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The Brief
Published: 6 Nov 2018

Hims Targets the Female Wellness Sector


US-based male grooming and healthcare start-up Hims is entering the female wellness category with a range of skincare, haircare and sexual health products.

Launched in November 2018, Hers is focusing on affordable, medical-grade products for all age groups – from teens to menopausal women.

The line includes prescription and over-the-counter sexual wellness products like birth control and Addyi – medication for hypoactive sexual desire disorder. There are also haircare and skincare products to combat hair loss, acne and hyperpigmentation. 

The platform and products are female-first – designed by women for women – and the brand’s ethos is grounded in filling the gaps that exist for women in the contemporary healthcare market. It also grounds sexual wellness and skincare as part of the regular maintenance of overall personal health. 

With the tag line “Your body, your control”, Hers also offers advice on different aspects of health and wellbeing with a network of 12 medical specialists, such as gynaecologists and dermatologists. Customers can speak to medical experts via texts, phone calls and video chats for a $5 fee. The doctors then work with a network of pharmacies across the US to get the products sent out on the same day. 

From a branding perspective, Hers is differentiated from Hims with a more sophisticated aesthetic. Hims caught the attention of men with phallic cacti graphics and millennial pink branding (see Instagangs: Indie Male Beauty for more), but Hers is marketed with neutral colours and minimalist design.

The blurring intersection between beauty and health is a key theme we highlight in our Look Ahead for 2019. To read more about the female wellness sector, see 10 Wellbeing Trends to Watch, Female Sexuality in Focus and Selling Cyclical Beauty.

Published: 6 Nov 2018

Health Insurance Start-Up Covers Meditation App


French health insurance start-up Alan has partnered with meditation app Petit Bambou to provide financial contributions towards the subscription fee.

Alan is the first health insurer to offer coverage for a meditation app, acknowledging the uptick of consumers seeking alternative resources to nurture their mental health. In the US, online queries for meditation apps increased by 65% between September 2016 and 2017, demonstrating the wider interest in this tech (Think with Google, 2017).

Like rival meditation app Headspace, Petit Bambou is based on a subscription model and prompts users to take time to meditate for focus and mental wellness. The app has a free basic course, but full access costs €60 a year. If insured by Alan, however, users will be refunded €25 as part of their health insurance cover by the start-up.

In France, healthcare is funded by taxes, the government and individual patients – so consumers there are already prepared to pay for some healthcare bills (Expatica, 2016).

As discussed in The New Family Network, part of our Macro Trend The Kinship Economy, insurance is a key area for potential development as new lifestyles and consumer attitudes emerge. By including coverage of a meditation app, Alan is tapping this opportunity early; many other insurers are sure to follow its lead by offering diverse coverage in their products.

New health-tech products for mental health and wellbeing will also be a focus for growth in the coming year. For more on platforms already engaging with this trend, see our Nurturing Mental Health and Serving the Self-Care Generation reports.

Published: 5 Nov 2018

You’ll have noticed some improvements to our site over the last week, and I’d love to illustrate how they’ll benefit you as we enter an exciting new phase here at Stylus.

Firstly, we’ve refreshed our brand identity to better reflect who we are, what we do and what we stand for. Secondly, we’ve simplified how you navigate the site. All of Stylus.com’s features remain, but now everything is accessed via a single, more intuitive menu. 

We’ve also expanded our Consumer Lifestyle pillar into four new standalone directories: Consumer Attitudes, Technology, Food & Beverage and Travel & Hospitality. We believe this will make things easier and clearer as you access our regular industry analysis.

A further change is the new name for our Blog, The Brief, which will continue to feature our experts’ cross-industry analysis in a more digestible format. We’ve also launched a brand-new News & Views stream, where you can learn more about why we do what we do, in addition to keeping up to date with our events and other Stylus goings-on. 

Another new addition is our Press page, where you can keep tabs on our experts’ regular media appearances. Our director of consumer product Emily Gordon-Smith’s take on why dad trainers are back in fashion, for BBC News, is one that’s definitely worth a read.

Aside from our new look, this week we published our 2019 Look Ahead reports, where we reveal the 30 trends set to shape next year’s commercial landscape. I hope this will help to kick-start your planning process ahead of what promises to be a transformative 12 months. You can read them here if you haven’t done so already. 

