Big Auto Doubling Down on Big Data

Source: ZDNet.com

Ford’s new CEO eyes software, tech stack as differentiator vs. rivals

New Ford CEO Jim Farley’s plan for the automaker includes a heavy dose of software and services for its commercial vehicle business as well as new consumer experiences to drive loyalty.

Why It’s Hot // The convergence always-on connection and data commercialization brings a world of new opportunities to marketers and brands seeking to redefine their businesses – while also adding fuel the the fiery debate about the trade-offs between privacy and personalized experiences.

Tech and the future of transportation: From here to there

Ford, which is in the middle of a turnaround of its core business, is trying to navigate a shift to electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles as well as an industry that is increasingly more about software. Farley takes over for Jim Hackett, who streamlined the automaker over the last three years.

Farley outlined a series of leadership changes and a plan that includes “expanding its commercial vehicle business with a suite of software services that drive loyalty and recurring revenue streams” and “unleashing technology and software in ways that set Ford apart from competitors.”

In addition, Ford is looking to develop connected vehicles and create new businesses from the Argo AI self-driving system.

Ford is also looking for a new CIO as Jeff Lemmer is retiring Jan. 1. His successor will lead Ford’s technology and software platform.

The tech strategy from Farley lands after a Sept. 16 investor presentation by Kenneth Washington CTO. Washington outlined the connectivity required from smart vehicles in the future that will include 5G, satellites and edge, cloud, and fog computing.

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Washington added that Ford has hired more than 3,000 advanced computing experts to work on the tech stack and surrounding technologies including things like smart cities, mobility services, edge computing, and analytics.

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He said:

If you were to tear down a future Ford, say, 10 years from now, the biggest difference you’d see is that the software, compute and sensing services are being serviced by a central compute module. And that’s really important because that’s more like we’re accustomed to seeing with the smartphones and the smart devices that we surround ourselves in our homes with every day. So this design that you would see would enable us to really leverage the power of high bandwidth connectivity that happens around the vehicle.

In the future, vehicle changes will be handled with updates via software and algorithms instead of hardware, said Washington. These updates would start with software, but design of electrical architecture as well as shared memory and power systems for various zones of the vehicle would be critical.

Other key points about Ford’s tech stack include:

  • Ford uses QNX, Autosar and Linux to develop is operating system and tech stack.
  • The automaker builds on top of that OS with middleware from its internal software team.
  • In 2020, Ford began equipping most of its redesigned vehicles with the ability for advanced over-the-air updates.
  • The data from those updates on vehicles like the F-150 and Bronco will help Ford iterate.
  • There are 5 million Ford connected vehicles in the field today.
  • Ford sees opportunities in services to optimizes Ford fleets for small business owners.

Life Beyond the Cookie

With 3rd-party slowly-but-surely going the way of the dodo, the drive for marketers to develop data strategies that accelerate 1st-party data growth and utilization is fast becoming an existential imperative.

WHY IT’S HOT:  Relationships and Relevance will matter more than ever, as marketers of all shapes and sizes strive to survive and thrive in a fundamentally changed world. (From “nice-to-have” to “mission-critical”)

From Digiday:

‘Re-architecting the entire process’: How Vice is preparing for life after the third-party cookie

Vice Media Group pulls in 57.5 million global unique visitors a month, according to Comscore; Vice itself says it has a global audience of “more than 350 million individuals.” But only a minority of those users are logged in at any time. With third-party cookies soon to be obsolete and Apple clamping down on the free-for-all sharing of mobile IDs, Vice’s first-party data strategy aims to improve its registration process and double down on contextual ads.

In the latest example of bolstering its first-party data offering for advertisers, Vice Media Group is using a new tool from consumer reporting agency Experian and data platform Infosum.

That tool, Experian Match, those companies say, offers publishers more insights on their audiences without needing to use third-party cookies or requiring users to log in. In turn, they can offer advertisers more precision targeting options.

“What interests me the most is that there’s so much bias within data — for example, proxies to get into the definition [of an a target audience on an advertiser brief],” said Ryan Simone, Vice Media director of global audience solutions. “We are looking to eliminate bias in every instance. If a client says ‘this specific … group is what we are looking for,’ we can say on Vice — not through the proxies of third-party data or other interpretation’ that product A [should target] this content, this audience [and that’s] different from product B. It’s a much more sophisticated strategy and re-architecting the entire process.”

