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Published: 23 Feb 2018

Classroom Furniture Helps Kids Concentrate

Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts

Nine students from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts have designed and constructed a range of furniture pieces that aim to help schoolchildren stay focused in the classroom.

Presented as part of the Furniture and Light Fair at Stockholm Design Week 2018, the collection envisions a future where children are required to study for extended hours within densely filled classrooms. The resulting pieces encourage a more playful and active learning experience to help kids stay focused.

The designs acknowledge that children need a changing and transformable environment in order to stay engaged. Each piece encourages interaction: children can move and adjust the furniture to better suit their purposes, while also exercising their creativity.

Predominantly comprised of experimental seating designs, the furniture features adaptable elements and unusual materials to pique children’s interest and offer greater user control. The Shift chair, for instance, can be changed so that the backrest becomes the seat and the seat becomes the backrest, and can be sat on from any direction.

The Alert stool has a flat seat attached to a cone-shaped base via a moveable joint, allowing children to be active while seated. Meanwhile, the Log stool is made from a lightweight squishy foam, making it easy to be picked up and moved around by young children.

For more open-ended furniture designs giving kids creative control over their environment, see Toniture: Life-Sized Meccano for Kids. For more playful and flexible classroom furniture designs, read Designed for Fun: Home, Work & VR.

Published: 23 Feb 2018

Elderly-Friendly: Taobao's E-Commerce App for Seniors


Chinese Alibaba-owned online marketplace Taobao has launched a senior-friendly version of its e-commerce app. The easy-to-use app features a simple interface and a family chat button, engaging with members of China’s ageing population who are keen to participate in the digital economy.

Currently, 30 million Taobao users are aged over 50, representing 6.5% of the mobile app’s total 468 million active users (Taobao, 2017). The number of Chinese people aged over 65 is expected to rise from approximately 100 million in 2005 to around 330 million in 2050 – roughly the population of the US (Forbes, 2017).

Senior users register an account through their mobile number and can link the account to their children. Features such as mobile shopping, personalised shopping suggestions and live-streamed content all remain – but with an enlarged interface.

Consumers also have the opportunity to make contact with their families within the app. A photo of a relative is displayed on every page, with users able to easily share products or initiate a chat or voice call by tapping the image. The app also features a ‘pay for me’ option, allowing children to pay for products that their parents have selected.

This venture into empathetic retailing is an example of the sophisticated targeting of consumers by Alibaba. Chinese seniors typically purchase 44 products a year online, spending around $800. The senior citizen online shopping market in China is estimated to be worth $200bn a year (Business Insider, 2017).

For more insights into how brands are embracing diversity and inclusivity, see our Diversity Outlook Innovation Platform.

Published: 19 Feb 2018

Thai Smart Visa Targets Digital Nomads

Growing numbers of consumers are swapping the nine-to-five for a nomadic lifestyle

Thailand's cabinet has approved a new Smart Visa in a bid to attract investors, start-up entrepreneurs, high-level executives and skilled professionals.

The Smart Visa does not require a work permit and will give recipients a four-year visa instead of the current one-year option. It also gives dependents the right to live and work in the country and extends the standard 90-day reporting period to immigration to an annual check-in.

According to officials, "the Smart Visa is intended to increase knowledge transfer and skill development in desirable fields such as technology and medicine". Eligible applicants will need to prove a minimum monthly income of 200,000 baht ($6,258). Applications for the visa began on February 1.

Other countries in Southeast Asia are also making efforts to attract digital nomads. Working in partnership with Malaysian urban regeneration group ThinkCity, the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) is aiming to repopulate Kuala Lumpur's centre by creating co-working spaces that will attract foreign and local creative workers.

"Digital nomads will come in and bring new ideas," said Duncan Cave, ThinkCity's programme manager. "The synergies between them and local Malaysians should be great."

The Work/Life Revolution is gaining momentum across the globe. For more on the flexible workers who are swapping the nine-to-five for a nomadic lifestyle, see Tomorrow's Wandering Workers and Digital Nomads.

Published: 14 Feb 2018

Valentine’s Gift Set for Same-Sex Couples


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: 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: 7 Feb 2018

Toilets Get Humanitarian and Environmental Makeover

L-R: Leo Schlumberger, Nendo

Following devastating earthquakes in Japan over recent years, Japanese studio Nendo has designed a toilet that can be built and used by people living in disaster zones. The kit – called minimLET – consists of seven items: a carrying bag, aluminium pipes, a toilet seat, tissues, a nylon cloth tent, garbage bags and a coagulant to neutralise waste. 