If you have any thoughts on our brand refresh, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Catch up soon, 

Tessa Mansfield 
Chief Creative Officer

Published: 2 Nov 2018

Revain Aims to Verify Online Reviews As Authentic & True


Peer-to-peer recommendations matter to consumers. In the US, 91% of shoppers regularly read online reviews, and 84% trust them as much as friends (Bright Local, 2017). Aiming to reinvent consumer feedback, Russian platform Revain implements blockchain technology, an artificial intelligence (AI) filtration system and an incentive scheme to make reviews more genuine, constructive and transparent.

Several websites have come under scrutiny for how they have – or haven’t – filtered content, and consumers are paying attention. According to The Times, a third of reviews on TripAdvisor are fake. Ensuring all reviews on its platform are trustworthy, Revain designed an authentication system consisting of two stages: automatic filtering, then manual moderation by the company in question.

First, an AI filtration system powered by IBM Watson filters out low-quality reviews by flagging statements that use abusive language or are unnecessarily emotional, and verifies quality ones providing positive and constructive feedback. Once through the AI stage, reviews are checked by the company they’re targeted at. Companies are able to accept or reject them, but need to provide evidence if they disagree with the author. A decentralised ‘justice’ system sees high-profile users make a final decision if author and company are having a dispute. Importantly, conversations between parties are visible to all users of the platform.

After the filtration process, reviews are saved in the blockchain to ensure they can’t be edited, manipulated or deleted.

For every published and company-verified review, users are rewarded with cryptocurrency tokens, which can be traded on currency exchange platforms. This is financed by companies who sign up for Revain’s premium subscription plan, costing $227 per month.

Currently only reviewing cryptocurrencies, Revain plans to expand into other industries in future, including gaming, e-commerce, FMCG and restaurant and hotel booking.

For more on the power of peer recommendations, see Amazon Trades On What’s Trending.

Published: 2 Nov 2018

Designer Reimagines Sound as a Tactile Experience

Echo by Tessa Spierings

At Dutch Design Week 2018, Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Tessa Spierings presented Echo, an interactive piece that recalibrates aural interactions, posing the question: what would it feel like to touch sound?

Spierings’ project invites users to manipulate tones by placing hollow tubes over speakers, then combining them to create layered melodies. The tubes are made out of different materials, such as wood, metal and cloth, creating unique sound qualities. Wood produces a deeper tone, brass makes sound purer, while foam has a muffling effect. Users can merge sounds into new melodies by stacking cylinders on top of each other or moving them between speakers.

As discussed in Sensory Product, reimagining intangible sensations as tactile experiences is key for engaging consumers numbed by digital overload. In Europe, only 13% of marketers use the power of all five sense to design impactful consumer experiences (Freeman, 2018). Projects like Echo demonstrate how brands could unite the senses to form complete, user-friendly and immersive concepts.

Other designers are similarly leading the way in deploying sound as a tool to foster memorable experiences. As noted in our Brief post Museums Explore Sound as Material, cutting-edge aural exhibitions are tracing an emotional link between sound and art. Meanwhile, innovative companies are experimenting with materials that generate their own melodies, such as the new aural glass developed by Japanese firm AGC Inc – read more here

Brands also have an opportunity to create visually immersive soundscapes, as explored in Wieden & Kennedy Use AR to Make Vinyl Records Visual.

Published: 1 Nov 2018

Dyson’s Latest Beauty Tool Streamlines Styling

Dyson’s latest beauty innovation offers multiple hair-tool functions in one device – negating the need to buy separate options on the market. The brand’s key objective is to help customers save time with a more equipped gadget than its competitors.

The British home electronics brand has launched the Airwrap Styler, which can dry, curl, wave and smooth tresses with six attachments. Tapping into the multifunctional tech trend, the hybrid tool caters to consumer demand for time-saving solutions.

Simplifying an often-lengthy routine, it combines the effects of curling tongs and blow dryers into one device, streamlining the hair-styling process. With the curling tong attachment, for example, jets of air gently draw the hair to the rod and wrap it around. It acts like a magnet, as consumers simply have to hold the device over the area they’d like to style. 

The website currently offers two sets with pre-made attachments, or the option to buy the device with all six attachments. In addition, Dyson has also provided a bespoke way of finding the ideal attachments for different hair types with an online adviser, allowing consumers to explore a range of options for unruly, frizz-prone locks and flat tresses.

We predict consumers will demand more multifunctional devices to help condense everyday routines; about 18% of US personal-care users wish getting ready was less time-consuming (Mintel, 2016).

For more on the latest haircare and beauty tech trends, see Product Projections 2018: Hair, 10 Tech Trends to Watch in 2018 and Beauty Tools 2018.

