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Published: 12 Jul 2018

Bacardi’s Crowd-Directed Video

For its first foray into Instagram TV (IGTV), Instagram's long-form video format, spirits brand Bacardi used poll widgets in Instagram Stories to let its fan community direct a music video shoot in real time.

The brand collaborated with Grammy-nominated Canadian DJ A-Trak and French dancers Les Twins, who have performed with the likes of Beyoncé and Missy Elliot. During the nine-hour shoot, Instagram Story polls were posted on Les Twins' account, letting fans vote on different aspects of the video. With the audience picking background locations, dance moves, colour filters and camera angles, the final clip arose from 1,024 possible variations.

Using Instagram Stories, a media format consumers are already familiar with, was a canny move by creative agency BBDO New York to draw Bacardi's audience into the new IGTV channels. The resulting Live Moves clip is part of Bacardi's ongoing #DoWhatMovesYou campaign, which focuses on self-expression and liberation.

"It's a much deeper, more meaningful level of engagement that pushes fans to really think about what moves them and take control of the narrative," said Bacardi's director of creative excellence, Laila Mignoni.

As we explored at length in State of Media: The Fan-First Revolution, interactive, personalised and crowd-sourced content will play a central role in brand media strategies going forth. In our round-up of developments from E3 2018, we also note how the latest developments in cross-platform gaming will unlock great potential for interactive brand storytelling.

Published: 11 Jul 2018

JD.com’s Chinese Shopping-Festival Frenzy


A Chinese e-commerce giant that invented a shopping festival, ostensibly to celebrate the anniversary of the company’s launch, saw sales soar again this year. JD.com reported $24bn in sales for the 18-day event.

Chinese consumers’ enthusiasm for festivals and special events was highlighted again in June with the runaway success of the 618 Shopping Festival, created by JD.com.

The e-commerce giant reported RMB 159.2bn ($24.6bn) in sales for this year’s version of its annual shopping celebration – 37% up on the 2017 event.

The festival, which ran from June 1-18, neatly coincided with Father’s Day in China and the traditional Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. Top categories were mobile phones, PCs, air conditioners, other digital products, and food and beverages.

Rival e-tailer Alibaba’s shopping event Singles Day, held in November, reached sales of $25.3bn in 2017, up 40% compared to 2016 (NY Times, 2017). Meanwhile, in the US, Amazon is expected to run its annual Prime Day event in July this year.

Stefanie Dorfer, Retail editor at Stylus, commented: “These kinds of self-made events are producing exceptional figures. As a marketing exercise, they have proven to be outstandingly successful. The lead retailer’s partners and even its competitors are all able to benefit from these festivals.”

For more on the strategies Chinese retailers are deploying to win over the hearts of shoppers, head over to our Uni-Commerce and Chinese New Year 18: Retail Trends reports.

If you’re interested in hosting events as a marketing tool, read Branded Festival Experience, 2017 and The Marketing Power of Events.

Published: 9 Jul 2018

Is Smell-O-Vision the Next VR Frontier?

VR smell-o-vision

Virtual reality (VR) is plunging consumers into multisensory environments, impacting industries from product development to entertainment. Now, Swiss scent and flavour house Givaudan has added scent to the equation with its new 'Smell-In-A-Box' technology.

Launching at San Francisco conference Food IT in June 2018, Givaudan has created a smell emitter that releases fragrances that align with visuals projected through a VR headset. The version showcased at the event placed wearers in a virtual kitchen, with the scent emitter releasing the smells of different ingredients as they appeared within the space. These included bananas, strawberries, onions and garlic.

This technology, which has scope for cross-industry impact, is exciting for several reasons. In terms of food and drink, it further validates thinking around VR-enhanced dining experiences and product development first put forward in our report Sensory Edibles. It could also be used in the entertainment space – allowing gamers and film viewers to become even more fully immersed in virtual worlds via the addition of olfactory stimulation.

