. In partnership with Stage&Shop, a real estate agency and an app developer, Domino created an app that integrate codes into all of the house’s furniture and design elements that people touring the home could scan to purchase them.

Domino’s winter issue will have a feature on the home, which will also include QR codes for those products that readers use their smartphone to scan.

Brands were included in the home through product placement, and affiliate links were used in the shoppable content as well as in the house itself. But the primary revenue driver for the project still comes from the content created surrounding the home, including its print spread and digital elements. And while it’s an ongoing franchise for the brand, Cho said that Domino isn’t leaning on that revenue, but is looking for constant iterations of how to make the project better and a bigger piece of the puzzle.

 

Why It’s Hot:  An interesting convergence of digital and physical, potentially symbiotically solving parallel/complementary problems of retail and ecommerce experiences:

  • Online purchase is convenient, but I don’t get to see, touch, try physical goods before buying.
  • Retail purchase is experiential, but I don’t want all of the friction of purchase and transport home.

You can still be a Toys ‘R’ Us Kid

Toys ‘R’ Us back… sort-of…

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Tru Kids, the owner of the Toys ‘R’ Us brand is “bringing back the Toys ‘R’ Us brand in a modern way through a strong experiential and content-rich omnichannel concept,” Richard Barry, CEO of Tru Kids, said in a statement.

Learning from its prior mistakes of not embracing technology and a digital transformation, this relaunch is purely digital and content-focused in nature, partnering with Target and Candytopia to help with ecommerce and real-life, memorable experiences.

Dubbed “The Toys R Us Adventure,” the company partnered with Candytopia to create the experiential pop-ups in Chicago and Atlanta and feature more than a dozen interactive play rooms, larger-than-life toys, and installations featuring Geoffrey, the brand’s giraffe mascot.

Why it’s hot: Toys ‘R’ Us’ was the poster child for death by tech, with its rejection of ecommerce and digital transformation. Now the company is trying to show everyone it can learn from its mistakes. The question is, will the nostalgia of Toys ‘R’ Us be enough to drive expensive experiential store visits. It’ll be interesting to see if this attempt at jumping into the digital deep end will have a happy ending. If it does work, will we start seeing the return of other brands who failed to innovate? Blockbuster Video? Tower Records?

Sources: FastCo, Business Insider, ToysRUs.com, Forbes

 

Blurring the media lines, in a world where content is king

Dream Team, the fantasy football offshoot from U.K. tabloid The Sun, has had a retention problem. From one year to the next, the free-to-play game would have to reacquire two-thirds of its audience who signed up to play the previous year, which is typically around 1 million subscribers. As well as wasted effort, re-acquiring audiences costs more than retaining them.

To address this churn, Dream Team built a new content vertical including a newsletter and YouTube series around fantasy football last summer. Now it has begun to bear fruits: Dream Team retained 68% of last year’s customers this season, increasing annual audience retention rate 21% year-on-year, and won new branded content clients; however, the publisher was unwilling to share exactly how many people subscribed for the 2019 season.

“We are building a more franchise approach to content,” he said. “As many brands in the digital space find, bringing in audiences with content is easy, but digital content brands can struggle with loyalty and retention.”

After hearing that audiences wanted more fantasy football content — rather than generic football news content — at the start of the football season in August 2018, Dream Team also launched an email newsletter, Dream Team “Coach,” devised in part by Jimmy Lloyd, content development editor. The newsletter, written by football expert Nick Elliott, to add a more personal feel, goes out every Thursday and features tips and hints on which players are likely to play well that weekend for subscribers to switch around their fantasy football teams.

The newsletter now has over 1 million subscribers and an open rate of between 15% and 20%, according to Bearryman. The content is mostly self-contained content, so it doesn’t track click-through rates via links to external stories.

“That was the big shift and was a battle in many ways; people are used to using email a certain way,” said Bearryman. “We looked at Red Box [political newsletter from News UK’s subscription title, The Times of London] and what audiences want from email. Like other off-platform distribution, audiences don’t want to be thrown around.”