Publishers provide a first-party ID, IP address and timestamp data, which is matched with Experian’s own IP address and household-level socio-demographic data. This initial match is used to create the Experian Match mapping file, which is then stored in a decentralized data “bunker.” From here, all matching takes place using InfoSum’s decentralized marketing infrastructure, with publishers creating their own private and secure ”bunkers” and advertisers doing likewise, so individual personal customer data is never shared between publishers and advertisers.

Privacy and security were important considerations before committing to use the product, said Paul Davison, Vice Media Group vice president of agency development, for international in statement. But, he added, “Those concerns are solved instantly as no data has to be moved between companies.”

As for login data, Vice’s user registration process is fairly basic and doesn’t offer users much explanation about the benefits they will receive if they do so. Updating that is a work in progress, said Simone.

“There will be a lot more front-facing strategy” for encouraging sign-ups, he said. “We are looking to create greater value …. for our users.” (The company also collects first-party data through newsletters and experiential events, such as those held —pre-covid, at least — by Refinery29.)

Vice has worked with contextual intelligence platform Grapeshot long before it was acquired by Oracle in 2018. Beyond offering advertisers large audiences around marquee segments like “fashion” or “music,” Vice has begun working more recently to open up more prescriptive subsegments — like “jewelry” for example.

“People are scared to send out smaller audiences — but I’d rather provide something that’s exact. Opening that up provides greater insights,” especially when layered with first-party data sets gleaned through partnerships like Experian and Infosum, said Simone.  Vice might not have a wealth of content around high fashion, for example, but consumers of a particular fashion house might still visit the site to read about politics or tech.

“Contextual has evolved and with the absence of the third-party cookie it’s all the more significant,” said Simone.

Publishers’ biggest differentiating features for advertisers are their audiences and the context within their ads will sit, said Alessandro De Zanche, founder of media consultancy ADZ Strategies.

“If they really want to progress and be more in control, publishers need to go back to the basics: rebuilding trust with the audience, being transparent, educating the audience on why they should give you consent — that’s the very first — then building on top of that,” De Zanche said.

“With all the technical changes and privacy regulations, if a publisher doesn’t rebuild the relationship and interaction with its audience, it will just be like trying to Sellotape their way forward.”

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.

Hands-free@Home

COVID-19 pandemic pushing sales of voice control devices

Sales of voice control devices are expected to experience a boom in growth, thanks to people being locked down and working from home. This is also expected to fuel growth in the broader ecosystem of smart home devices – as instructions to minimize contact with objects that haven’t been disinfected, make things like connected light switches, thermostats and door locks more appealing than ever.

Why It’s Hot:  A critical mass of device penetration and usage will undoubtedly make this a more meaningful platform for brands and marketers to connect and engage with consumers.

With so many millions of people working from home, the value of voice control during the pandemic will ensure that this year, voice control device shipments will grow globally by close to 30% over 2019–despite the key China market being impacted during the first quarter of 2020, according to global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.

Woman Preparing Meal At Home Asking Digital Assistant Question

Last year, 141 million voice control smart home devices shipped worldwide, the firm said. Heeding the advice to minimize COVID-19 transmission from shared surfaces, even within a home, will help cement the benefits of smart home voice control for millions of consumers, ABI Research said.

“A smarter home can be a safer home,” said Jonathan Collins, ABI research director, in a statement. “Key among the recommendations regarding COVID-19 protection in the home is to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas,” such as tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, and sinks.

Voice has already made significant inroads into the smart home space, Collins said. Using voice control means people can avoid commonly touched surfaces around the home from smartphones, to TV remotes, light switches, thermostats, door handles, and more. Voice can also be leveraged for online shopping and information gathering, he said.

When used in conjunction with other smart home devices, voice brings greater benefits, Collins said.

“Voice can be leveraged to control and monitor smart locks to enable deliveries to be placed in the home or another secure location directly or monitored securely on the doorstep until the resident can bring them in,” he said.

Similarly, smart doorbells/video cameras can also ensure deliveries are received securely without the need for face-to-face interaction or exposure, he added. “Such delivery capabilities are especially valuable for those already in home quarantine or for those receiving home testing kits,” Collins said.

He believes that over the long term, “voice control will continue to be the Trojan horse of smart home adoption.” Right now, the pandemic is part of the additional motivation and incentive for voice control in the home to help drive awareness and adoption for a range of additional smart home devices and applications, Collins said.

“Greater emphasis and understanding, and above all, a change of habit and experience in moving away from physical actuation toward using voice in the home will support greater smart home expansion throughout individual homes,” he said. “A greater emphasis on online shopping and delivery will also drive smart home device adoption to ensure those deliveries are securely delivered.”