For further examples of how product developers are using scent to enhance the consumer experience, see New Fragrance Worlds and Scented Cup Simulates Flavour. See also Tribeca Immersive 2018: The Art of AR/VR and CES 2018 x Retail: Emotion-Tracking VR Headset to discover more on the rapid and evolving growth of VR products across the industry spectrum.

Published: 6 Jul 2018

Minecraft Harnesses Player Creativity to Save Corals

Global hit game Minecraft is pulling its players' design skills into the physical realm to help restore coral reefs.

To promote its recent Aquatic update – where players can build and explore underwater landscapes – Minecraft drew players into the new game environment by challenging them to build virtual coral reefs. Once 10 million underwater building blocks were placed, Minecraft released a donation to US environmental charity The Nature Conservancy.

The gaming community further boosted donations by buying in-game design items, with all proceeds going towards the cause. The Nature Conservancy said the funds generated will enable the placement of 15,000 corals in the US Virgin Islands, Mexico, Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.

The initiative also turned some of the resulting in-game designs into actual underwater sculptures made from BioRock – a man-made medium that promotes coral growth. Six BioRock structures have been installed off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico; three feature familiar characters from the Minecraft franchise, while the remaining three were designed by players.

On Earth Day in April 2018, Pokémon Go galvanised its mobile gamers by rewarding players who showed up at geolocations for environmental clean-up events. Clearly, there is huge engagement potential for brands that know how to harness the gaming community's creative energies and narrative passions.

For more on how cross-play (the ability to play the same game across mobile- and home-bound devices) will create opportunities for brands to use the narrative immersion of gaming to drive actions in the physical world, see our recap of E3 2018.

Published: 6 Jul 2018

MatchesFashion’s Hybrid Luxury London Space


A pioneering multifunctional luxury townhouse, 5 Carlos Place, is being opened by fashion e-commerce company MatchesFashion in the heart of upscale Mayfair in London this September. Here’s a preview of what will make it special.

The six-floor, 5,000 sq ft townhouse promises to expand the parameters of what a brand space can offer. It’s a big addition to MatchesFashion’s small bricks-and-mortar retail portfolio, which includes a much smaller townhouse, No. 23, in London’s Marylebone district, and five physical stores.

Speaking to Stylus ahead of launch, chief brand officer Jess Christie said the space aimed to “educate, engage and inspire our customers, and bring a sense of fun and enjoyment back into physical retail”. It will host a broadcasting studio as well as a year-round programme of events, evolving into a cultural hub.

The company sees 5 Carlos Place as “a blank canvas” where it can work with partners on all kinds of events. A blend of digital and physical is at the heart of the project. Christie said: “For us, the future of retail is to be even more personal, to use technology to really understand and serve our customer and make their life easier.”

Customers will be able to shop straight from their mobile, she added, “as technology in the space will link you directly to the product on-site to add to your basket or wish list”. Another option will be to book a bespoke private shopping appointment.

Roger Tredre, acting head of Retail at Stylus, said: “The early signs are that this is a thrillingly experimental project that will demonstrate how companies primarily operating online can raise their profiles, and strengthen their customer base through physical space innovation.”

Published: 5 Jul 2018

Fashion’s Future Fabrics: Brands Tap Sustainability & Tech

L-R: Loomia, Circular Systems, COS

Consumer demand for sustainable goods and advanced technology is on the rise. Smart brands and retailers are finding innovative ways to satisfy these environmentally conscious yet stylistically discerning millennials. Here, we take a look at three future-facing fashion projects and innovations for July.