As an extension to the newsletter, in February, Dream Team launched “Coach TV” on YouTube, a weekly 20-minute chat show focused on football news. Videos typically get up to 20,000 YouTube views, last season had over 500,000 unique viewers. Over the course of 12 months, viewer retention rate doubled retention rate from 20% to 40%, according to Bearryman. Watch time on season two is over six minutes compared with three minutes last season.

Publishers like BuzzFeed are increasingly making series over one-off episodes in order to bring people back more regularly. It’s this regular viewing that attracts brand budgets too. The success of “Coach TV” was instrumental in signing bookmaker Betway to a season-long branded content campaign. As well as Betway badging alongside the Dream Team logo, the bookmaker gives exclusive betting odds and offers for the “Coach TV” audience. It’s a natural fit as 50% of Dream Team managers have an active betting account. The season-long campaign, exclusive to Dream Team rather than The Sun, cost £1.04 million ($1.27 million). According to Bearryman, the conversion rate of traffic referred to Betway is 2.5%, which compares favorably with Dream Team’s internal content conversion rates.

Over the last year, Dream Team itself has run between 10 and 12 other branded content campaigns across other sub-brands or franchises. One such sub-brand is “Hometown Glory,” a weekly show where former England football player Alex Scott takes other football players back to their hometown. Dream Team is currently in talks with two consumer goods brands for sponsorship for the season.

More franchises are in the works, according to Bearryman.

“We want to build other online sub-brands and franchises to become famous for and reach new audiences,” he said.

Why It’s Hot

A good example of the power Relationships built around common interests – authentically activated across channels, platforms and formats, and orchestrated over time.

IKEA and National Geographic take on “Bedroom Habits”

National Geographic and IKEA® come together to capture and document the human species in one of the most challenging habitats the world has ever seen — the bedroom. 
Ikea isn’t just about meatballs and couches. With its latest campaign, the Swedish retailer wants to be known as sleep experts, so it partnered with National Geographic on a series of films called ‘Bedroom Habitats.’

The faux-nature series looks to capture and document the human species in one of the most challenging habitats — the bedroom. The films cover everything from a comically small mattress to the unrelenting threat of clutter.

 Created by National Geographic with Wavemaker, the four videos in the series will highlight different consumers with varying sleep challenges. The first, ‘Small Bed Battle,’ shows a couple fighting for space in their tiny bed as a narrator gives a documentary style blow-by-blow of the epic struggle. A positive outcome surfaces after the couple goes to Ikea and gets a reasonably-sized bed.

The series will be hosted on a dedicated National Geographic Bedroom Habitats microsite, along with sleep challenges and shoppable solutions, and on National Geographic Instagram stories and its Facebook page. The series will also be supported with paid social and display units.

A complimentary campaign titled ‘Save Our Sleep,’ features the same nature documentary style, highlighting the issue that one-in-three Americans doesn’t get enough sleep, with Ikea offered up as the sleep hero.

Produced by Ogilvy, the ‘Planet Sleep’ television spot showcases how a comfortable bedroom sanctuary can help save endangered sleep through the implementation of simple and affordable sleep solutions, like new lower priced mattresses and ergonomic pillows. It starts by showing tired people in stressed out urban lifestyles. They only become happy as they realize that Ikea is the solution to their sleep problems.

“Trends show that a good night’s sleep might very well be going extinct. Globally, the average number of hours slept has fallen significantly in the past 50 years from eight hours to just a little over six,” said Joy Kelly, US media manager at Ikea. “Having conducted years of extensive research into how people live (and sleep) at home – and implementing those learnings to create a better everyday life – we know Ikea has the complete quality bedroom solutions that can help everyone achieve a good night’s sleep, so we wanted to be sure to showcase that.”

These quirky films mark the start of a larger, year-long campaign by Ikea to combat decreasing sleep levels in today’s society, positioning the retailer as one that is creating hope for the future of sleep.