The legacy of COVID-19 will be that the precautions being taken now will continue for millions of people who are bringing new routines into their daily lives in and around their homes and will for a long time to come, Collins said.

“Smart home vendors and system providers can certainly emphasize the role of voice and other smart home implementations to improve the day-to-day routines within a home and the ability to minimize contact with shared surfaces, as well as securing and automating home deliveries.”

Additionally, he said there is value in integrating smart home monitoring and remote health monitoring with a range of features, such as collecting personal health data points like temperature, activity, and heart rate, alongside environmental data such as air quality and occupancy. This can “help in the wider response and engagement for smart city health management,” Collins said.

Source: TechRepublic

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.

Getty

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.

Inside Amazon’s plan for Alexa to run your entire life

The creator of the famous voice assistant dreams of a world where Alexa is everywhere, anticipating your every need.

Speaking with MIT Technology Review, Rohit Prasad, Alexa’s head scientist, revealed further details about where Alexa is headed next. The crux of the plan is for the voice assistant to move from passive to proactive interactions. Rather than wait for and respond to requests, Alexa will anticipate what the user might want. The idea is to turn Alexa into an omnipresent companion that actively shapes and orchestrates your life. This will require Alexa to get to know you better than ever before.

In June at the re:Mars conference, he demoed [view from 53:54] a feature called Alexa Conversations, showing how it might be used to help you plan a night out. Instead of manually initiating a new request for every part of the evening, you would need only to begin the conversation—for example, by asking to book movie tickets. Alexa would then follow up to ask whether you also wanted to make a restaurant reservation or call an Uber.

A more intelligent Alexa

Here’s how Alexa’s software updates will come together to execute the night-out planning scenario. In order to follow up on a movie ticket request with prompts for dinner and an Uber, a neural network learns—through billions of user interactions a week—to recognize which skills are commonly used with one another. This is how intelligent prediction comes into play. When enough users book a dinner after a movie, Alexa will package the skills together and recommend them in conjunction.

But reasoning is required to know what time to book the Uber. Taking into account your and the theater’s location, the start time of your movie, and the expected traffic, Alexa figures out when the car should pick you up to get you there on time.

Prasad imagines many other scenarios that might require more complex reasoning. You could imagine a skill, for example, that would allow you to ask your Echo Buds where the tomatoes are while you’re standing in Whole Foods. The Buds will need to register that you’re in the Whole Foods, access a map of its floor plan, and then tell you the tomatoes are in aisle seven.

In another scenario, you might ask Alexa through your communal home Echo to send you a notification if your flight is delayed. When it’s time to do so, perhaps you are already driving. Alexa needs to realize (by identifying your voice in your initial request) that you, not a roommate or family member, need the notification—and, based on the last Echo-enabled device you interacted with, that you are now in your car. Therefore, the notification should go to your car rather than your home.

This level of prediction and reasoning will also need to account for video data as more and more Alexa-compatible products include cameras. Let’s say you’re not home, Prasad muses, and a Girl Scout knocks on your door selling cookies. The Alexa on your Amazon Ring, a camera-equipped doorbell, should register (through video and audio input) who is at your door and why, know that you are not home, send you a note on a nearby Alexa device asking how many cookies you want, and order them on your behalf.

To make this possible, Prasad’s team is now testing a new software architecture for processing user commands. It involves filtering audio and visual information through many more layers. First Alexa needs to register which skill the user is trying to access among the roughly 100,000 available. Next it will have to understand the command in the context of who the user is, what device that person is using, and where. Finally it will need to refine the response on the basis of the user’s previously expressed preferences.

Why It’s Hot:  “This is what I believe the next few years will be about: reasoning and making it more personal, with more context,” says Prasad. “It’s like bringing everything together to make these massive decisions.”

You can still be a Toys ‘R’ Us Kid

Toys ‘R’ Us back… sort-of…

uncaptioned

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

 

Orwellabama? Crimson Tide Track Locations to Keep Students at Game

Coach Nick Saban gets peeved at students leaving routs early. An app ties sticking around to playoff tickets, but also prompts concern from students and privacy watchdogs.

The Alabama football coach, has long been peeved that the student section at Bryant-Denny Stadium empties early. So this season, the university is rewarding students who attend games — and stay until the fourth quarter — with an alluring prize: improved access to tickets to the SEC championship game and to the College Football Playoff semifinals and championship game, which Alabama is trying to reach for the fifth consecutive season.

But to do this, Alabama is taking an extraordinary, Orwellian step: using location-tracking technology from students’ phones to see who skips out and who stays. “It’s kind of like Big Brother,” said Allison Isidore, a graduate student in religious studies from Montclair, N.J.

