Animal Crossing: Trouble in Paradise

It has been said that the release of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing game, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”, was perfectly timed.

With the world outside uncertain and scary, the soothing music and free game play of Animal Crossing–a franchise where players design and build their own digital islands and then invite friends to visit–is said to be the perfect soothing and social antidote.

Sales appear to back this up, with millions of units sold in its first days of release, putting it on track to sell more than any other game in the popular franchise. Further, there have been heartwarming stories of people putting real life events into the game, like the couple that had their wedding ceremony on the platform. (See pic below)

There is one problem. Unless customers are willing to buy separate Nintendo systems or games, they must share the virtual world–and its limited resources for building their islands–with other players. This has led to family fights, and relationship management, like one couple who decided to separate their island with a river in order to insure that each has control of their own portion.

Why it’s hot: 

Increase in at-home entertainment like video games is to be expected as the world hunkers down to face the coronavirus pandemic. What is less expected are the new problems these changing behaviors create.

 

Furloughed Sports Commentator Makes the Mundane Competitive

Nick Heath, a rugby announcer from London has recently been put out of a job. Yes, the novel coronavirus has put a temporary end to sports and an end to the career of an announcer. But an announcers job is never done..

Nick’s twitter has obtained viral fame as he narrates the doldrums of London.

Here’s Nick’s origin story.

Why It’s Hot?

People are looking for a moment of levity and everyone wants to feel useful! Which ways are laid off jobs a perfect fit for a current cultural need.

 

Tipping Bartenders From Home

With most bartenders currently out of work due to mandated bar closures and social distancing, consumers and companies are stepping up to help them get through this with virtual tips. The hashtag #VirtualTipJar shows how many have set up ways to donate from Venmo to GoFundMe to dedicated websites.

One of the biggest contributors so far has been Miller Lite. They announced a $1,000,000 donation to the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program set up by the United States Bartender’s Guild, and are encouraging others to donate.

Ryan Reynolds’ company Aviation Gin is also contributing to the USBG fund. Through May 1st, they will be donating 30% of all their online sales.

The Aviation Gin website also mentions that the company already “started a tab” with a $15,000 donation.

Why It’s Hot

As communities do their best to rally around those who need it most right now, it’s encouraging to see how brands are doing their part to contribute and provide ways to help.

Source

 

Tech-forward restaurant designs open-source take-out “airlock” to protect workers

The San Fransisco tech-forward restaurant Creator has made their new airlock system (for providing take-out orders during the coronavirus crisis) open source for any other businesses that need to protect their workers from the many possibly infected people coming to their locations.

Makezine:

The chamber is pressurized by a Sanyo Denki 24-volt 65CFM blower regulated by simple LM317 voltage regulator circuit. The conveyor belt feeds itself through a 5 gallon bucket of quaternary sanitizing solution. Customers can order through an intercom, and their takeaway bags are heat-sealed and labeled with a tamperproof sticker just to be extra super sanitary.

Fast Company:

“Retail workers are on the front lines, exposed to hundreds of strangers every day in enclosed spaces,” says Creator founder Alex Vardakostas. “If retail workers fall ill, they are in turn at risk of infecting delivery workers and customers. We can’t restart the economy until retail and restaurant workers are protected. They’re some of the most important people to keep virus-free.”

This falls directly in Creator’s wheelhouse, as they are known for being the first to automate the making of a fully prepared burger with the beautiful machine above. Fast-moving innovations like the airlock promote the restaurant brand as a function of doing good for their workers, which is of such concern with service workers right now, and gives customers more piece of mind as they look for safe places to procure food and have a sense of normalcy in these difficult times.

Fast Company:

The restaurant’s team has unusual engineering skills—when Creator opened in 2018, it became the first in the world to make fully prepared burgers with a robot that handles everything from slicing the bun and cooking the patty to chopping up onions and tomatoes. For customers in the current pandemic, there’s some added comfort in the fact that the process minimizes human contact; the machine even packages each burger itself. But the storefront still needs staff to get the food to customers waiting to pick it up, and last week, engineers and fabricators set to work on the new airlock-like window.

Why it’s hot:

1. The world needs fast-moving innovation right now, and there’s nothing like giving your innovation away for free to garner media recognition and positive public sentiment. The earned media from their design and their gesture will pique the interest of many, who will discover even cooler offerings coming out of the brand’s innovative approach — like a $6 gourmet burger in San Fransisco.

2. Making this design open-source may help other restaurants move quickly to implement solutions that work for them — but it mostly promotes the brand as being next-level, and getting it hyped in publications like Fast Company.

What IP do brands have that could function in a similar way, helping the public in a way that shows off their unique offerings or abilities (instead of donating money), while garnering positive sentiment and media attention?

Source: Fast Company, Makezine

How to stop facemask hoarding


Image result for taiwan flag face masks
Image result for taiwan flag face masks
Taiwan came up with a unique alternative to fend off Chinese buyers from purchasing the face masks produced in its country for protecting themselves against the deadly coronavirus.

It printed its national flag on the facemask to ensure so that no Chinese national buys it or even steals it in case of dire need, reports said.

As the number of infections and confirmed positive cases soar in China, the Chinese purchase of the face masks rapidly began to deplete the global supply.

Why its hot?
A clever (but also cruel) way to not just stop hoarding but also test the loyalty of mainland China.

Indie performing artists embracing Twitch amidst widespread tour cancellations

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

From The Verge:

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

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

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

Why it’s hot:

Artists might end up making more money

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

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

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

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

Source: The Verge

The Corona Running Boom?

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

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

Running along the Hudson River.

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

How LVMH Transitioned From Perfume to Hand Sanitizer in 72 Hours

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

The LVMH hand sanitiser rushed out amid the pandemic

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

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

Why It’s Hot

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

Source

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

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

Quarantine Cup COVID-19 2020 image 0

Screenshot of product listings on Amazon

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

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

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

Americans’ new fear: a nonexistent beer virus

As fears of a new virus called “coronavirus” spreads globally, there is also a recent spike in fear that the virus is somehow related to a popular beer brand by a similar name: Corona.

The chart below shows a dramatic increase this week on searches for “beer virus” (blue) and “corona beer virus” (red).

Story on USA Today

The beer company has not seemingly responded to the confusion or taken advantage of the opportunity to poke fun at the situation.

The U.S. is only #11 in terms of search volume for “corona beer virus” (hooray?). As far as domestic search data, the great state of West Virginia leads the way.

Maybe they’re just taking these memes too literally:

Why it’s Hot

It shows how quickly a brand can get blindsided by an event completely out of their control.