“With the year-long ‘Save Our Sleep’ campaign, we hope to inspire consumers with simple, affordable bedroom solutions that will go a long way towards a better night sleep,” added Kelly. “Sleep-deprived consumers can be rest assured that Ikea is committed to saving our sleep in 2019 and beyond.”

coke’s “search of a lifetime”…

Being young is about searching – for who you are, what you want to do with your life, even simply what to do tomorrow. Hooking into this, Coca-Cola in Israel created “The Search of a Lifetime”. Using the top searches among young Israelis, they created targeted content to answer the life-defining questions they were asking around work, school, travel, etc. What’s more, they predicted and created content addressing what would likely be peoples’ next questions after answering the initial query. Ultimately, helping them find the answers, to make the decisions that would make them happy.

First, not enough brands use search to create meaningful connections with people. It’s a direct way to help them by answering the questions you know they’re asking. Second, more brands should be thinking beyond the initial interaction. Coke could have just answered the first question and moved on. Instead, they endeavored to understand how a young person would fully explore these topics, and made sure they completed the conversation.

[Source]

a new magic leap for the nba, or vice versa…


This week, notorious mixed reality company Magic Leap announced a new NBA “app” built on its platform.

Per Magic Leap, “Using Magic Leap’s Screens framework, fans can pull up multiple virtual screens to watch live games, full game replays, and highlights playing all at the same time. Only on Magic Leap’s spatial computing platform can these screens be independently scaled to any size and placed in any location. But the really cool stuff? The NBA App on Magic Leap introduces team -vs- team and player -vs- player season-long table top stats comparisons. And while live games are exclusively available for NBA League Pass and NBA Single-Game subscribers, a massive catalog of on-demand content is free for anyone using Magic Leap One.”

Why it’s hot:

Any new platform’s success ultimately depends on people using it. And in order to be useful, it must offer utility. It seems Magic Leap is starting to get into the first of what it believes to be many applications of adding mixed reality layers to our physical world. For several years, they had talked about the device which would enable this. Now, they’ve finally turned to the platform on which to develop experiences. Could this be what the app store was to smart phones? Only time will tell, but it will be exciting to see how Magic Leap and its brand partners develop new ways to experience content and the world with an added immersive layer.

[Source]

Choose Your Own Adventure Comes to Netflix’s Black Mirror

While everyone spent their Holiday breaks blindfolding themselves after watching “Bird Box” on Netflix against the advice of the streaming service, Netflix also rolled out an interactive standalone Black Mirror movie on Dec. 28.  The interactive movie allows viewers to choose the ending.

Image result for bandersnatch

Via NY Times:

“Black Mirror,” the speculative fiction series that encouraged people to be wary of new technology, is now hoping they will embrace it. The Netflix show released just one episode on Friday, a narrative titled “Bandersnatch” during which the viewer decides what will happen next.

It begins like this: Should the teenage video game whiz Stefan have Sugar Puffs or Frosties for breakfast? Soon the choices become more consequential. Will Stefan work at a game company, tell his therapist about his mother, take his meds? As so often on “Black Mirror,” reality is up for grabs.

Viewers are voting on more than who lives and dies on one program. If the response to “Bandersnatch” is enthusiastic, Netflix will take it as a strong signal that the public is ready for interactive movies and television shows, and a new age of storytelling will commence.

Not that the company needs much encouragement. It has already developed software to help organize stories that have endless permutations. It has perfected, or so it hopes, the technical ability to present these tales on multiple platforms around the world simultaneously. And it is calling for producers to submit interactive proposals in genres from horror to romantic comedy while hinting that it already has a few new shows in the works.

The idea behind the interactive push is simple: Viewers will care more if they are complicit.

“If bad things happen, you’ll feel even more crestfallen, because you were responsible,” said Todd Yellin, Netflix’s vice president for product. “If the character is victorious, you’ll feel even more uplifted because you made that choice.”