  • H&M-owned brand Cos has launched its savvy new Repurposed Cotton Project – a collection of sweatshirts made entirely of cotton scraps from a year of production. The low-cost process entails shredding, compacting, spinning, weaving and dying the discarded cotton, with the results identical in look and feel to similar non-sustainable alternatives. 
  • Brooklyn-based start-up Loomia has developed a nylon-like material that works like a circuit board and can be draped, creased and stretched. Not only can the textile emit light and heat, allowing the user to illuminate their path at night or warm their clothes in the winter, but it can also gather valuable data for fashion companies. The user can seamlessly sell this data – which includes their surrounding climate and activity levels – to fashion brands and retailers, who can use the data as feedback to improve their products and design processes.
  • LA-based materials start-up Circular Systems uses banana by-products, pineapple leaves, flax and hemp stalk, and waste created from crushing sugar cane to create a natural fibre that can be woven into material fabrications for garments. The company will work with brands like H&M and Levi’s to integrate its fibres into their fabric-manufacturing operations.

For more on sustainable solutions, see A Sustainable Journey, Fashion’s Sustainability Surge and Sustainability Turns Smart: Manufacturing a Clean Future

Published: 5 Jul 2018

Finland’s Most Popular Film Ever was Brand-Made

There's nothing new about branded content. But how did one Finnish ad firm manage to produce a movie that outperformed Titanic at the box office, and offers an entirely fresh roadmap for funding entertainment?

At this year's Cannes Lions, Eka Ruola, chief executive of Finnish marketing firm Hasan & Partners, revealed how the company helped develop The Unknown Soldier. The World War Two movie, released in 2017, has now earned more than €14m at the box office – €6m more than the previous highest-grossing film in the region, Titanic.

Hasan & Partners involved top Finnish brands throughout the production and marketing process to bring the film to a huge mainstream audience. Finnish lottery company Veikkaus encouraged customers to submit casting videos, which the filmmakers used to hire extras; while dairy brand Valio used augmented reality to create milk-carton posters that enabled customers to see pre-release footage.

"The main objective was to set the bar high," said Ruola. "We aimed at being the biggest thing in the country altogether, not just the biggest movie."

It was an incredibly effective project in its ability to target potential viewers at multiple touchpoints beyond billboards and online platforms. It's a great example of a campaign that taps into numerous key marketing trends we've been tracking – from New-Wave Branded Content, to Third Spaces, to the Brand Studios concept discussed in our Look Ahead 2018.

For more from the festival, see our three Cannes Lions 2018 reports.

Published: 4 Jul 2018

From China to the US, Live Commerce is Impacting Retail

Harvey Nichols x Hero

Live commerce is maturing into a fully fledged phenomenon. Stylus outlines three ways the trend is developing, bringing together online consumers with sales associates, product launches and retail spaces.

  • Personal In-Store Connections: London/NYC retail tech start-up Hero connects online shoppers with in-store staff through a chat and live-stream platform, as detailed in our report Reflexive Retail: Live, Emotional & On-Demand. In June 2018, British department store Harvey Nichols, an early adopter of the software, expanded its partnership with Hero throughout all its stores. Harvey Nichols reports that its customers using Hero are five times more likely to purchase than those who don’t use it – and they spend more (Digiday, 2018).

  • Weekly Instagram Drops: US direct-to-consumer footwear brand M.Gemi broadcasts a live Instagram Story each Monday to introduce new limited-edition styles. After the first five clips, M.Gemi reported that Instagram followers had increased by 11% and sales overall were up 20%. The show isn’t shoppable, but we expect Instagram’s parent company Facebook to introduce direct purchasing via live streams in the future. See more in Monetising Social Media 2018.

  • Localising Far-Flung Shops: Live shopping is flourishing in China. Among the most promising platforms is ShopShops, which leverages fascination with Western brands by broadcasting influencer-hosted shows from American stores. Per-show sales have reached up to $30,000. “Live streaming in this way creates one-to-one moments at scale, while also providing transparency and reassurance in a market awash with counterfeits,” says Stefanie Dorfer, editor of Retail at Stylus. See Unmasking Engagement: Asian Beauty Now for more.
Published: 2 Jul 2018

Deciphering the behaviour of all demographic groups is a vital part of our work, and the youngest generations – the connected consumers of the future – are the most crucial for brands to watch.