Each component is multipurpose. The aluminium pipes can be used as supporting poles for the tent and as legs for the toilet seat, the nylon cloth tent doubles up as a poncho, and the kit’s bag can carry up to 16 litres of water.

MinimLET’s design even appropriates commonly found items. For example, an umbrella can be transformed into structural support for the tent, while full cans and bottles can be used as legs to raise the toilet seat.

Dutch designer Leo Schlumberger also explored the design and use of toilets for his graduation project at Design Academy Eindhoven, exhibited as part of Dutch Design Week 2017. He created a dry toilet for indoor use that kept European expectations of comfort in mind.

The toilet vessel is made from polyester, brass and steel, and it boasts a welcoming, tactile touch that reframes the household utility as a design feature. Being a dry toilet, Schlumberger’s design encourages users to be more mindful of their water usage and offers an alternative for off-grid living.

For more on how design is being used to address social and environmental conflict, read Creativity for Crisis: Humanitarian Innovation.

Published: 7 Feb 2018

The Black Paper: US Diversity Insights

Black Americans' spending power is expected to rise to $1.4tn by 2020

New York-based multicultural communications agency Bold Culture has published The Black Paper – the first in a series of white papers to educate industry professionals about the importance of diversity in advertising.

Released in January 2018, The Black Paper focuses on the underrepresentation of black people in the media, marketing and advertising, as well as their huge influence in popular culture. Key points from the US report include: 

  • High Spending Power: Black Americans' spending power is expected to rise to $1.4tn by 2020, up from $320bn in 1990. That's because this audience is now more educated than ever and continuing to grow at a rapid rate, with 2.6 million individual businesses in the US owned by black Americans. 
  • Hyper-Connected: There are 11.5 million black millennials (aged 24 to 37) in the US. Given that 55% of them spend an hour or more on social media each day, compared to 49% of the total millennial population, this is a demographic that should be targeted on social media.
  • Trusting Influencers: When making purchases, black consumers are 96% more likely than white consumers to be influenced by celebrity endorsements.
  • Underrepresented: Popular culture and advertising have long been influenced by African-American culture – from music to fashion and slang. However, Bold Culture warns that ad execs have not increased their spending on advertising to this audience; nor have they hired more diverse talent in their agencies.

For more ways to create and communicate a culture of diversity, see Diverse Talent, Superhero Staff.

Published: 6 Feb 2018

UK Female Boomers: Myths Exposed

Four-fifths of Elastic Generation women in the UK care less about what others think of them than they did when they were younger

Female boomers (aged 53 to 72) in the UK are refusing to grow old in the way that previous generations did. Brands need to take an age-agnostic approach when targeting this cohort, according to new research from global marketing communications agency J. Walter Thompson.

Released in January 2018, the report named this group of women the Elastic Generation to capture their resilience, strength and potential. Key findings include:

  • Big Spenders: This consumer group controls a huge amount of discretionary spending. Eight in 10 make most of the purchasing decisions in their household, while 55% are the main breadwinners. Elastic Generation women spend 66% more on retail goods than millennials (aged 24 to 37) and they are the most likely group to buy a sports convertible. These women also don't stop working when they get older: Barclays bank reported a 132% rise in women aged over 65 opening business accounts.
  • Tech-Savvy: Elastic Generation women don't like to be patronised when it comes to tech. Some 78% would never buy tech especially designed for older people.
  • Life Lovers: Growing older has made Elastic Generation women more comfortable in their skin. Four-fifths care less about what others think of them than they did when they were younger, while 68% use beauty products that make them feel and look good, not younger. Elastic Women embrace their age: two-thirds enjoy life more than ever now they're older.   
  • Feeling Invisible: More than half of Elastic Generation women feel their age makes them invisible to society. Brands are struggling to address their needs: 82% of Elastic Generation women think the clothes aimed at them are "way too old-fashioned" and they are rarely represented in advertising, with 67% saying that advertisers only care about young people. As a result, 72% no longer pay attention to advertising.

For more on the purchasing power of older generations, see Boomers Rising: Ready for Adventure and Senior Fitness: Channelling Wellness.

Published: 30 Jan 2018

Chop-Chop London’s Inclusive Digital & Mobile Hair Salon

Chop Chop London

New mobile hair salon concept Chop-Chop London brings inclusive, streamlined and tech-driven services to the busy modern beauty consumer – tapping into three essential trends and strategies driving the beauty industry. Opening today (January 30 2018) in London’s tech district Old Street, hairdressers offer clients 24 styling and cutting options. 