Source: NY Times, Read More Here.

Why It’s Hot: As more and more streaming services vie for the same pieces of the pie, services like Netflix and Hulu are constantly looking for ways to be the next most talked about show.  If “Black Mirror Bandersnatch” does well, interactive long form content may be the next big thing for entertainment, much like what “Avatar” did for 3D, and what Pokemon Go did for AR.

Stay Tuned.  The Future is Bright. 

Have your skin checked, period.

A non-profit called Melanoma Know More partnered with content platform Popsugar to bring awareness of skin cancer Melanoma and remind readers of cancer screening.

When a reader browses health and wellness content on the site and scrolls past a period at the end of a sentence, a pop-up window will come up with information on warning signs of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

 

Why it’s hot: Many types of cancer, if detected early, are curable. By making this information part of a reader’s reading experience can help reduce the fear or stress associated with cancer and increase the chance of the reader’s cancer screening.

Source

Monetize Web Traffic By Using It To Mine BitCoins

The Pirate Bay, a torrent website, experimented with getting site visitors to mine the cryptocurrency Monero with their browser over the weekend, without their knowledge.

The experiment was implemented to see if web traffic along with some code could in fact mine for bitcoins and to ultimately replace Pirate’s Bay banner ads. Upon discovering the surreptitious mining, people were understandably upset: Cryptocurrency mining can slow down your computer.

The service in question is Coin Hive and it allows users to embed JavaScript miners in their website as a side source of revenue, so the service in itself is not bad or evil. The problem with The Pirate Bay is that they have introduced the JavaScript code of the miner without letting any of the visitors know, so people started noticing that when they open the website their CPU load skyrockets and were obviously concerned.

Why It’s Hot:

As more and more ad-blockers are downloaded sites will continue to look for technology that can help them monetize with very little ask from the consumer. If more sites are more transparent with users about lending their CPU energy to mine bitcoins, then users might be willing to make the trade. The user will receive no ads and the publisher will receive revenue. A positive trade-off for both parties.

To Post or Not To Post: The Content Dilemma

Hyatt was about to launch a month-long branded content partnership with the Atlantic that revolves around themes of inclusion, understanding and the importance of coming together. And then Charlottesville happened and they hesitated…

The video was conceived around the story of civil rights leader Xernona Clayton, who 50 years ago was searching for a place to host the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta with Martin Luther King Jr. Not a single venue wanted to accommodate the organization until it happened upon a Hyatt Regency. Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the conference.

Hyatt isn’t the only brand to hesitate when it comes to releasing work that could be judged as politically driven. In March, for instance, brands like YouTube, Microsoft, Chevrolet and CoverGirl began promoting Muslim inclusivity through ads without saying they were political. Hyatt was among these.

On one hand, brands have to find a way to tap into the zeitgeist to connect with consumers. On the other hand, they must be wary of getting called out for taking positions in the polarized environment.

Source: https://digiday.com/marketing/hyatt-deliberated-scrapping-new-branded-content-work-charlottesville-riots/

Would you have gone forth with the campaign? 

Why it’s hot: 

  • As marketers and advertisers, we walk a fine line with messaging. What the audience perceives of your messaging, especially in these politically volatile times can make or break a brand.

 

Opportunistic Content 101: Toys R Us Giraffe Cam

“April the Giraffe” – a wildlife park’s pregnant giraffe, April, is set to give birth any day now, and the internet is watching. Toys R Us has capitalized on all the eyeballs by sponsoring the zoo’s live feed of April. The buzz has come in the form of genuine excitement and anticipation as well as conspiracy theories.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClnQCgFa9lCBL-KXZMOoO9Q/live

Why it’s hot: Toys R Us saw the simplest of opportunities – a basic sponsorship getting their brand name and logo in front of hundreds of thousands of people who likely fit within their target demo – and seized on it quickly, having to do little more than pony up the cash to support the zoo. It remains to be seen if the whole thing is truly organic, or if it’s a PR stunt orchestrated by Toys R Us, the zoo, and/or Doubletree Hotels whose local franchise has also placed advertising on the giraffe’s dedicated landing page.