Aside from being the fastest to adopt new technologies, Gen Z (aged nine to 23) hold great purchase influence in their households. And in terms of personal and social diversity, they’re among the most open and accepting consumer groups we’ve seen.

We’ve just published 10 Youth Trends to Watch, which charts the impact these trends are likely to have on multiple industries. Looking at just three of Gen Z’s polarising behaviours paints a fascinating picture of an enterprising group who are resourceful, mindful and inventive – and looking for brands to support their development in relevant and meaningful ways.

Three-quarters (77%) of 14- to 21-year-old Americans already earn their own money (White Paper, 2017)

Youthful Enterprise

This inspiring new generation of teens has an unprecedented entrepreneurial spirit; more than three-quarters (77%) of 14- to 21-year-old Americans already earn their own money. These tech natives are trading cryptocurrencies and turning their social media platforms into mini e-tail economies. And they’re looking for media outlets – like Teen Boss magazine and social network Maverick, both of which provide practical advice for savvy teenpreneurs – to help them build their own brands and learn start-up skills.

16- to 24-year-olds in the UK are over three times more likely to be regularly lonely than over-65s (ONS, 2017)

Connecting Gen Lonely

A mental health crisis is gaining public attention across generations. Alarmingly, despite the perception that Gen Z is socially connected, the Office for National Statistics has found that 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK are over three times more likely to be regularly lonely than over-65s.

We believe there’s a real need for compassionate brands to promote self-care through a number of initiatives like wellbeing apps and products, and community hubs that bring young people together in real life.

Crafting Creative Identities

Further to valuing connection and commerce, Gen Zers seek new forms of self-discovery and ways to express their identity. The beauty sector in particular is responding well with teen- and tween-targeted products that promote creativity, experimentation and diversity – which is also prompting huge industry growth. Brands like Crayola are recognising young people’s self-confidence issues and responding with make-up that encourages them to explore and express their personalities.  

Crayola Beauty

In our Asian Beauty Now Spotlight Trend reports, we’re watching a wave of influence coming from the East in the form of clever teen sub-brands and new formats that cultivate inventive behaviour. From Shiseido’s teen brand Posme, with its addictive shareable make-up stickers of single-dose, multi-use colour for the eyes, cheeks and lips, to South Korean beauty brand Etude House’s in-store Color Factory for developing the ultimate in personalised palettes.

As July gets underway, we’re turning our focus to opportunities for engaging with an older market – ‘the middle-aged gap’. We’re also excited to continue building our psychographic landscape – the seeds of our next Consumer Zodiac. Watch this space.

Have a great month,


Tessa Mansfield

Chief Creative Officer

Future of Sneaker Drops: Nike Digitises Queueing Ritual

Waiting in line for limited-edition sneakers is ingrained in sneakerhead culture. However, not every enthusiast is in the city of the drop, or has the time to physically queue. Nike Korea has tackled this challenge by transferring the ritual to the digital realm – making it a global happening.

In April 2018 over the duration of two weeks, sneaker aficionados waited online using avatars in the first ever hashtag queue on Instagram to buy Air Max trainers.

Nike Korea decided to make use of Instagram’s latest feature, which allows users to follow hashtags, by creating #AirMaxLine as a digital waiting area. Fans were invited to visit a website to create and personalise an avatar using hundreds of exclusive characters and items inspired by Korean street culture.

To join the digital queue for the chance to buy, people were asked to share a picture of their avatar on Instagram with the hashtag #AirMaxLine – each avatar doubled as a ticket for an online draw. All avatars were displayed in chronological order on the Instagram feed, as if waiting in line.

More than 80,000 posts were uploaded to Instagram, generating over 15 million impressions, and the sneakers sold out within minutes. See also Monetising Social Media ’18: Five Trends to Watch to find out how to drive purchase via Instagram.

