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Published: 16 Feb 2018

App for Alleviating Jet Lag

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Uplift

US start-up Uplift has launched an app that helps travellers alleviate jet lag naturally, according to the scientists behind the system.

Based on acupressure and neuroscience research, the app offers video tutorials showing users how to activate key points involved in setting the body's circadian rhythms. By performing a 10-minute series of exercises upon arrival, frequent travellers can hack their internal clock to remedy jet lag's draining effects.

An algorithm provides a customised wellness itinerary based on the user's points of origin and arrival, as well as their departure and arrival times. The app identifies two pressure points to press on either side of the body, with most spots located between the elbow and wrist or the knee and ankle. A timer ensures individuals perform the exercises for the correct duration.

Uplift's team of scientists and engineers trialled the service with over 600 frequent travellers, with 92% reporting that engaging acupressure points reduced or alleviated jet lag. An introductory video supplies a crash course on how to harness these pressure points, reducing human error.

The app requires an annual subscription of $9.99 to unlock unlimited access to personalised acupressure itineraries.

For more on innovative jet-lag remedies, see Photon Shower to Cure Jet Lag, Monarch's Mood Box In-Flight Menu and Agile Airlines Reshape Travel.

Published: 16 Feb 2018

Furniture Made from Noise-Cancelling Acoustic Fabric

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Glimakra

Swedish design studio Glimakra’s new Limbus furniture collection explores the use of noise-cancelling acoustic fabric for added functionality in home and office environments.

The label’s Barn design, revealed at Stockholm Design Week 2018, is inspired by the architecture of Finland’s northern Lapland region. Repeating horizontal panels of sound-dampening material mimic timber logs and extend upwards and over to form a wall and ceiling, giving the piece the appearance of a rudimentary hut. The Barn is designed to be used in both a corporate or public setting as an intimate meeting and working area within a larger space.

The brand also exhibited its Greenframe plant holder and room divider. The refined rectangular frame, crafted from timber, features three raised circular platforms to hold potted plants. The top horizontal beam is embedded with lights to accentuate the foliage and imitate the look of a window, offering a soothing biophilic element to the indoors (for more on biophilic design, see Natural Relations in Materialising Modern Work). The frame is the exact length and height as Glimakra’s acoustic partitions, enabling users to interchange plant storage and acoustic panels for a unique and flexible interior landscape.

Glimakra was awarded the gold prize in both Furniture and Office Furniture at this year’s Ambiente consumer goods fair. Stay tuned for our upcoming coverage of the event, publishing on February 22.

For more on the changing perception of silence as a marker of luxury, read Basement Bourgeoisie. For further inspirational examples of noise-cancelling product reimagined in hand-crafted designs and biodegradable fibre, read Blueprint for a Better Workplace.

Published: 16 Feb 2018

Chinese New Year 18: Retail Trends

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Gucci

From mobile app games to retail pop-ups, Chinese New Year (CNY) 2018 is full of inspiration for retailers and brands alike. We highlight some of the best.

Celebrated by one-quarter of the world, CNY is a hugely important trading period for retailers across Asia and tourist hotspots globally. 2018 is the Year of the Dog – prompting a host of canine imagery and influences.

Falling just two days after Valentine’s Day, CNY (February 16) sees Asian retailers and international brands operating in the region focusing on the New Year rather than Valentine’s Day. Retailers and brands engage consumers with pop-up activations, limited-edition products and interactive mobile campaigns to leverage enthusiasm to spend at this time of year. In China alone, total retail sales exceeded $133bn over six days in 2017 (IGD, 2018).

  • Interactive Mobile Games: Bringing together m-commerce, social media and personalisation, Italian luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana has created a red envelope game on WeChat. To receive branded red envelopes, players click on red envelopes decorated with dogs in the game until they collect all six types of dogs.

    Chinese snack retailer Liang Pin Pu Zi has developed a mobile game app featuring a Chinese street market. The virtual street is named after the player’s family name and features three games. Each participant has the chance to win vouchers and cash prizes. See also Valextra’s Shoppable V-Day Game.