Alongside celebrity hairstylist Sherman Hawthorne, co-founders Kaye Sotomi and Laure Ferrand’s goal was to create a salon that is accessible to all races, genders and hair types. The brand’s ethos is grounded in inclusivity and this is reflected in its service menu, which boasts an affordable set price of £20 for 20 minutes, regardless of gender or request.

The most striking feature is the ‘virtual queue’ on Chop-Chop London’s app, which is used for all bookings. Customers can select their desired timeslot on demand and simply wait; an alert is sent 10 minutes before the appointment. The salon hopes to cater to consumers seeking high-tech, time-saving solutions with effective results – as explored in Battling Busyness.

The brand is aiming to open three salons by the end of 2018 in popular hubs such as shopping malls. The foldability and mobility of the pods enables them to be moved easily and quickly to different locations – suggesting big business for music festivals and large events.

For more on new salons that celebrate customer individuality and foster inclusivity, see Instagangs: Niche Hair Salons

Published: 25 Jan 2018

P&G Returns to ‘The Talk’ through Ad Integration

P&G's integration on Black-ish

This week, characters on US broadcaster ABC's sitcom Black-ish discussed Procter & Gamble's award-winning July 2017 campaign The Talk, which features African-American parents from many decades talking about racial bias with their children.

The episode saw the show's father Dre Johnson (an ad executive) working on an advertising campaign around P&G's film, and taking the challenges it highlights into conversations with his family. Black-ish has a track record of not shying away from topical discussions like the race politics surrounding the Trump election. This makes it a natural partner to the spirit in which The Talk was conceived, and lets P&G resurface its campaign by refreshing the conversation, instead of simply rerunning the ad.

Joining public conversations is a key part of brand strategy in 2018. Last year, a survey revealed 65% of belief-driven consumers will not buy a brand that stays silent on an issue they feel it should address (Edelman, 2017). P&G will take its position into Black History Month in February with additional podcast integrations of The Talk, as well as online discussion and action guides for parents.

For more on organic brand engagement around big and topical issues, see Brands Take a Stand from our Currency of Dissent Macro Trend, Creating Shared Value: Sustainability Marketing and our latest Pop Culture Close-Up: The Outrage Economy.

Published: 25 Jan 2018

NYC Exhibit: A History of Eye Make-Up

Maybelline’s Blue Eyeshadow in 1950s

Eye of the Beholder at New York University’s 80WSE Gallery explores the history of eye make-up over the past century. The collection of more than 90 items illustrates how mascara, eyeliner and eyeshadow have been marketed to women, and reflects shifting cultural notions of beauty.

Starting with the advent of eye make-up in Hollywood’s burgeoning film industry in the 1910s, it traces the development of formulations through to the arrival of glitter eyeshadow in the 2010s (see Product Projections 2018: Cosmetics for more on glitter’s current dominance). Key trends from each era correspond to influencers of the time, ranging from early film star Mary Pickford’s eyelash extensions, to Kim Kardashian’s spider lashes.

Other pieces include Maybelline’s iridescent blue eyeshadow from the 1950s, which points to the belief that blue was a neutral, eye-enhancing colour. In contrast, vibrant Mary Quant eye pencils from the 1960s represent an early instance of make-up being sold as a form of self-expression.

Advertisements complement the products – such as a Maybelline comic strip from the 1940s that identifies mascara as the key player in a woman’s journey from secretary to wife.

According to the curators, showcasing eye make-up allows the exhibit to represent a diverse range of faces. While foundation and lipstick brands have been criticised for offering limited hues, eye make-up can be used by everyone. This mirrors the current move towards an inclusive beauty culture (see Inclusive Beauty: 5 Key Lessons and Empowering Beauty for more).

The exhibition runs until February 2 2018. 

Published: 22 Jan 2018

BYP: Network for Young Black Professionals

In 2017, fewer than one in 10 management jobs in the UK were held by members of black, Asian and minority ethnic groups

London-based entrepreneur Kike Oniwinde is developing a social networking app that aims to connect likeminded black professionals in the UK and elsewhere and help them find support in their careers in order to break the 'glass ceiling'.

Through the Black Young Professionals Network (BYP Network) app, users can not only form friendships but also collaborate professionally and pursue business opportunities together.

Oniwinde created the app following her own experiences as a young black professional in the UK and US. Looking to extend her professional network, she would often go to networking events, but found they were too formal and did not always reflect her own cultural background.

"A lot of young black people I met had achieved some success in their corporate careers or businesses, but many had the feeling of 'What now?'," she said. "They felt like they could do more, but there always seemed to be a limit to what they could achieve due to the culture of the workplace and the so-called 'glass ceiling'."