The sneakerhead phenomenon is far from cooling down with sneaker sales constantly growing globally. To get a better grasp of what it is, where it’s coming from and what it will evolve into, check out our spotlight trend Sneakerheads Unboxed.

Published: 29 Jun 2018

Financial Empowerment for Unprepared Retirees

By 2050, the global population of people aged over 60 is expected to reach 2.1 billion

People across the world are not prepared for retirement and financially unequipped for the future. Brands should step in to provide digital services offering reassurance and support.

An ageing population and shift in responsibility to individuals saving for themselves is putting people under financial strain in their later years, according to Scottish investment company Aegon's Retirement Readiness Survey. Stylus highlights the survey's findings:

  • Growing Older: By 2050, the global population of people aged over 60 is expected to reach 2.1 billion, more than 10 times the size it was in 1950. While tech and medicine developments have increased life expectancy by 27%, this is placing a huge financial strain on social security.
  • Burden Shift: Governments and employers used to prepare people for retirement, but now the onus is shifting to individuals. Globally, government benefits have reduced by 38% and only 43% of employers offer a retirement plan that includes an employer contribution.
  • Expectations Vs Reality: Workers worldwide predict they'll need 68% of their current income upon retirement, but only 25% expect to achieve this. One-third of workers have a back-up plan if they need to stop working earlier than anticipated, yet 39% of retirees retired sooner than expected due to ill health.

There's an opportunity here for financial brands to offer intuitive services that help people approaching retirement spend their money more effectively. A good example is US fintech start-up United Income's platform, which provides holistic financial planning and investment management, and creates personalised spending projections with tailored saving recommendations.

For further information on the companies empowering consumers to make better financial choices, see Fast-Forward Finance.

Published: 27 Jun 2018

Will the Banks of the Future be Operated by Robots?

Already changing the retail landscape, automation is finding its way into banking, too. The world’s first bank fully operated by robots has opened in China – a country emerging as a digital leader thanks to an open approach to disruptive technologies, and low concerns about data privacy.

China Construction Bank has opened the branch in Shanghai, complete with two concierge robots, automated self-service kiosks and a full surveillance system.

Consumers are welcomed by Little Dragon – a friendly robot with a cartoon-like avatar face, designed to reassure visitors. As the entrance guardian, she comes with a PIN pad and talks to customers, takes bank cards, checks accounts and answers questions. Consumers enter the branch and pass through electronic gates by scanning their faces and IDs. For second visits, facial recognition is sufficient to open the barriers and access customer data.

Inside, visitors interact with automated teller machines to open accounts, transfer money and make foreign exchanges. A second robot is on hand for assistance, while a virtual reality room with a live video connection to a human is available if customers require face-to-face interaction. The space is monitored by eight surveillance cameras and human security staff.

China’s unmanned retail sector is expected to triple in size to 65bn yuan (£7.5bn) by 2020 (iResearch, 2017).

This innovative branch reflects China’s disruptive approach to retailing, which we’ve highlighted in our report Uni-Commerce: Chinese Retail Focus. If you’re a bank trying to reassure your role within the modern retail age, have a look at Reimagining Retail Banking.

Published: 25 Jun 2018

Smart Packaging Leads Beauty Consumers to Online Content


Near-field communication (NFC) technology blurs the divide between physical and digital products. Goods become gateways to content, connecting consumers to aesthetic and lifestyle branding beyond the physical object. Brands need to start thinking about how they can use this technology to add value and inspire meaningful engagement opportunities.

US-based ethical skincare brand Yuni is working with Norwegian company Thinfilm to embed its packaging with NFC technology. Electric chips are fitted seamlessly into the product’s paper wrapping – meaning all users need to do is tap the packaging with their smartphone to create a cloud-based connection which takes them directly to branded mobile content. 