    Italian high-end brand Gucci celebrated a dog-inspired capsule collection with an interactive game on its proprietary app. Designed for the iPhone X, the digital dog characters can be animated with their own expressions through facial recognition technology, allowing the user to record videos to share on social channels.
  • Customisable Wishes: British luxury brand Mulberry is encouraging WeChat users to create digital calligraphy spring couplets – a traditional CNY decoration families paste on their front doors. Housed on an interactive web page, users can choose the style, background image, and a Mulberry item that they’d like to use in their spring couplets. They can share the resulting image on their social feeds to receive Mulberry red envelopes. See also Monetising Social Media, 2017.
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  • Pop-Up Redefines Traditions: Italian fashion brand Prada has debuted a temporary retail installation in luxury department stores and shopping halls in major Asian cities including Macau, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore and Seoul. Dubbed ‘Prada Spirit’, it resembles a traditional yet luxurious Italian café, featuring red velvet upholstered lounges, a central squared counter, display cases, a Perspex-decorated background, and small black tables set up for consultation. The pop-up doesn’t actually sell coffee, but instead displays the limited ‘robot dog’-inspired CNY collection, featuring pouches and keychains with playful Bulldog, Dachshund and Chihuahua motifs.
  • In-Store Events: American retailer Macy’s embraces the Lunar New Year festivities with in-store beauty tutorials by American on-demand beauty service Glam Squad, traditional lion dances and fashion presentations at its stores in New York, California and Hawaii. CNY-themed products are being sold across Macy’s beauty, fashion and accessories floors.

    Australian shopping mall operator Westfield (currently being bought by France’s Unibail-Rodamco) is putting a big push behind CNY in its two London malls. Both Westfield London and Stratford are offering free 30-minute workshops, enabling kids to learn a range of Chinese traditions straddling the traditional and customary arts of red-envelope decorating, fortune-cookie baking and tea-making, to money-tree seed planting and face painting. See also Brand Spaces, 2018/19
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  • Limited Editions: Gucci has created a special collection of dog-related items inspired by Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele’s Boston terriers, Orso and Bosco. The 63-piece collection features hand-painted portraits of the dogs across women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, shoes, handbags, small leather goods, accessories and luggage, and has bespoke packaging.

    German brand Adidas has created sneakers inspired by Chinese traditions. Models are adorned with the four Chinese blessings symbols (Virtue, Longevity, Prosperity and Good Health) and come in traditional white and scarlet colourways. They also feature an exclusive bamboo hangtag.

See also Chinese New Year 2017: Retail Insights, Retail: Valentine’s Strategies ’18 and Christmas 2017: In-Store Innovations.

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Published: 16 Feb 2018

High-Performance Yarns for Innovative Materials

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Twistron yarns generate electricity

International scientists and researchers are exploiting the capabilities of nanofibres and nanotechnology to produce a new generation of high-performance yarns for clothing and protective armour.

  • ‘Twistron’ Energy-Harvesting Yarns: A research team of scientists from the University of Texas and South Korean Hanyang University has produced energy-harvesting yarns that can generate electricity.

    The high-tech yarns could be used to create self-powered materials where the use of a power source is impractical – for example, they could be employed as self-powered breathing sensors when sewn into clothes. Constructed using carbon nanotubes and coated in an electrolyte (such as a solution of salt and water), the yarn’s energy increases when stretched or twisted.

    The team hopes this will eventually lead to harvesting larger amounts of energy, such as from the motion of ocean waves. 
  • High-Strength Ultrafine Fibres: Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have developed a new technique that produces exceptionally strong and resilient nanofibres. The fibres could be used for numerous applications, such as protective armour materials and nanocomposites.

    The process uses a variation of gel spinning combined with the addition of electrical forces. The team believes the new fibres can rival high-performance fibres such as Kevlar on a per-weight basis, making protective materials stronger, but less dense.