It also seems inevitable in an age when tech behemoths like Facebook, Google and Amazon harvest data from phones, knowing where users walk, what they watch and how they shop. Alabama isn’t the only college tapping into student data; the University of North Carolina uses location-tracking technology to see whether its football players and other athletes are in class.

Greg Byrne, Alabama’s athletic director, said privacy concerns rarely came up when the program was being discussed with other departments and student groups. Students who download the Tide Loyalty Points app will be tracked only inside the stadium, he said, and they can close the app — or delete it — once they leave the stadium. “If anybody has a phone, unless you’re in airplane mode or have it off, the cellular companies know where you are,” he said.

But Adam Schwartz, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy watchdog, said it was “very alarming” that a public university — an arm of the government — was tracking its students’ whereabouts.

“Why should packing the stadium in the fourth quarter be the last time the government wants to know where students are?” Schwartz said, adding that it was “inappropriate” to offer an incentive for students to give up their privacy. “A public university is a teacher, telling students what is proper in a democratic society.”

The creator of the app, FanMaker, runs apps for 40 colleges, including Clemson, Louisiana State and Southern California, which typically reward fans with gifts like T-shirts. The app it created for Alabama is the only one that tracks the locations of its students. That Alabama would want it is an example of how even a powerhouse program like the Crimson Tide is not sheltered from college football’s decline in attendance, which sank to a 22-year low last season.

The Tide Loyalty Points program works like this: Students, who typically pay about $10 for home tickets, download the app and earn 100 points for attending a home game and an additional 250 for staying until the fourth quarter. Those points augment ones they garner mostly from progress they have made toward their degrees — 100 points per credit hour. (A regular load would be 15 credits per semester, or 1,500 points.)

The students themselves had no shortage of proposed solutions.

“Sell beer; that would keep us here,” said Harrison Powell, a sophomore engineering major from Naples, Fla.

“Don’t schedule cupcakes,” said Garrett Foster, a senior management major from Birmingham, referring to Alabama’s ritually soft non-conference home schedule, which this year includes Western Carolina, Southern Mississippi and New Mexico State. (Byrne has set about beefing it up, scheduling home-and-home series with Texas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, but those don’t start until 2022.)

In the meantime, there is also time for students to solve their own problems, which is, after all, the point of going to college. An Alabama official figured it would not be long before pledges are conscripted to hold caches of phones until the fourth quarter so their fraternity brothers could leave early.

“Without a doubt,” said Wolf, the student from Philadelphia. “I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s the first game. There will be workarounds for sure.”

As for whether the app, with its privacy concerns, early bugs and potential loopholes, will do its job well enough to please Saban was not a subject he was willing to entertain as the sun began to set on Saturday. He was looking ahead to the next opponent: South Carolina.

 

Why It’s Hot:  

Another example of a brand/institution using gamification to influence behavior, this takes it a step further – pushing towards the edge of the privacy conversation, and perhaps leading us all to consider what might be an acceptable “exchange rate” for personal information.

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.”

Cadbury Chocolate Feeds the Malnourished

In the Philippines, where almost one third of children under five are malnourished, the Cadbury has created a chocolate bar without milk, the Generosity Bar, and is donating the glass and a half to children in need.

The Generosity Bar launched at a pop-up store in a popular Manila mall and for every candy bar purchased, Cadbury redirects the forgone milk to malnourished children through its partnership with NGO Reach Out Feed Philippines.

So far 200,000 glasses of milk have been donated to Filipino children.

Other chocolate brands might struggle to form a meaningful partnership with a malnutrition charity, but Cadbury found a way to make this initiative feel natural and relevant. Rather than use its packaging and platform to just draw attention to the Philippines’ child malnutrition problem or encouraging consumers to make donations, Cadbury enabled its customers to donate simply by buying the product: a win-win for Cadbury, the children and the consumers.

Why it’s hot:

CSR has become a hot topic in the advertising world, but doing it right isn’t always easy as many times brands sometimes lack the ability to put others first. This is a great example of a brand wholly dedicating itself to a cause and providing an easy way for its customers to participate and give back by doing something they already do, eat chocolate.

Source: Glass half full – Contagious I/O

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Expands “Love Notes” to Even More Children

Last year, the Kellogg cereal brand teamed up with the National Federation of the Blind to create specialized “Love Notes” with phrases like “You’ve Got This” to “Love You Lots” written in braille for parents to share with children who are blind. Now Rice Krispies is continuing its mission with a new kind of love note, one designed with children living with autism or on the autism spectrum.

