VOTING EVERYDAY WITH YOUR WALLET

The ever-increasing flow of information is forcing the world into an age of transparency. Nothing is safe from scrutiny, and what’s more, consumers increasingly realise that when mobilised they wield quite a lot of power.

As a result we have seen a plethora of ethical brands and platforms try to take the initiative. But we haven’t seen a consumer tool that seeks to directly challenge the corridors of power & influence enjoyed by major companies and politicians – until now. Enter BuyPartisan, a new app launched in the US which is out to politicise everyday consumption in the minds of consumers, by revealing products’ relationships with political parties. The app reveals everything from lobby groups that a brand’s CEOs or board of directors belongs to, to party political donation histories. And it’s all in a bid to inform consumers as to whether they are making purchases that are compatible with their own interests or broader outlook. Using the app is as simple as scanning a product’s barcode, socially sharing purchase/rejection decisions and discovering competitors more in line with their own beliefs. [Watch].

Consumers exercising their vote every day en masse through informed purchase decisions is an interesting notion: in the short term, for some brands it could prove to be a PR headache and potentially damaging to bottom lines. For consumers, it perhaps forces some responsibility for their decision-making…

NEW TECHNOLOGIES WIN BRAND DEBUTS

Often when a ground-breaking technology is introduced, it’s some time before it finds its commercial use. That’s what’s made the Gartner Hype Cycle so important in helping businesses to get their timing right. But we saw a few fancy pieces of technology deployed this last couple of weeks that tear up the rule books.

First up, Barclays introduced the latest weapon against fraud in the shape of a finger vein scanner, which is set to replace conventional pin codes. It is the latest in a line of biometric security measures that are heading for mainstream, led by Apple’s fingerprint security. Readers tired of navigating labyrinth password systems will be dancing with glee. It’s set for commercial release in 2015.

Elsewhere, future thinking brand Moleskine, already best buds with organising app Evernote, have announced a partnership with LiveScribe. It’s an intelligent pen which conveys hand written notes via camera/ Bluetooth/Wifi. Once communicated to an app or computer, it turns those words into typed copy, making handwriting completely digitally transferrable. Moleskine FTW.

Finally, OK – it’s not a new tech per se, but “4D holographics” makes it sound like it is. Over in Central Park, Ralph Lauren has created a 10 minute fashion show by projecting onto a 60ft wall of misted water, and the results (though we’re sure they’ve been optimised) look genuinely impressive. [Watch]. It’s certainly one of the first times we’ve seen real value out of the technology. It’s gone down very well, and for those interested, here’s how they made it: [Watch].

JCDECAUX SENDS OUT THE BILLS

There’s nothing quite like one media channel turning to another to help communicate that it’s ‘still got it’. In fact, we’re a bit late to the game on this one; it happened back in June. But when we heard of it recently, we did slightly love it.

JCDecaux has been busily upgrading its media sites across the world to offer clients far better outdoor digital integration, and they had a bright idea to do it. Spotting that digital platform Google Streetview captures many advertising billboards and effectively preserves them in the digital world, they have calculated the value of the ‘free’ media space and additional exposure that clients had benefitted from, and DM’d a picture frame of evidence along with a whopping cash invoice.

The accompanying letter, taking on a stern tone, was in fact a humble request for a 30 minute meeting with a brand media manager, in a bid to discuss how they could further optimise media plans with their new digital technologies. [Watch].

That’s some pretty cool B2B advertising.

INSTAGRAM GETS ADS AND CATWALKS

It was a significant week for Instagram: adverts finally arrived in the UK, with a ceremonious announcement that a select few brands would be debuting soon. Instagram insisted they’d be high quality; as if you were flicking through your favourite magazine. The ads will always be marked as sponsore, and Instagram is inviting users to suggest whether content is appropriate, to keep relevance as high as possible.

Elsewhere the platform, along with Facebook, had a central role to play in Topshop’s exclusive coverage of its Spring/Summer 2015 collection, aptly named the Social Catwalk. The fashion retailer handpicked five outstanding amateur fashion Instagrammers to cover the latest looks with the hashtag #topshopunique – a full week before the same looks appear at London Fashion Week. Shoppers were then encouraged to post selfies with the hashtag #topshopwindow, appearing live on digital store widow displays. The entire collection was Click-To-Buy, meaning it was available to order live from the catwalk on Topshop.com. And demonstrating the full integration of social with bricks & mortar, personal shoppers transformed areas of the store to reflect popular and trending looks. [Watch].

The promotion has been widely seen as a bid to democratise the release of fashion collections, taking the previews away from an exclusive ‘fashion elite’ to the people who actually buy the wares. Facebook will be happy the retailer chose their channels for content and distribution so exclusively…

UPDATE: JustGiving, Facebook, WeChat

A few things to update you on…

We were interested to see JustGiving launch what it’s calling a ‘new social currency’ in the shape of an I Care button. The fundraising platform is encouraging charities to install the button alongside their Facebook Like & Twitter Follow social widgets, suggesting it can play a role in initiating support for a charity. In their words, an ‘I Care’ click now could become an ‘I’m fundraising’ in a few months time. Cool idea.