Published: 1 Nov 2018

Designing Irresistibility into Everyday Dental Care

L-R: Usetool Company, Goodwell Company

The humble toothbrush is used by millions of people every day across the globe. With the selfcare market booming, brands are realising the commercial opportunity of elevating this bathroom basic. We unveil our two favourite examples evolving this tool to suit aesthetic and sustainable values.

New lifestyle brand Usetool Company, from South Korean designer Jiyoun Kim, seeks to simplify and add value to everyday essentials. Its premier product is the Usetool toothbrush and steriliser, which have an elegant rounded silhouette and inviting soft-touch finish.

The toothbrush is fitted with a magnet which, when placed head-first into the steriliser, activates sonic waves to dislodge bacteria and food from the bristles and clean the brush between uses. The steriliser also acts as a stand and has a wireless charging platform, which features an in-built digital clock that times three minutes of toothbrushing.

Another brand exploring how to add value to this everyday tool is Goodwell Company – a US start-up with a sustainability focus. It sells modular toothbrushes with either a bamboo or recycled aluminium base, and a fully biodegradable charcoal head for improved whitening.

Looking to compete with high-end options while staying true to its environmental ethos, the company is launching Be – a battery and electricity-free powered toothbrush. The handle features a twistable lower section that winds up a manual motor. After a few twists, users press the power button, which moves the bristled head as if powered electrically.

The beauty tools market is expected to be worth over $49bn by 2023 (Global News Wire, 2017). To tap into this growth, brands need to adopt refreshed aesthetics and sustainable materials to reframe unremarkable goods as essential utensils within consumers’ everyday rituals. See Beauty Tools 2018 for more.

Published: 1 Nov 2018

New Housing Developments Trap Owners in Car Dependency


A recent report by UK association Transport for New Homes has found that new housing developments are based around the needs of the car, with government housing targets forcing construction into isolated areas where commuting by car is the only option for residents.

Many new housing developments are sold on the promise of easy access to major road networks and are even built in conjunction with the roads themselves. However, during planning, transport surveys focus on the impact the plans will have on existing traffic, rather than examining the local public transport infrastructure. The result: housing complexes with no access to bus, cycle and walking routes that disregard their impact on transport, services, employment and the environment.

Consumer concern over alternative transport options is valid; in the UK, 40,000 deaths a year are associated with exposure to air pollution (Royal College of Physicians, 2016). A recent study found that more than 12,000 of such deaths could be prevented if England and Scotland reached their walking and cycling initiative goals (Sustrans, 2017). This is also a global concern; the World Health Organisation's first Global Conference of Air Pollution and Health took place from October 30 to 1 November this year (WHO, 2018).

The government has announced a revision of its National Planning Policy, which will address infrastructure issues in future building by better integrating transport links and green spaces. Future developments would be wise to replicate the ethos of energy-positive Norwegian town Lyseparken, which is within cycling distance of the city of Os. In the meantime, this issue presents a potential opportunity for transport start-ups, which have traditionally focused on city-centric issues. Initiatives such as CityMapper's floating transport concept would help ease the current dependence on cars in housing developments.

See our Restyling Suburbia and Smart Cities reports for examples of dynamic future living concepts in urban and suburban areas.

Published: 31 Oct 2018

MIT Hands the Internet Control of a Human for Halloween

MIT's BeeMe

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is celebrating Halloween with a digital social experiment that will let online users control a hired actor in real time.

BeeMe is an interactive audience experience telling the story of an evil artificial intelligence that has been accidentally released online. Users must collectively co-ordinate to direct the human actor on a mission to defeat this opponent. The game will kick off at 11pm US EST on October 31.

Users can participate by logging into the BeeMe website, where a live video stream will reveal the actor's point of view. Through a crowd-control function similar to that seen in Twitch Plays Pokemon sessions (mentioned back in 2015's The Next Wave of Social Media), users will be able to suggest actions, and then vote on which one the actor should take. The top-ranked option will then be carried out by the actor, who will surrender their free will for the duration of the experiment.

To stop crowd control from morphing into sadistic mob mentality, MIT has put a few guidelines in place. Commands that break the law, put the actor (whose gender has not yet been revealed) in physical danger, or violate their privacy, will not be permitted.

Experiences with crowd interaction are an audience draw. During its run, Twitch Plays Pokemon averaged more than 80,000 viewers at any time, and holds the Guinness World Record for the most participants – 1,165,140 players – in a single-player online video game. Now, Amazon-owned e-sports live-streaming platform Twitch is capitalising on audience interaction with its ecosystems of Extensions – mini programmes streamers can use to interact with and collect micropayments from their viewers.