We’ve seen this technology in packaging before – and featured NFC company MyPack Connect as one of the influencers in our 2018 Look Ahead. However, it’s the pairing of the beauty sector with this technology that is of interest in Yuni’s case. Branding in this industry is largely conducted through social channels, with influencers and vloggers sharing their favourite products in haul and tutorial videos.

Yuni’s new packaging connects consumers to how-to videos with product-specific application instructions and tips – bypassing the need for research when they get home.

Digitally connected packaging is enabling shoppers to experience a ‘try before you buy’ scenario, where videos present a realistic preview of the product and its effects in-store. YouTube is rated as the most reliable source for information about consumer products (PR Week, 2015), revealing the power that recorded content – and an unfiltered, undoctored insight into a product – can have on consumers.

For more creative examples of how tech can be used to augment packaging, see Packaging Futures 17/18: Digital. NFC chips are also being used to unleash new functionality in consumer products – see 2018 Olympics: Payment-Embedded Merchandise for more.

Published: 25 Jun 2018

Next-Gen Giving: App Streamlines Social Good

More than 550,000 people in the US are homeless

Electronic transactions are quick and efficient, but a cashless society isn't beneficial for everyone – especially the homeless, who rely on spare change for survival. US start-up Samaritan is tackling this issue by helping next-gen activists support their neighbours in need.

It distributes Bluetooth-powered beacons to homeless individuals and notifies people via an accompanying app whenever they're near a beacon holder. Passers-by can read the person's story and the financial goal they're trying to reach to escape life on the streets – and offer them money with a simple mobile transaction.

These donations can be redeemed at partnering stores for food, transport and essential items including soap and toilet paper, but not for alcohol or tobacco. This helps increase giving, as many people are reluctant to donate for fear of funding addictions.

Currently in beta mode in Seattle, Samaritan plans to expand to other US cities and has already had 7,000 downloads, raising about $2,500 per month.

More than 550,000 people in the US are homeless (Hud Exchange, 2017) – with the Seattle area spending more than $1bn a year in response to the crisis (Puget Sound Business Journal, 2018). Tech companies like Samaritan could help address such social issues by engaging proactive and energetic next-gen activists, who are eager for new ways to streamline change.

It's becoming increasingly important for brands to cultivate and inspire empathy. For the latest ideas inspiring action for good, take a look at Compassion Culture: Embracing Empathy.

Published: 20 Jun 2018

Beauty Brand’s Pop-Ups Defy China’s Animal-Testing Laws


China is the last major country to require animal testing on cosmetics and skincare before these items can be sold to the public – but one cruelty-free brand appears to have found a loophole.  

LA-based skincare and nutricosmetics brand Ceramiracle has emphasised its cruelty-free ethos with inventory-free, digitally led pop-up stores around China.

The company has partnered with the country’s largest digital platform WeChat to enable consumers to make purchases by scanning a QR code, which leads them to the app’s e-commerce store. The products are then delivered to the customer within three days from a warehouse in Hangzhou, a free-trade zone in Eastern China. In this region, goods can be imported, manufactured and exported without direct intervention from Chinese customs.

Ceramiracle is also capitalising on China’s e-commerce opportunity – online sales increased by 32% and totalled $1.2tn in 2017 (China’s Ministry of Commerce, 2018). Stylus’ Retail editor Stefanie Dorfer said: “WeChat is one of the most dominant digital platforms in China, and the perfect gateway for brands wanting to expand into this booming market. A strategy like this should be explored by other cruelty-free brands as they can bypass the country’s animal-testing legislation.”

Forty-seven per cent of millennials check whether luxury brands foster sustainable values before purchasing (Deloitte, 2017) – indicating the importance of considering ethical sourcing and distribution methods. For more on this, see The Great Beauty Green-Up and Doing Good.

To read more about engagement strategies that target the East, see Uni-Commerce Chinese Retail Focus, Asian Beauty Now and State of Mobile: Global Youth Focus.