In 2017, fewer than one in 10 management jobs in the UK were held by members of black, Asian and minority ethnic groups (McGregor-Smith Review, 2017). Oniwinde believes the BYP Network will help black professionals inspire one another to fulfil their potential and ultimately change the public's perceptions of young people of colour.

For more on the importance of inclusivity and diversity in the workplace, see Diverse Talent, Superhero Staff.

Published: 19 Jan 2018

Cooper Hewitt Showcases Innovative Accessible Design

LR: Wicab, DJCAD

The Access+Ability exhibition at New York’s Cooper Hewitt museum showcases innovative, life-enhancing products that help people with cognitive, sensory and physical disabilities. The show reflects the move towards inclusive design, and features items highlighted in our report Design for Disability: Transformative Tech.

Self-expression is key. Hands of X – a collaboration between DJCAD at the University of Dundee and the Institute of Making at University College London – lets users customise prosthetic wooden hands with unique woods and leather accents. Last summer, London eyewear brand Cubitts hosted a pop-up kiosk for the service in its stores.

Other pieces address entertainment. Portuguese designer Miguel Neiva’s Uno playing cards for Mattel denote colours with symbols to assist people who are colour blind (see also Samsung App Aids TV Viewing for Colour Blind).

Wearable tech features prominently, such as Maptic by London-based designer Emilio Farrington-Arnas. The tactile piece of jewellery uses voice technology, GPS and an iPhone app to send vibrations to the wearer, offering a discreet wayfinding system for people who are blind. 

Meanwhile, BrainPort – an oral electronic vision aid from US company Wicab – consists of a camera attached to a pair of sunglasses, a hand-held controller, and an electrode array that sits on the user’s tongue.

The camera translates digital information into patterns of electrical stimulation – a sensation that resembles the bubbles in fizzy drinks. Interpreting these patterns allows users to perceive the shape, size, location and motion of objects – essentially enabling them to see with their tongues.

The exhibition runs until September 3 2018.

Published: 16 Jan 2018

VIDEO: CES 2018 Trend Preview

Consumer Lifestyle editor Kate Johnson reveals two important trends emerging from CES 2018, the world's largest consumer electronics event.

As the autonomous driving era approaches, car brands are focusing on self-driving vehicles that offer functions far beyond transport alone. Both Japanese giant Toyota and Swiss automaker Rinspeed introduced modular containers on wheels, with cabins that can be switched or redesigned for different purposes.

Toyota's boxy e-Palette concept has numerous interior options, providing services as diverse as parcel delivery, ride sharing, on-the-road stores or mobile hotel rooms and spas. The arrival of this type of customisable vehicle will have a huge impact across multiple industries in the future.

Regarding personal electronics, we've noticed a rise in innovative accessibility tech, with new products designed to help an ageing population and those with disabilities.

A noteworthy example is Graphiti – a device from US non-profit organisation American Printing House for the Blind and tech developer Orbit Research that ensures equal learning opportunities for all. The book-sized product sits on the desk of a visually impaired child and contains tiny pins that rise and fall in changing formations. This allows students to feel pictures that they wouldn't be able to see on the board or computer, such as an illustration of cells in the body, or a graph.

CES ran from January 9-12 in Las Vegas. Look out for our full analysis of the event, publishing on January 22.

Published: 16 Jan 2018

Zappos Targets Female Sneakerheads


US footwear e-tailer Zappos is tapping into the increasingly lucrative women’s streetwear market, launching female-focused editorial hub The Ones.

The concept, which operates alongside Zappos’ traditional e-commerce site, features interviews with female artists, influencer style inspiration, and a curated collection of looks from sneaker brands like Adidas, Converse and Vans.

Extending its reach offline, the brand has also partnered with New York City boutiques Bird Brooklyn and Beyond, bringing a curated pick of sneakers to each pop-up and enlisting store owners to create their own fashion-led edit.

“We felt like the market needed a one-stop shop for classic sneakers; those you love to death, replace, repeat,” said Zappos brand marketing manager Kristin Richmer. “We’re also focused on firing up the more casual, feminine, and gender-fluid side of the sneakerhead world.”

Female-focused offerings are proving to be a smart move for footwear brands, as the sportswear industry looks to take a more inclusive approach to the underserved female consumer. US active brand Puma experienced an 11.5% increase in quarterly sales in 2015 (Puma, 2016) – crediting its collaboration with pop star Rihanna for the success.

For more on the female sneakerhead opportunity, see Unravelling the Culture & Community, part of our Sneakerheads Unboxed Spotlight Trend.