For more materials addressing the need for strength, durability and high performance, see Super Materials: New Innovations. For technical developments within sports apparel and equipment, see ISPO Munich 2018.

Published: 15 Feb 2018

St Giles: Personality-Enhancing Perfume

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St Giles

Boldly claiming to stimulate and amplify the personality of the wearer, a new range of luxury fragrances by British brand St Giles offers scent profiles that seek to convey the stereotypical traits associated with specific careers.  

The five fragrances in its inaugural collection are The Tycoon, The Actress, The Writer, The Mechanic and The Stylist. According to the brand, each unique scent combination reimagines an archetype associated with a career. Influences are also drawn from the founder’s social circle – for instance, The Writer is inspired by Nicola Moulton, the former beauty and health director at British Vogue.

The Writer is sold as a perfume for consumers looking to encourage social change via the written word. The fragrance is designed to bring focus and inspiration to the wearer by incorporating rosemary, which stimulates memory performance. Ginger is used as a top note to enhance the brain’s functionality.

Conveying an array of different personalities through scent is an emerging trend for fragrance houses, with more brands in this category combining multiple sensory pathways to create a novel experience. A good example is Canadian start-up Parfums Jazmin Saraï, which merges a range of musical genres with fine perfumery.  

With each of St. Giles’ perfumes evoking a distinctive olfactory experience, users are encouraged to experiment with wearing the scents for different occasions. For instance, creative director Michael Donovan recommends The Actress for those looking to feel glamorous and elegant. For more on this idea, see The Rise of Fragrance Wardrobes.

This clever concept can also be adopted by mass-market brands. US retail giant Target’s new vegan fragrance line is inspired by four personalities: Confident and Charming, Good and Grounded, Vibrant and Playful, and Cool and Collected.

Published: 14 Feb 2018

Valentine’s Gift Set for Same-Sex Couples

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Foreo

For Valentine’s Day, Swedish beauty tech start-up Foreo has launched a limited-edition gift set exclusively for same-sex couples, offering a refreshingly modern approach to LGBTQ-targeted Valentine’s Day marketing and gifting strategies. 

With the launch of its His & His Foreo Issa 2 gift set (which includes two black silicone sonic toothbrushes), the brand is tapping into its inclusive roots. Foreo is short for “for everyone”, with its products aimed at all consumers – regardless of gender, race, age or sexuality.

This all-embracing strategy has been harnessed by brands in the past via advertising campaigns – see & Other Stories’ Valentine’s Campaign  and Same-Sex Tiffany Ad Fuels Wider Rebrand. However, the brand asserts that this is the first product launch dedicated to same-sex couples. For more on tapping into the LGBTQ market, see Retailers Capitalise on LGBTQ Pride Celebrations, Marketing to LGBTQ Consumers and Make-Up for the Trans Community.  

The silicone toothbrushes themselves showcase innovative design, with flexible heads that adapt to every tooth while gently cleaning teeth and gums. Users can also choose between 16 different tempos, although each speed offers 11,000 high-intensity pulsations per minute to break down plaque gently.

The Valentine’s Day promotion also allows customers to try out the toothbrushes at a discounted rate before their full global release on February 22. For more Valentine’s retail innovations, see Valentine's 2018: Best Digital & In-Store Strategies

Published: 14 Feb 2018

Valextra’s Shoppable V-Day Game Celebrates Shopping Lust

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Valextra

Summoning a whimsical nostalgia for the days when commerce was purely a bricks-and-mortar affair, Italian fine leather goods label Valextra is marking Valentine’s Day by offering a mobile game that celebrates the heady joys of shopping rather than romance. 

Designed to promote the Italian brand’s bags as a suitable V-Day gift, the Shopping Craze mobile game has players racing through a “shop-maze” to collect favourite handbags while navigating around “enemy” shoppers. Further tapping into nostalgia, the interface is inspired by 1980s 8-bit video games. Players advance by navigating obstacles to successfully complete virtual purchases, recording scores on a leaderboard. The first 1,000 to do so get a leather Valextra charm inspired by the game’s graphics, as do all customers purchasing from Valextra on Valentine’s Day. Purchase opportunities are inserted when a player completes a level, with several products popping up on screen. A click leads to the brand site for more information and a direct path to purchase.