Ready to Choose Your Own Adventure?

Netflix is working on technology that will allow viewers to choose their own adventure. They are considering implementing a new interactive storytelling technology for their shows and will have actors film alternative plot segments so that viewers at home can decide the shows unfolding.

Image result for Journey Under the Sea

Much like the Choose Your Own Adventure books of our youth, viewers will be able to decide how their show develops. Some storylines will have simple and linear choices while others will be more complex. All will be handled through your remote control.

Netflix will be running a trial with children’s shows later this year. If they are successful, they will use the model for adult programs.

Image result for alternate ending meme

 

Why it’s hot: 

  1. As attention spans get shorter and shorter, we’ll see a rise in interactive content in order to keep consumers engaged and on platform.
  2. Data, data, data… by allowing consumers to interact with the content, Netflix will be gaining valuable information from consumers which will help improve their customer experience.

Mind control your Netflix

MindFlix is an experimental headband that lets wearers scroll through and select titles on the service with only their thoughts.

Wouldn’t it be great if Netflix could just read your mind and pick out the exact thing you were in the mood for? The technology’s not there yet, but if MindFlix is any indication, that future is not far off. During a 24-hour hack day, Netflix employees were tasked to come up with projects centered around the service. MindFlix is one such project, using a special brainwave-reading headband made by Muse, allows users to scroll through and select items the interface through simple head movements and thoughts. For example, once the wearer decides on what they want to watch, they simply think ‘play’ and the selection starts on screen. It does this by sensing back activity and linking it to pre-selected actions, making finding something to watch easier and faster than ever.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

We’ve been talking about Voice Recognition as a trend, but what about mind recognition? The execution here may be a little silly, but what about implications for health, emergency situations? Will there be a time where we have to recall that we used to have to touch things?

 

 

 

The “Creator Era”

With the Super Bowl just around the corner, it will be interesting to see how brands are leveraging influencers through social media to be a part of the new “creator era.”

The Super Bowl and other live events are the last vestige of a dying era of mass media. Sports–along with The Bachelor, The Voice and other major primetime events–are the few programs that remain impervious to DVR ad-skipping, as the immediacy of the live coverage is key to the viewing experience.

But does advertising on these mass outlets still make sense with increasing prices and changing consumer preferences?

Since fewer alternatives now exist to capture consumer attention en masse, the cost of the options that remain has risen quickly over the past 10 years, as referenced in Harvard Business working paper The Rising Cost of Consumer Attention. A Super Bowl ad for 2017 sells for $5 million–an effective CPM (cost per thousand impressions) of $38, quite an expensive price for the least–targeted advertising buy available.

The cost per eyeball becomes even higher when you take into account the increasingly divided nature of attention today versus 20 or even just 10 years ago. It’s been well-documented that attention spans are shorter than they once were. It’s no longer just running to the kitchen to grab a beer during the commercials, but instead diving headlong into a second-screen device.

One out of three viewers now watches part of the Super Bowl on a mobile device, and 50 percent of this group are millennials. On Super Bowl Sunday 2016, there were 200 million Facebook posts and 27 million tweets about the game. Social media conversation is an ingrained part of major live events.

Studies have shown that millennials are often blind to traditional TV ads or even have a negative perception of brands advertised. Growing up with TiVo and YouTube has conditioned many millennials to be in complete control of what they want to see and when. The result is that social media and smartphones have made millennials both followers and creators.

We deem this new age of participatory social media the “creator era.” Collaborative social engagement is a much deeper experience than the passive consumption of a TV commercial. It’s here, in social creation, where brands will have much higher attention for their marketing dollar.

Why its hot?