In the same week that Facebook announced it had hit 100m users in Africa, the social network also changed its algorithm slightly to become even more ‘real time’. The tweak effectively means that posts which best reflect current trends will be given feed priority, dependent on the content of the post and the time & nature of interactions with it. They’re already reporting a 6% uplift in engagement. Facebook’s new focus on real time and trending shows it has Twitter in its sights.

And WeChat, the Chinese micro messaging service that is effectively a massive social network, has started to behave more & more like a mobile wallet. Most of the app’s users reside in China – some 465million – and most of these consumers use the National Bank card for transactions. Because WeChat hooks up to this national card, the app has busily been making sure that users can pay for taxis and coffees with the app, along with their digital stickers and in-game purchases. Now it looks like users will soon be buying petrol through the app too, since its owners TenCent took a stake in Sinopec. Forbes just described the app as ‘one of the most powerful in the world’.

THE APP THAT CURES ACNE

That’s quite a headline, but when we read it, it did get us wondering, how exactly… by monitoring diet? By offering advice? Camera flash treatment?

In fact, the Spruce app is an interesting addition to a developing trend called telemedicine. With core healthcare services under increasing pressure across the world, the simultaneous rise of smart pocket technology couldn’t have come at a better time. Spruce is a good example of why. The app has a single focus: acne treatment. But is not trying to emulate the experience of visiting a dermatologist. It’s arguably doing more. The app is designed to treat its user from start to finish, first by imaging their complaint and answering a few medical questions, before sending it off for analysis. Within 24 hours, a dermatologist reviews the complaint and offers a personalised treatment plan, hooking them up with necessary prescriptions at a geo-located pharmacy. It’s being described as a far more ‘elastic’ way of visiting a doctor, and far less anxiety-inducing. There’s a flat rate of $40 to use the service. [Watch].

Overall, the app is indicative of what’s likely to be the very near future for all kinds of healthcare treatment. Pharmacies and chemists are in a fantastic position to step up and capitalise on the strains health services are under. The founders of Spruce are doctors themselves…

iPHONE6 & iOS: MEANING FOR MARKETERS

“The biggest release since the launch of the app store” was how Apple CEO Tim Cook described the perennial unveiling of the latest hardware & software last week.

Amidst the theatre Apple was yet again subject to a major presentation IT fail when its live feed collapsed – but what presentation is complete without an IT fail of some sort?

The launch event won headlines for the introduction of smart watches, a bigger, quicker, heavier, slimmer iPhone & iPhone Plus, and the fabled introduction of NFC.

Its new operating system iOS8 is a feast of better customisation, significantly enhanced security and privacy, and better integration with third party apps – good news for brands. Through all the noise, here is what the marketers need to know.

First up, an obvious one – larger screens mean larger pics, and richer video. Marketers will be considering not only their mobile media bucks, but the better experiences a larger screen offers to apps like Instagram. Owned social channels, for example, could get a boost.

Next, for the brands that have been trying to become a valued digital partner to their consumers, the prize now might just be a spot on the wrist. The introduction of the Apple Watch brings with it the potential for better, deeper brand integration into consumers’ lives – provided it is unobtrusive. Banks and other service providers will be particularly interested.

Then, for any brand that deals in, has an impact on, or cares about health and fitness, the new Health Kit brings plenty of creative opportunities by opening the health data of its user to third parties. When combined with the Apple Watch, that powerful proposition vindicates Nike’s decision to stop Fuelband development. Tim Cook does sit on Nike’s board, btw.

The enriched notifications that come as part of iOS8 will again challenge brands to ensure they are not intrusive, but things like, being able to immediately retweet, or responding to messages right from the notification, give an indication as to how much more interactive they are set to become. Brand with apps will be able to get creative…

But perhaps most groundshaking is the introduction of NFC. It is the foundation of a new service ‘coming in October’ called Apple Pay. And Apple Pay could be massive. It doesn’t require an app to run in its own right. Users can scan their credit card through the NFC antenna, and payment is as simple as tapping a retailer’s NFC POS and hitting the home button. The pay feature can be embedded into third party apps, immediately simplifying mobile purchases both online and ‘terrestrially’.

Over the years we’ve frequently observed that despite the best efforts of companies like Square and Google, it was Apple that held the key to mobile payments. And the scene is now set: already surpassing others, they have aligned the three major card providers VISA, Mastercard and American Express – adding in China’s UnionPay, for good measure. Their iTunes infrastructure with its 800m users (and their credit cards) should see retailers falling over themselves to update POS to accept the payments. Major players like Walmart, Starbucks and BestBuy are already on board.