Brands have been differentiating themselves by leaning away from clichéd romance-themed campaigns for Valentine’s. A standout among retailers’ V-Day concepts last year was fashion label Marc Jacobs’ homage to the low-fi sex hotline infomercials of the 1990s (see blog).

Valextra’s efforts also align with an ever-growing millennial affection for all things 80s (see Nostalgia Fashion Forecast A/W 18/19 and Reebok x Lisa Frank), including the era’s crude digital graphics (see also Playful Optimism: Materials).

For more insights into how retailers celebrated Valentine’s Day in 2018, see our report Retail: Valentine’s Strategies ’18.

Published: 14 Feb 2018

MoveCar: QR Codes Tackle China’s Parking Shortage

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China has an estimated shortage of 50 million parking spaces

In a bid to solve China's parking problem, Alipay – the world's largest mobile payment platform – launched MoveCar within its app last month. The programme enables people to anonymously contact the owner of a parked vehicle that is blocking their car, and ask them to move it.

MoveCar's Chinese name translates roughly to "move a car with a code immediately" – which is exactly what the programme does. Drivers create a custom QR code, print it out, and place it on their windscreen. If a car is blocking someone's way, anyone can scan the QR code and contact the driver to let them know they need to move it.

By using a QR code, both parties remain anonymous and the car owner does not feel as exposed as they would if they'd provided their phone number instead, for example.

Chinese cities are famous for their traffic jams, but parking is an even greater problem, with an estimated shortage of 50 million spaces. With MoveCar, Alipay is aiming to tackle part of the issue. Consumers are already on board – the tool attracted 40,000 users within 10 days of its release.

For more on transport innovations, see our CES 2018: Automotive report.

Published: 13 Feb 2018

Shiseido’s Personalised Skincare System

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Shiseido's Optune

Shiseido has developed a customised skincare system called Optune exclusively for women in Japan. Launching this Spring, the at-home skin analyser and product dispenser offers personalised skincare that takes weather conditions and hormonal changes into account, and can also be altered in real time.

The Optune App analyses images taken with a smartphone camera to assess the user’s skin condition, while also factoring in temperature and humidity levels, as well as the user’s mood and menstrual cycle. The data is then collected in Optune Zero – a small machine that determines and dispenses the optimum combination of serum and moisturiser. The data is then stored, allowing consumers to track how the climate affects their skin over time.

Skin analysis is a fast-developing category in beauty tech. US-based dermatological brand Neutrogena’s Skin 360, which debuted at CES 2018, is a good example. The device enables users to examine their skin’s condition immediately. However, Shiseido’s offering pushes tech capabilities by accounting for external factors.

Shiseido has also adopted a new skincare model within the app based on hormones and menstruation cycles to predict skincare needs – much like US natural beauty start-up Amareta. This is a key growth area as consumers actively search for innovative ways to combat skin issues such as dryness or acne, which change throughout the different stages of women’s cycles.

For more on customised skincare and analysis tech, see Smart Skin: Adapting Intelligently in Future Beauty: Perfecting Bespoke, Beauty Analytics and Smart Skin: Nuanced Analytics in E-Beauty: Digital Device Boom

Published: 13 Feb 2018

Nuro: Autonomous Delivery Van

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Nuro

California-based start-up Nuro has designed an autonomous cargo vehicle specifically for delivering goods from local businesses.

Unveiled last month, Nuro "is a self-driving vehicle designed to run your errands for you", co-founder Dave Ferguson said in a statement. "It is poised to change the way that businesses interact with their local customers."

The self-driving vehicle is fully electric, completely unmanned and its top speed is 35mph, which means it will stay off highways. It's half the width of a passenger car, to enable the vehicle to move around narrow streets easily, as it's designed to move goods between and among businesses, neighbourhoods and homes.