Since not every child communicates love through words, the cereal company partnered with Autism Speaks to create touch-and-feel sensory “Love Notes” so children can actually feel love and support as they transition back to school. The four “lightly reusable” stickers come in a range of supposedly calming colors and different textures, including fleece, faux fur, satin, and velour for sensory-focused kids to feel the love through a tactile experience.

Why it’s hot:
Kellogg’s expansion of its “Love Notes” write-able wrappers demonstrates the brand’s commitment to all parents – providing an otherwise under served audience (parents with children with autism and children who are blind) – helping them provide their children with love and support anywhere they are. They found a simple way to make love notes meaningful to any child.

Sources: Fast Company, Kellogg’s Love Notes

Weed Gets A Museum

Weed, ganja, grass, herb, whatever you call it, has had a multi-century smear campaign leveled against it, but its time in the golden spotlight of acceptability is nigh.

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in key states across the country, cannabis is poised for its big-business debut. And those investing in weed today hope it will become as big as Budweiser. A new kind of bud! (I couldn’t help myself.)

But getting to those household-name numbers requires normalizing a substance that’s historically been presented as a tool of the devil to lure hapless souls into eternal hellfire – or at least make them lazy and braindead – or worse, jam-band groupies!

Devil's Harvest marijuana propoganda

What better way to normalize and educate than by pairing weed with one of our most distinguished institutions of learning and culture: the museum? It’s propaganda for the good guys!

Weedmaps, the Seamless/Yelp/Google Maps of cannabis, has employed the Museum Of (Interesting Thing That Doesn’t Belong In A Regular Museum trend to help establish itself as the thought leader in the cannabis space and break down misconceptions about weed in the process.

Why it’s hot

1. Weedmaps is mainstreaming marijuana by putting its product in the same arena as other very legit things found in museums, such as history, science and art. Duchamp would be proud.

2. Never are you more primed to learn than when you’re immersed in an experience.

3. Most people attending the museum are probably already advocates for weed legalization. This will give them fuel and facts to spread the word more.

Source: Fast Company

Burger King Trolls McDonalds, Gets 1 Million App Downloads.

The Art of the Troll. #Petty

Burger King got national attention this week for offering 1-cent Whoppers to those who drove up to a McDonald’s location (and then, presumably, drove away to redeem their BK coupons). Key to the stunt was the brand’s smartphone app, which unlocked the offer when it detected users approaching within 600 feet of a McDonald’s.

The “Whopper Detour” sent customers to a rival’s doorstep, and it worked, in terms of both publicity and app downloads.

Burger King today said its app was downloaded more than 1 million times since Whopper Detour launched on Tuesday, and the app is currently No. 1 among free software in the Apple App Store. That puts Burger King’s app, for now at least, above app giants like YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Amazon.

(The McDonald’s app, in case you’re curious, is currently at No. 42.)

Why It’s Hot:

Brands trolling other brands has become a sure fire way to go viral, this uses brand trolling in conjunction with location based apps to drive people to a competitor and it worked to drive sales and app downloads.

 

Source: AdWeek https://www.adweek.com/creativity/after-trolling-mcdonalds-burger-kings-app-was-downloaded-1-million-times-and-hit-no-1/ 

Increased Use of Point of Care Tactics Offer Opportunity For Better In-office Experience

MM&M announced this week that “up to 20% of pharma brands are moving digital media spend to point-of-care tactics” which was grounded in a study fielded by ZS Associates. To a certain extent, this is unsurprising as many forms of digital media such as social and display continue to face increasing scrutiny around the topic of ad fraud.

This will have an impact on two key audiences in healthcare marketing – patients and providers – which if well thought through, should be overwhelmingly positive.

Phreesia Patient Intake Platform

Patients

Platforms such as Phreesia offer patients the opportunity to engage with content as part of the intake process. The biggest challenge here will be placements that are relevant to the specific patient as there is a potential to spend effort on poor placements. Case in point; when I took my son to the pediatrician for his flu shot this year, I was offered the opportunity to “Learn More” about a branded product. The only thing I can recall about the brand is that is had nothing to do with why I was there and wouldn’t be appropriate for my son. Contextual relevance will be critical to success in these moments.

epocrates advertising platform from athenahealth

Providers

HCPs, particularly PCPs, are the target of massive amounts of marketing. Overwhelming is an understatement here. When you consider the necessity of staying abreast of current trends and new therapies, to a certain extent, they need to be exposed to these messages. However, when it’s all said and done, the moment that matters is when the Rx decision is made. The opportunity to be a relevant part of that moment as part of the HCPs workflow in the EHR/EMR offers pharma companies an incredible opportunity. When you consider the number of drugs that don’t have the budget for mass DTC advertising, the HCP really is the decision maker in the therapy of choice.