As digital marketers we have a challenge, engage audiences within the shortest amount of time and overcome the “second-screen syndrome.” Millennials have grown up with the a negative perception of advertisements and brands interjecting themselves into spaces where they just want to be themselves and talk to friends. They are conditioned to be in control of what they want to see and when they want to see it. Social media in particular has made them creators. To engage this audience we have to provide them with content that is experiential and not passive like TV.

It will be interesting to see how brands approach the super bowl this year.. Snickers is testing a LIVE TV sport and more attention may be put on the second screen this year than past years. In the new “creator era,” successful brands communicate awareness in a personalized manner through co-creation with influencers and advocates speaking in their voice to their audiences.

What “New Journalism” Means for Brand Content

The New York Times recently published internally, but also publicly, their mandate for a new approach to digital journalism. There are some exciting goals expressed for the publication that support what we already know as marketers, strategists and social media specialists – quality over quantity; use of more engaging and experiential digital content formats and visuals; and a clear need for social integration and audience participation with real-time reward.

To see where they are headed, check out https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/07/world/asia/rodrigo-duterte-philippines-drugs-killings.html [warning: graphic content]. The full 2020 report is here.

Why It’s Hot: A huge publisher like the Times acknowledging so forcefully this “new” reality of storytelling – rich photography and immersive design, integration of tech (like Google Maps), making UGC part of the story – is important as this will become the way more and more people expect to get their content from all publishers, including brands – especially as more and more people around the world gain access to the technology and networks needed to support the dissemination of this rich experiential content.

You may have also noticed that Medium is expressing something of a manifesto lately across their social media channels. Interesting to consider the way media is adapting and changing as we look to both work with publishers and capture their audiences for our brands. https://www.instagram.com/medium/

 

 

Amazon Launches Next-Gen QVC

stylecode2We knew it wouldn’t take Amazon too long to connect its streaming service with its shopping genius. So here it is, Style Code Live, a daily 30-minute streaming entertainment and shopping show that claims to be this generation’s answer to TV shopping. Goodbye, QVC.  Hello, content shopping.

We’ve seen social titans Pinterest and Instagram successfully play with social shopping. This evolution signifies where it’s headed. Content will no longer just be layered with connection to product and services, but will envelop simple product selling into narratives and ongoing storylines.

Using Yelp to Pass Along Recos to Navigate the Criminal Justice System

Yelp is a great place to find and share reviews for just about everything: restaurants, barbers, landscapers, even doctors. But as a recent article on The Marshall Report highlights, Yelp is now being used by people to provide commentary on navigating imprisonment… with reviews, tips and tricks from people on the inside and out.

Indeed, Yelp is becoming a significant an influential place of prison conversation. Topics run the gamut, sharing knowledge and opinions to influence how people interact with the criminal justice system. Some learnings the article highlights:

  • Requesting certain ethnic meal cards and strategies to get the best meal choice
  • Reviews of guards and protections for high-risk populations
  • Recommendations on what to do with clothing while in the shower
  • Fashion tips for visitors to make sure they will be let into visitation spaces

In cases like the last, users are using Yelp to help others. After being denied entry to the prison for clothing deemed “too tight” and “see-through” while trying to visit her brother, Victoria Ramos of California went to Yelp, as she said, to save others from the type of experience she had during her visit. “Maybe I would have went in the proper attire if I would have read a review similar to mine.”

In other cases, Yelpers on the inside are posting about their experiences to show the realities of prison life, recommend paths to advocate for yourself, and even pass along life lessons. Or as the title of the article suggests, “I reviewed jail on Yelp because I couldn’t afford a therapist.”

Why It’s Hot

As social platforms and user-generated content take more meaningful roles in our lives, instances like this use of Yelp are a reminder that the incredible accessibility of digital means people can appropriate technology for their own needs and agendas. Yelp never intended for reviews to pass along information in this manner, and yet the openness of the platform allows those niche users to use it to satisfy these needs and connect with one another. To create more meaningful connections, marketers and creators of these platforms should be probing for ways in which technology can fulfill new needs in unexpected ways.