Nuro's interior can be customised to meet the needs of each business. A grocery delivery company, for example, could opt for a refrigerator and shelves, while a drycleaner could include a hanging rack. By automating these services, Nuro could help small local businesses compete with giants like Amazon.

Nuro was founded by two engineers who used to work for Google's self-driving car team, now known as Waymo. The start-up has raised $92m in venture capital, which means that it could drive the disruption of last-mile delivery.

For more on the future of autonomous cars, see our report on CES 2018: Automotive. 

Published: 12 Feb 2018

Service for Millennials: Saks' New Beauty Department, NYC

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Saks Fifth Avenue

American luxury department store group Saks Fifth Avenue is to open a new leading-edge beauty floor targeting millennials at its New York flagship. Scheduled to open in May, the new beauty offer taps an increasingly important demographic for department stores (see Next-Level Department Store Strategies).

The floor will focus on service-driven experiences and Instagram-worthy product presentations. It will feature 15 spa rooms, Italian fashion brand Gucci’s first beauty concession, and a new-age apothecary.

  • Wellness Services: Tapping into millennials’ skincare obsession (Pinterest searches for beauty in 2017 saw a 75% increase year-on-year – Pinterest, 2017), the beauty floor will house spa rooms with complimentary brand services and paid wellness treatments such as CoolSculpting (a medical treatment used to destroy fat cells by freezing). An 850 sq ft event space will host masterclasses, seminars and brand activations. An in-store on-demand beauty concierge will be available via technology-enabled desk bells sending push notifications to nearby staff.
  • Concessions: London facial massage brand FaceGym will open its first US workout space, offering an unconventional approach to skin rejuvenation. Additionally, Gucci will debut its first beauty boutique selling Gucci fragrances alongside custom-designed flower bouquets by US flower brand EB Florals.
  • Atypical Setting: Saks is breaking with traditional department store set-ups by moving its beauty offer from the ground floor to the second floor. Measuring 30,578 sq ft (40% larger than its previous setting), the space will have new escalators assuring swift access. Windows have been uncovered to create an open, airy feel, while low-height fixtures allow uninterrupted sightlines. It was designed by US architect firm Gensler.

For more on service-led retailing, see Brand Spaces 2018/2019 and Beauty Flagships.

Published: 12 Feb 2018

Alcohol Made from Tofu Whey

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Tofu Whey Beer

Researchers at the University of Singapore have developed the world's first alcoholic beverage made from tofu whey, a commonly wasted by-product from the tofu production process.

The drink, called sachi, is made by pasteurising whey liquid and adding sugar, acid and yeast before fermenting it for two weeks. The resulting alcoholic beverage contains an abundance of antioxidants called isoflavones and high levels of calcium, and claims to provide health benefits such as boosting bone and heart health.

Said to have a slightly sweet, floral flavour, sachi has an ABV of 8% and a shelf life of four months.

Professor Liu Shao-Quan and student Chua Jian-Yong were inspired to create the drink following a boom in tofu production in Asia as the vegetarian population on the continent grows. Liu said: "Alcoholic fermentation can serve as an alternative method to convert tofu whey into food products that can be consumed directly. Our unique fermentation technique also serves as a zero-waste solution to the serious issue of tofu whey disposal."

This is the latest example of how the food and beverage industry is tackling food waste in increasingly inventive ways. See New Food Covetables, Feeding Tomorrow's Consumers and Fluid Flavours, part of our latest Industry Trend The Future Of Flavour for more on this.

See also Alcohol's Healthy Future for how alcohol brands are reaching out to a growing breed of health-conscious consumers.

Published: 12 Feb 2018

A/W 18/19 Influencer Show: Tom Ford

Tom Ford was back with a bang on the opening day of New York Fashion Week, kicking off the official start of the womenswear show calendar with a no-holds-barred procession of glitzy glamour. 

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This powerful rendering of slick professionalism might not have been to everyone’s taste, but it certainly packed a punch with a palette of eye-searing brights and clashing pattern play.