Why It’s Hot

While contextual relevance for audiences is improving and offers plenty of potential, the real win will be when a brand can own the conversation across the moments in an office visit.

Consider a diabetes patient checking in for a check-up who is offered a message around potential therapy they may be eligible with a DTC ad based upon key factors pulled through from their EHR.

Then, at the end of the appointment, the HCP if offered a targeted message in the EHR with a savings offer the patient can print and take with them.

With brands doubling down on these POC channels, we have the opportunity to take the in-office experience to new levels.

Name That Tune

We’re so used to the apps we use every day just working. When Twitter or Facebook or Google go down, everybody panics! But what happens if our favorite apps simply forgot what they were supposed to be doing.

Alzheimer’s Research U.K., agency Innocean Worldwide U.K. brought a horribly human attribute to Shazam—the ability to forget.

“The Day Shazam Forgot” was a collaboration in which Shazam appeared to have trouble remembering the songs people asked it to identify. When the app finally “remembered” the track, users were driven to a call to action about Alzheimer’s disease and invited to donate to the cause.

The campaign also used Shazam’s existing Shazam Again feature to promote its message.

The effort ran through the month of April in the U.K. In mere hours, the agency says, “The Day Shazam Forgot” yielded 2,018,206 impressions, with 5,096 visitors visiting the Alzheimer’s Research U.K. donation page. (Hopefully they remembered their credit card information.)

Why Its Hot

It can be difficult for nonprofits with a singular focus to find marketing opportunities within existing apps. Finding the right audience is one challenge, but so is fitting your message in a way that actually makes sense.

This is a great example of cause marketing and the types of engagements you can create when the right partnership presents itself.

Beyond The Pill is moving to Game On!

Can conservative Pharma companies becomes Gamers? Although a large investment by Merck and AMGEN was announced several months ago, the repercussions are now being felt. This could help open up the long pent-up demand for innovation by Pharma manufacturers.

The investment news came last summer, as quoted in FierceBiotech: “Akili Interactive Labs, the Boston-based startup developing nonpharmacological therapeutics for various cognitive disorders like autism and Alzheimer’s disease, got an $11.9 million boost in funding, raising its total Series B proceeds to $42.4 million.” Basically, they use gamification to improve cognitive function.

Recently, the new Pharma and gamer partners announced their first accomplishment, EVO, the game:

The first game application for children with a cognitive disorder has proven highly effective. This gives the marketers a differentiating aspect to their Rx. Being a fact-based industry, this is big news.

Why is this hot?

  • The terms “Beyond The Pill” has become the industries code for “innovation” — trying to offer some technology or service to make their drug stand-out in the minds of doctors and consumers. “Innovation” is a word that is intensely frightening to most Pharma marketers. For several years, as more and more blockbusters (drugs with sales over $1 billion) become generics (70% of ALL drugs are now generics), Pharma has been haphazardly explored partnerships and technologies, but has often failed due to cultural entropy and conservatism in the C-suite. This is a first.
  • Change needs to come from the C-suite: $11 million is a lot of money, especially for an industry so conservative and ROI-obsessed.  Every company, even MRM-McCann clients, are looking for ways to engage patients from clinical trials through drug adherence — the entire product lifecycle.
  • I have been “selling” into one of our Pharma clients an Artificial Intelligence platform from a company that did Sgt Star on the U.S. Army site; we have had several meetings to try and issue AI as their Beyond The Pill strategy for launch of a new ADHD drug; this success with Akili may make that path easier.

Can 4/20 Be the Healthiest Day of the Year?

When people think about 4/20, they’re probably not thinking of healthy activities, but cannabis health and wellness company, Hmbldt wants to change that—with the help of their products, of course.

The company’s product line consists of vape pens that are designed to distribute controlled hits of cannabis designed to help to alleviate common ailments such as pain and insomnia — without getting its consumers high.

Yesterday, the company rolled out “GO420,” a social effort that will highlight 420 healthy ways to enjoy April 20 via the hashtag #GO420. Gifs and videos offer tips like “Go make a dream come true,” “Go take a pottery class,” “Go tell your partner you love them,” “Go do push-ups in the park,” “Go tell your partner a sexy secret.”

Why It’s Hot

  • Putting the consumer first by leveraging what is likely their biggest moment and making it about personal health rather than buying a product.
  • Campaigns like this create excellent affinity and lifelong ambassadors for a brand.