Via The Marshall Project

How Instagram Is Changing the Way Brands Look at Photography, Online and Beyond Embracing the ‘perfectly imperfect’

Call it the “Instagram Effect”—that filtered, shadowed, sharpened, brightened, tilted, faded, structured, saturated way of seeing life through a lens. It’s changed the way people portray themselves and see others.

And it’s having the same impact on brands.

Design teams are beginning to see the benefit of moving away from over-lit, over-staged and generally over-edited photography for their campaigns and instead are favoring a more organic (albeit filtered) look and feel that matches the medium—on Instagram itself, obviously, but also in print and across an array of other media.

“We kind of call it ‘perfectly imperfect,'” said Nathan Iverson, evp and design director at Deutsch LA. “People will call you out pretty easily if your food looks overly propped or overly perfect because that’s not how it is.”

Iverson said Instagram certainly isn’t pioneering the use of effects, but it is resurrecting and evolving an old-school aesthetic. Making a photo retro or over-saturated or pushed and electric was done long before computers came along. The difference now is that analytics allow for real-time analysis of which visual styles appeal to viewers, blending art with marketing science.

Why it’s Hot:

Instagram’s influence on photography could add to the evolution of photography as people look to keep moments natural and first person view and move away from over-produced imagery.

Toyota Japan Tells the Same Story Twice in This Really Lovely Father’s Day Ad

To celebrate Father’s Day, Toyota Japan released a heartwarming ad that tells the story of a dad and daughter growing up together — from both of their perspectives.

Titled “Loving Eyes,” the video begins with a montage from the father’s point of view, as he puts a “Baby in car” sticker on his car, takes his daughter to elementary school, drives her around during her moody teen years, goes to her wedding and finally, puts that same sticker on her family car as a new mom.

The video then flips the perspective to show what his daughter sees during these same events.

“This is a story dedicated to parents and children in the world on Father’s Day,” the YouTube caption reads.

It’s an emotional ride.

 

What it’s hot:

It’s an interesting creative spin in a typical and expected messaging around father’s day and celebrating father’s.  Great example of a executional spin on common messaging.

 

Doctors code bills for payment. On October 1st, 2015, this will blow-up. Welcome to ICD-10!

ICD-10 COFUSION 5.29Ever look closely at the form the doctor or nurse gives you as you leave? There are codes that describe your specific medical reason for the visit; and thus, the specific amount of money they will be paid.

This is about to be turned on it’s head and everyone is scrambling. ICD-10 is about to cause potential chaos in our healthcare system.

Once again, government regulation is kicking into place another level of complexity for the entire healthcare system. It’s pretty straight-forward: as of October 1st, 2015, ALL doctors need to use a new coding system called ICD-10. Sounds simple enough until you realize the complexity of switching from ICD-9 to ICD-10 and how the market is reacting; it reveals both the inate fear and reminds us that as consumers we need to pay attention.

ICD-9 vs ICD-10 chart 5.29

ICD-9: 13,000 codes. ICD-10: 68,000 codes. Imagine the fear if they get it wrong. One of the leaders in electronic Health Records, Athena Health, is using this countdown (fear) with an aggressive offer (guarantee) to drive new business. Here is their guarantee:

“We take on the burden of the ICD-10 transition for our practices with a combination of continuously updated cloud-based software, including a team of experts handling payer and interface outreach and testing.  And, because we align our overall financial goals with yours, we put ourselves at risk for your resultsSee full details.”

They use a compelling video, too: http://www.athenahealth.com/guarantee/icd-10

ICD-10 Athena Hot Sauce

Why is this hot? Complexity that requires simplicity is a challenge we all face as communicators and strategists. This is a great trend to watch to see how true disruption is managed. The software mentioned in an earlier post — Sensentia — is a great example of innovation meant to remove the complexity and humanize it. Hot Sauce Sensentia page 1

 

Invisible Concert Anyone?

