Email, news, shopping, browsing, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. Armed with smartphones, we’re perpetually somewhere else and less & less, in the moment. Even with friends sitting two feet away, we can’t resist grabbing the phone to check on something.
But for every movement, one runs counter – and this week we saw two brands move to combat this irresistible need to remain connected.
First, Brazilian beer maker Polar are fighting technology with technology by encouraging the public to Share a Polar Beer, not a link. They’ve created a state-of-the-art beer cooler which completely disables all phone signals within a 1.5 metre radius. It’s an all out assault on our connected worlds, placing the brand powerfully at the heart of human interaction. [Watch].
And Coca-Cola are driving home the sentiment. They refer to the real world as ‘the thing that happens when you run out of battery”. To experience that world more often, they have introduced a new product called the Social-Media Guard - something that effectively reduces us to the status of dogs that can’t resist scratching an itch. But by way of reprieve, they emotively point out that if you look up from your phone, there’s probably someone special you can share a real moment with, in person. [Watch].
We live in a paradox where despite being more connected than ever, human interactions are perhaps suffering. That presents a great opportunity for brands.
Mobile payments and mobile loyalty have proven tough nuts to crack. But it’s not for want of trying, and two retailers here in the UK are determined to shape the future, right now.
After its innovative checkout system debut in Starbucks last year, digital payments company Square is back in the news. This time it’s working with Whole Foods, in a deal that will see the rollout of instore iPad-based ‘Square Stands’. The versatile points of sale will be popping up everywhere including coffee bars, sandwich counters and juice bars, in a bid to dramatically reduce waiting time for customers. Better still, if customers install the Square app, they can check-out through their smartphone, without swiping a debit card. Cool.
One of the problems for mobile payments to date, is that no single solution is winning through. That won’t be helped by the announcement that Weve and Eat are to trial a new mobile loyalty scheme, called Pouch. Pouch is designed to eliminate the need to carry physical loyalty cards, but is also integrated with iBeacon technology, meaning a consumer’s location can be tracked through in-store markers, and tailored messages can be pushed to them automatically. Very cool.
Having recently partnered with Mastercard to bring ‘mobile tapping’ payments to the UK market, Weve are pulling out all the stops to optimise the consumer shopping experience. Leaders?
The advent of the quantified self, or LifeLogging as it’s being re-packaged, has made wearable technology a preserve not only of tech-geeks, but potentially mass markets. But we’ve long felt that wearable technology will grow out of utility rather than novelty. As Samsung demonstrated with their failed Galaxy Gear smartwatch, producing the right hardware isn’t easy.
This week, we saw an interesting approach to wearables in the shape of Nex, which might help change our view. Targeted primarily at teens, Nex takes inspiration from charm bracelets with users able to add modules of technology, specific to their needs. This ‘console for the wrist’ works with a variety of add-on Mod charms, customisable to the likes of Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter, with lighting & notifications. Users can mix & match between charms to achieve different objectives: gaming, social media, texts/calls or fitness, and trade with friends. The wristband can also detect when fellow wearers are nearby, making them physically social, too. Take a [Look].
The targeting of teens, a key future market for wearables could just be a shrewd move. As a smaller hardware manufacturer the odds may be against this particular venture – not even a picture of a teen jumping changes that – but if it’s cheap, accessible, and gives teens the chance to express their personalities, maybe it’s got a chance…
We were interested to hear of a new data company this week, who have a fairly radical proposal.
Datacoup want you to ‘reclaim your personal data’ – and then sell it to them, for the princely sum of $8 per month. They’ll anonymise the data and sell it to advertisers, who can look for trends in that data and of course, send out highly personalised advertising. The company wants access not only to your social media networks, but also your financial transactions – something that may have any potential audience concerned about privacy.
We expect to see similar models develop in the future, particularly as consumers get a better understanding of the value of their data – and how it is used. One to keep an eye on.
We saw three creative uses of social media in the last week, that we thought worth sharing.
First, Dallas Pets Alive, a pet shelter in the US, have put together a potent combination of the social media trends photobombing, selfies, and animals, by photoshopping furry critters into the selfies of famous Instagrammers. ‘Muttbombing’ targets have included high profile ex-Dallas residents Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus, and it’s all in an effort to advertise dogs looking for a new home. It’s subtly smart; targeting influencers to raise awareness, by helping people imagine what their selfies might look like if they were a pet owner: [watch].
The pet shelter was not alone in using Instagram creatively. Launching Tom Hoyle’s new novel, Macmillan Children’s Books have used the platform to engage with their teen audience by launching an equivalent Instagram story in which they determine the outcome. When users touch the image, two tags appear with options on how to progress the narrative. It’s cleverly pieced together with a maze of images, and is well worth checking out – search out @thirteenbook and play. NB, only works on the smartphone app.
And how about this, from McDonald’s? They’ve hit Snapchat in style.
Using their social channels to publicise their Snapchat account, they’ve had the likes of basketball superstar Lebron James drip-feeding teaser videos to their ‘friends’, with the climactic reveal of… their New Bacon Clubhouse. It’s fun, and we’re happy seeing brands jumping onto the platform and being creative.
Facebook have claimed to be ‘mobile first’ for a while now, but their purchase of WhatsApp for a cool $19bn adds a little weight.
The news received a predictably mixed response with many users immediately expressing concerns about ads, and privacy: what will Facebook do with their WhatsApp data? But anyone who knew anything of WhatsApp founder Jan Koum before the deal, won’t have been worried. He is famously, vehemently anti-advertising. He hates it. So according to Koum the app won’t run advertising of any kind – that’s despite ads following Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in 2012. Further, Koum has insisted that this is a ‘partnership, not an acquisition’ and that WhatsApp will continue to work independently, same as usual. WhatsApp’s value to Facebook is of course strategic: it is a cavernous universe of intimate data which Facebook will hope to use to improve targeting on their ad platforms.
That’s a notion which has triggered another series of concerns surrounding privacy. EU watchdogs have already called for more information about how users’ data will be used, particularly what access the giant will now have to our phone books….
Burberry have become famous for their creative use of new digital platforms, and their latest effort on the messager app WeChat continues the theme.
For this year’s London Fashion Week, the brand took the show to their growing international audience in China by offering the chance to grab personalised content ‘direct from the catwalk’. In exchange for simple text messages, users were sent exclusive audio content, imagery and explanations from leading Burberry designers: [Watch].
It’s useful to understand messager apps as social networks that offer an especially unique opportunity to develop peer-to-peer relationships. It’s far more intimate, and we think many brands would benefit from understanding how they might be able to leverage the messager app phenomenon.