Wendy’s, servin’ up sass since 1969.

Wendy’s is super funny on Twitter. Their content is very streamlined and brand conscious but their 1:1 engagement is not.

A while ago Wendy’s was roasting everyone.

But a few days ago they going into a tiff with Hardees.

Why its hot

  • Wendy’s engaging with their fans is one thing, but now they’re sassing a HUGE food chain.
  • As social strategists its important to know when to engage and whether or not it makes sense for your brand.
  • Will this backfire? How did they get approval? So many questions…

http://www.businessinsider.com/this-wendys-hardees-twitter-fight-is-going-viral-2017-4

What is better? Doctor as authority or shared decision-making?

The Wall street Journal ran a piece this week about the power of shared decision-making and the impact it has on patient satisfaction, cost savings and healthier outcomes. While it was a simple and positive report, the findings are radical in that it is another herald of the transforming healthcare system.

Why is this important? Take Mass General, rated the #1 Hospital in the entire U.S. last year. They are not just doing one thing right to make the healthcare system work better for all, but they are doing neatly everything right. The hospital — and many others — have come to realize that the old model of “Doctor-as-authority-figure” does not really work any more — patients don’t feel in control, they often regret decisions, and last, they often end up NOT following the doctor’s orders and stop taking their medication, the impact of which is said to be over $200 billion in lost productivity every year.

Enter shared decision-making, which has had a radical impact on patient satisfaction. This visual aid is used to help patients make cancer treatment decisions:

Why is this hot? Because this heralds a major shift in a decades-old communication model, one that the entire U.S. society incorporated into their medical relationship with their doctor and thus, their health. This shared decision-making is not a mandate, but common sense; but even common sense in this case is a disruptor of the doctor-as-authority, which is how doctors are trained and inculcated into their own mindset. Radical that the doctor cedes this control; radical that the patient engages in complex decisions and comes away satisfied.

So, for Mass General, the results have been dramatic:

 

 

 

 

Visualizing Stuff In Space

Stuff In Space is a real-time 3D map of objects in Earth’s orbit. The website updates daily and uses satellite.js javascript library to calculate satellite positions.

There are tons of satellites, spacecraft parts, and debris out there, just circling the earth until someone does something about it. You can scroll to zoom in and out, and drag to rotate your view of earth and its surroundings. Mouseover to find the name of an object, and you might be able to look it up somewhere. The menu at the top left allows you to sort objects by type.

Why it’s Hot

  1. Interactive visualizations are great to illustrate otherwise unfathomable amounts of information
  2. The immersive experience, allowing users to explore and learn, keeps people engaged

 

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/

 

 

Crowdsourcing donations in wake of election is gaining traction on your newsfeed and in Silicon Valley

Raising money for causes online is nothing new, but as political unrest has risen in recent weeks, causes like the ACLU are benefitting from private citizens starting grassroots fundraisers across social networks, and gaining traction from heavy hitters in Silicon Valley.

Just as the Pussyhat Project gained millions of followers to gear up for the January 21st Women’s Marches around the world, in the wake of the election powerful grassroots movements are forming by private citizens, using the tools most readily accessible to them to speak out, organize, and recruit followers.

Why It’s Hot: 

As marketers, it’s crucial to pay attention not only to the macro-trends and cultural movements of our communities, but also to how regular people are using the tools available to them (namely, in this case, social media) to take political and philanthropic action in this time of rapid change.

Friskies Long Form Commercial Kills

I don’t know if anyone else has seen this ad, but Friskies has been running this ad on YouTube and is not only hilarious (well, hopefully it’s funny to all of you!) but engaging.  The POV is an older cat giving a kitten advice on different things in life.  The video is almost 4 minutes long, and is skippable very early on (when shown as pre-roll).  My husband, who HATES ads, laughed with me through the whole thing, not ever asking if we could skip.

Why It’s Hot

1.) Smart way to put a brand message out.  The video doesn’t push the brand too much, but you see just enough to know it’s for Friskies

2.) Engaging: Whoever made the ad ensured that it was funny enough to engage people to watch the whole thing.  It was posed one week ago and already has over 2.2MM views.

3.) Interesting use of a YouTube brand channel: Friskies is posting a bunch of “Dear Kitten” videos in this series.  Being part crazy cat lady, I subscribed… the videos are entertaining!

The Art of Shaving

Amit is 44 years old. He has a mother, a father, a twin sister, a wife, and two kids. He also has a beard, which he’s had for the past 14 years.