Billboard Magazine organized a stunt to bring music lovers back in time. The trick… they teamed up with a hypnotist!

As a way for the magazine to pay tribute to their fans, they scoured social media in order to select music lovers to participate in their stunt.

Once the fans accepted the invitation, they were met by a hypnotist that was able to get them in a state of mind to relive their favorite concerts. The result… hilarious and a genius display of share-worthy content for Billboard Magazine!

Why It’s Hot

Brands are turning to stunts and promoting them in the digital space to entertain their audiences and make their content more shareable.

Lego Keeps Facebook Content Fresh

When creating killer content for social platforms, we can get inspiration from brands like Lego that think outside the box (literally).

For this “Bring Your Child to Work Day” edition of Hot Sauce, we are looking at content created by Lego as we #MPOWER the MRM//McCANN kids for the day.

Lego created a thematically linked, ownable content series that kept engagement top of mind.

Can you guess the reference in each image below?

Lego1

lego2

 Why It’s Hot: It’s fun for everyone!

Were you able to guess all of the images? Scroll down for the answers.

 

 

 

(1) The Simpsons (2) Smurfs (3) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (4) Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (5) Little Red Riding Hood (6) The Three Little Pigs

Source: Facebook Blueprint Training

Twitter Redesigns its Homepage to Lure In New Users

Twitter launched a new homepage this week designed specially for visitors who are not logged in to an account. The redesign offers real-time content from popular Twitter accounts for a similar experience to that of users who are logged in.

Read more via Venture Beat.

Why It’s Hot: Twitter found that the number of new birds joining the flock was down and sought to fix that. The company hatched the redesigned homepage solution with the hope that if the homepage is more engaging, more visitors will sign up and become active users. Since engagement is key to growing and maintaining a user base, it’s no surprise that Twitter is trying to engage visitors to its main site.

But rather than outwardly attempt to persuade people to start tweeting, the new homepage seems like a more effective way to reach site visitors by showing them what their experience could be like. Instead of telling people what benefits they’ll enjoy by using certain products or services, just show them.

The redesigned homepage is currently only available on the desktop website and its launch is limited to the U.S., but Twitter says that it intends to bring the homepage to more places over time.

Clever Cancer PSA Stunt

Cancer Research U.K. promoted a PSA to highlight the dangers of being oblivious. I believe that there is a great message behind this because often times in ads, people don’t understand the underlying message behind them. This PSA demonstrates that people are simply missing the signs.

Why Its Hot

Sometimes people ignore the message or the purpose of what an ad is promoting. This PSA was a clever way to expose the ways that people tend to ignore the things that are right in front of them.

Imagine Dragons and Target Win the Grammys with #MoreMusic

Target took a different approach to its Grammys advertising this year. Rather than opt for a traditional 30-second spot, the brand pooled eight 30-second media buys into a single four-minute commercial: A commercial break turned into a live performance by rock group Imagine Dragons.

Target’s VP of Marketing said the #MoreMusic campaign, launched this past week on the night of the Grammy Awards, gives the fans just what they want when watching the awards show: more music! In doing so, the campaign promotes the retailer’s exclusive release of the deluxe edition of the band’s upcoming album.

#MoreMusic literally gives fans more music: During the Grammys broadcast, viewers were treated to an additional live performance during a commercial break, and fans will get exclusive bonus tracks when they purchase the album from Target.

In addition, fans are also able to unlock bonus content on Twitter by joining the conversation with #MoreMusic.

Read more via Adweek and AdAge.

Why It’s Hot: What better audience to try to sell your new album to than viewers watching the biggest night in music? Imagine Dragons and Target made history with the first ever live ad to air in real-time during the Grammys. The #MoreMusic campaign lives on in rotation the week after the awards show, when the Imagine Dragons album is set for release.

With technology booming and us marketers having to be even more creative with ad content and media, this is just one of a list of infinite possibilities of connecting a brand to the consumer.