And when combined with iBeacon, poor old ShopKick’s dream of location, loyalty and game oriented retail could be about to get usurped by the infrastructure it seems only Apple force through.

We were interested to see that iMessage users can now also set timers on their message content, a la Snapchat. That may pique some marketers’ interest, but it’s also an indication of Apple’s new focus on security and privacy, which apparently puts users’ data entirely out of reach of Apple, let alone authorities.

One thing missing from the launch day was more talk of Home Kit, Apple’s venture into home automation. Could it be the focus of the mystery ‘surprise’ Tim Cook promised in coming weeks?

Time to get creative with these new features. This short window while the new handset proliferates is crucial development time…

AND FINALLY….

…To our roundup of the wows, WTFs and ‘bare lols’ that made the world go round in the last couple of weeks.

First, if you missed seeing someone drop their brand new iPhone6 live on TV without even touching it, make sure you see it and wince, here: [Watch].

One feature Apple didn’t reveal at launch was that the slim new iPhone6 bends. It’s just, it’s not supposed to. Social media went bonkers as upset new owners posted pics of warped devices, allegedly just from having it in their pockets. Apple’s angry response was that they’d only had 9 complaints in six days. (How many by day 7?). KitKat showed it’s reactions were in fine fettle, tweeting how their bar didn’t bend, but it was always good for a break… nothing says well done like 12,500 retweets in a day. [Look].

And much like how Apple were teased for their launch videos last year, this year IKEA had a go too – but with a little more style. They launched their newest catalogue with tongue firmly in cheek, and deserve the 12m million views they conjured up. [Watch.]

Next, ever used a talking water fountain? Nah me neither, but weirdly one does now exist. (Unless it’s been dismantled already). [Watch].

Some cool from Shell: the brand has used Pele to introduce an innovation allowing kids to play footy around the clock, with floodlights powered by their kinetic movements. [Watch].

We also liked the GIF generator from EA Sports, for the NFL season. In a content hungry world letting users create their own simple stuff is an instant winner. [Play].

Net-A-porter started to sell Google Glass in all manner of styles.. :-/

Facebook’s drone programme became clearer when various outlets reported that they’d be the ‘size of planes’ – quite a surprise for what is essentially, a plane. To be fair, we are talking the size of 747s. [True Story].

Volvo Trucks have a new viral out: [Watch]

And have you heard of Ello? It’s a new social network offering invites right now, and it’s promising to stick to a simple manifesto: the platform will NEVER advertise. Compelled? [Grab your invite]…

Lastly, don’t miss this incredible campaign from Everlast in Peru. It saw a car-sized boxing glove chase aggressive male drivers who were taking out their frustration on women drivers – and literally ramming them on the road. [Watch].

That’s all, folks.

BUZZFEED MOVES INTO FILM & GAME

buzzfeedThe success of BuzzFeed in the last couple of years is probably best described as meteoric – particularly among its younger millennial target audience. It gets 150m uniques per month, dwell time on the site is up over four minutes and the site is set to break into the top 100 global websites.

As such it’s been the target of new investment – £30m to be exact – and it has some pretty expansive plans for how to spend the cash: becoming a ‘pre-eminent media company’. Fans of widgets like the Game of Thrones names generator or the Orange is the New Black tattoo maker will be delighted to hear there’ll be plenty more where that came from. The website is building up a ‘gaming’ arm, which will build interactive content to compliment its overall editorial. That will immediately expand the opportunity for game-like ads and sponsor content, and the popular interactive sponsored quizzes on the platform too.

That’s not all. BuzzFeed sees itself as the next Time Inc, or Viacom; big media companies built off the back of new technologies (radio and cable respectively). So it also wants to start producing film. BuzzFeed Motion Pictures will soon be creating everything from GIFs to full feature films. And with its scale of distribution and sought-after audience, marketers will be looking to produce more long-form content with the ambitious company…

UBER EXPANDS HORIZONS AGAIN

UberAnyone who’s used Uber will know that it’s turning not only the taxi industry on its head, but pretty much all transport – especially in big cities. For perhaps the first time (in personal experience) it can be quicker, nicer and incredibly, cheaper, to get a cab than public transport.

But Uber is not a company content to stop there. The disrupter has much more on its agenda. It has just started to trial a new service in Washington DC called Corner Store. It is a rapid and free delivery service that aims to deliver any of over 100 products within 10 minutes, without even a minimum purchase. And of course, because Uber already has credit card details, the transactions are simply completed through the app. Uber is calling it an experiment, noting that the more loved it is, the more likely it is to become a reality.

It adds a compelling layer to the emerging logistical and distribution battle between various operators including eBay, Shutl, and the likes of Pocket Shop here in London. That is to say, there have been a few attempts to make this concept work, but it’s our belief that if Uber is applying the same talent to make this work as well as their taxi model, then it has genuine opportunity to be a success, finally transforming convenience shopping altogether…

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