An Israeli agency (BBR Saatchi & Saatchi) made a short film titled “My New Face,” where they had Amit uses a Life M6 razorblade to shave off his beard. Then they filmed the reactions of his family – including his children, who have never seen their father without a beard.

The idea for the film originated with an agency staffer who recalled that as a child, he did not immediately recognize his father after he shaved off his trademark beard.

Why it’s hot:

I thought this was an excellent use of pathos. The film was funny and touching, and unlike any razorblade ad I’ve seen from companies like Gillette. The film is not trying to sell you a product, it’s offering you the chance to transform yourself. As Gianatasio states in the article, “the film does a fine job of boosting the brand by transforming a basic consumer good into an almost mystical agent of change.”

Source

YouTube Launches 360-Degree Video Ads

Bud Light became the first advertiser in the United States to launch a 360-degree video running in YouTube TrueView ads. The company’s ads for its “Whatever USA” campaign focus on three events that took place during a takeover of Catalina Island off the coast of southern California. Bud Light’s immersive ads drop you right in the middle of the action, including a performance by Diplo, the welcome parade, and the “Turn of An Era” 1920s themed party.

There are opportunities in this video content tool for a variety of brands. Realtors, for example, can use the format to highlight the interior of a home. Car manufacturers can show off the inside of an automobile. Advertisers like Coca-Cola, Nike and Bud Light can create memorable and immersive branded experiences.

Chrome, Android and iOS support the feature, which originally gained support from Google in March. Users can navigate through the 360-degree video by clicking on the wheel at the top left of the image with their mouse if on a desktop, as well as tilting their mobile phone up, down, left, and right.

Why It’s Hot

According to Google, these 360-degree video ads have higher view-through rates than standard video ads. For example, Coca-Cola’s 360 video had 36% higher view-through rates than standard videos. With the implementation of new technology on YouTube’s platform like 360-degree videos as well as virtual reality (i.e. Google Cardboard), there is even more potential for brands to connect with consumers in meaningful ways.

Source

Museum Takes Its Collection to the Streets | Guerrilla + Social Marketing Campaign | #ArtInsideOut

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is sharing it’s art collection in neighborhoods throughout the Philadelphia region as part of the Inside Out Exhibition.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art Inside Out fosters spontaneous interactions with art and adds to the beauty and vitality of local communities. Find a surprise at every turn, share on social media with dedicated hashtag, #ArtInsideOut, and come see the original artworks at your Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Philadelphia Museum of Art Twitter | @philamuseum

Philadelphia Museum of Art Twitter | @philamuseum

This summer and fall, sixty high-quality replicas of Museum masterpieces will find their way into communities around the region. Each participating neighborhood will feature about ten artworks within a short distance of each other. Walk through the park, hop on a bike, or meander down Main Street through each exciting outdoor exhibition.

 

Inside Out will be presented in two cycles.Art2

Mid-May–August

To see what artwork is featured in each community, explore the maps below.

Residents from participating this summer will receive free general admission to the Museum from Friday, July 17, through Sunday, July 19, 2015. To gain free entry to the Museum that weekend, go to any Visitor Services desk and present your driver’s license or an ID card that lists one of these zip codes.his

Late August–mid-November
  • Locations: Fishtown and Kensington, Philadelphia // Ambler, PA // Norristown, PA // Wayne, PA // West Chester, PA

Why It’s HOT// It nails the very core of why guerrilla marketing is so effective. The campaign is completely unexpected, rooted in goodwill, and drives people to the museum with the offer of free admission. The dedicated hashtag and social component brings the entire campaign online even offering forms for registration for 2016.

Brainwave Headset Lets Travelers Fly to their Dream Destination

In a recent marketing campaign, S7 Airlines gave consumers with the opportunity to win free tickets to their dream destinations—provided they could think hard enough about their desired destination.
Brainwave Headset Lets Travelers Fly to their Dream Destination
The “Fly to any place you can imagine” campaign provided over 250 participants drawn from the crowds at the bustling Afimall City mall in Moscow, the opportunity to win free plane tickets to the destination of their choice.
Participants were asked to choose their destination, explain their rationale, and focus very hard on it, in order to guide the on-screen plane along the flight-plan whilst hooked to an EEG-brainwave headset right out of the annals of sci-fi. If the plane was able to reach the destination in 45 seconds, that zen master was then offered free tickets to that same location.

 

Why this is hot?  From a technology standpoint, this puts consumers in control of the experience. Imagine the consequences for the entertainment industry. What if we can create our own movies or change plots, based on our thoughts?

Source: psfk.com

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.