The 80s were alive and well in the bold, brash silhouettes, manifested in reed-thin leggings topped off with the slouchy volume of an exaggerated fur jacket or glittering sequined sweat top.

And Ford wasn’t shy when it came to his print mash-ups. Colourful big-cat and python-skin prints were combined with bold black and white optical mixes for everything from sharp boardroom power suits to second-skin leggings and fluttery frilled babydoll dresses.   

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Colour was equally bold with a palette of hot red, lilac, bubblegum, acid yellow and neon lime interspersed with the glitter of colourful sequins, diamante and shimmery metallics in a nod to 80s-inspired excess.

The mega-watt looks dimmed a notch with a procession of sleek black tuxedos and thigh-high micro LBDs teamed with spray-on silver leggings, all accessorised with blinding rhinestone chandelier earrings.

This 80s goodtime girl look went from top to toe – from the wide leather headbands to the vampy va-va-vroom shoes and glittering must-have PussyPower purse bags.

For more inspiration, see our A/W 18/19 Fashion Forecast Trend Nostalgia.   

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Need to know:

  • 80s-inspired styling
  • Skinny leggings topped with rounded volume
  • Bold, brash colour
  • Glitzy fabrications
  • Mismatched graphic patterns with vampy skin prints
  • Glamorous and sexy
Published: 9 Feb 2018

Unicef’s Cryptocurrency Donation Game Changer

Global children's aid organisation Unicef has launched an online tool that asks PC gamers to mine cryptocurrency to help children in war-torn Syria.

To participate, players can head to the Game Chaingers site to install software that will start generating Ethereum coins (the second highest valued cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin) and automatically send them to Unicef's electronic wallet.

The campaign specifically targets gamers because gaming PCs have the high hardware capabilities (specifically their powerful graphics cards) that make mining possible. Between gaming sessions, a high-end machine could generate the equivalent of $2-3 per day for Unicef's efforts.

Tools like Game Chaingers let consumers redirect their existing resources into positive action. These habit changes in turn create lasting awareness of the brands that enabled them to take such steps.

"What interests us is to use this cryptocurrency as a painless way to contribute," said Unicef on its website. "Through the use of mining, we create an opportunity for those who cannot give, or have never had the opportunity to do so."

For more on how brands can make consumers an active and integral part of initiatives to create a better world, see Creating Shared Value: Sustainability Marketing. To read about prominent digital channels of the moment, check out 7 Platforms to Watch in 2018.

Published: 9 Feb 2018

Nissan Creates Guesthouse with Autonomous Furniture

Japanese carmaker Nissan is opening a pop-up ryokan – a traditional Japanese guesthouse – which features autonomous self-parking furniture and accessories.

The ProPILOT Park Ryokan concept is designed to promote the company’s ProPILOT autonomous parking system, first unveiled in its Nissan LEAF hatchback in October 2017. The ryokan demonstrates this technology through slippers, tables and tatami floor cushions that autonomously self-tidy and return to a set home position at the push of a button.

In vehicles, the ProPILOT Park technology uses four high-resolution cameras and 12 sonar sensors to anticipate surrounding obstructions. At the ryokan, each smart object moves to its designated home position by communicating with ceiling cameras using image-processing technology. The slippers have small wheels pushed into the base of the shoe that cannot be felt when worn.

Ryokans are an icon of traditional Japanese culture. By appropriating this setting, Nissan hopes to illustrate the symbiosis of new technology in historical and existing landscapes, and encourage the public to feel more comfortable about autonomous driving.

ProPILOT Park Ryokan, located southwest of Tokyo, will be open for one night only on March 24 2018. Guests are being selected through a social media contest, and must use Twitter hashtags to apply for the experience.

For more on how companies are using branded spaces to become hospitality hosts in work and leisure settings, read Tomorrow’s Wandering Workers. For another example in how Nissan is using concept campaigns to exhibit innovation and creativity, read our blog post about the company’s sweat-sensitive car.

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