For more on captivating audiences with interactive content, check out The Future of Television.

Published: 31 Oct 2018

Scientists & Designers Unite to Shape Tomorrow’s Materials

Kajsa Willner & Dmytro Orlov

How do we design products for a growing population when material resources are depleting? This timely question was addressed at the What Matter_s exhibition at Dutch Design Week, by showing how collaborations between designers and scientists can unlock new material applications.

The focus for selecting materials is typically different for scientists and designers. Scientists search for connections between properties and performance, while designers seek beautiful and useful applications for these features. 

What Matter_s curator Nina Warnolf connected some of Sweden’s finest talent from the fields of science and design to demystify complex technologies and draw visitors in with aesthetics. We select four inspiring partnerships.

  • Design duo Wang & Söderström and material scientists Magnus Borgström and Vilgailė Dagytė investigated nanowire. The nanoscale component is important in controlling energy transfer in technologies like solar cells and electronic devices. When scaled up, the team found nanowire can be used to efficiently regulate the temperature in a room.

  • Designer Petra Lilja and bioscientist Ramune Kuktaite developed Gleather Glubber – a wheat-derived bioplastic with properties akin to leather and rubber, depending on how it’s processed.

  • Designer Kasja Willner and material engineer Dmytro Orlov embedded plastic packaging film and a disposable fruit bag into clear resin. When lit, it emits a moiré pattern of warped rainbows.

  • Graphenogram by Andréason & Leibel and PhD student Virgínia Boix applies the method used to make the first ever photographs to modern materials. Sheets of acrylic coated with graphite oxide are exposed to light. Where the light falls, silvery graphene patterns are made.

Check out our full coverage of Dutch Design Week 2018 for more innovative trends and inspiration.

Petra Lilja, Ramune Kuktaite & Bill Newson
Wang & Söderström, Magnus Borgström & Vilgailė Dagytė
Wang & Söderström, Magnus Borgström & Vilgailė Dagytė
Andréason & Leibel & Virgínia Boix
Andréason & Leibel & Virgínia Boix
Andréason & Leibel & Virgínia Boix
Published: 31 Oct 2018

Wayfair Opens Penthouse to Serve Instagram Influencers


Influencer marketing is big business, with some brands paying up to $100,000 for a single post. Taking a more organic route is a challenge, necessitating creative thinking. Catering to the growing breed of individual content creators, US furniture e-tailer Wayfair has partnered with NYC influencer marketing agency Village Marketing on a free-to-use penthouse-style photo studio fully decked out in branded furniture.

Wayfair has designed and furnished the entire 2,400 sq ft space in Manhattan for free in exchange for social media impressions. Since August 2018, it has already garnered the brand over five million organic Instagram mentions, despite influencers not being required to do so. Influencers on a quest to find drool-worthy spaces and attractive backdrops for their photoshoots – and who are already turning to hotels and furniture stores – can now book time slots at the penthouse via a website provided by the agency, which realised that influencers hired by its clients have trouble finding locations to shoot content.

The glamorous loft space is cloaked in millennial pink and features ‘vignettes’ instead of rooms, allowing guests to switch between a variety of backdrops. Each vignette features a statement piece of furniture, such as blue velvet chairs arranged around a marble table, or a blush pink sofa in the ‘living room’.

Although not shoppable yet, this agency/retailer partnership showcases the potential of collaboration. In future, shopping features on social media (including Instagram’s latest foray into making Stories shoppable) could be integrated into such experiences to make them beneficial for all parties. Consumers following influencers get one-click access to products, influencers receive affiliation rewards, and brands and retailers acquire clients and profits. See also Social Media 2018: Retail Update and Monetising Social Media 2018: 5 Trends.

The space costs Village Marketing $15,000 per month to rent. While free for influencers to use, the agency's clients have to pay for placements and contribute to monthly costs. 

Published: 30 Oct 2018

Capsule Wardrobe Empowers Women Fleeing Abuse


New Scottish start-up ALICAS gifts surplus clothing items to women fleeing abuse –empowering them to start rebuilding their lives without feeling self-conscious about their appearance. While providing essential clothing and dignity for survivors, the scheme also provides retailers with a novel way of recycling unsold stock.

Many women who flee abuse are unable to take the majority of their possessions with them, including their clothing. ALICAS presents survivors with a bespoke parcel comprising a 30-piece capsule wardrobe in the appropriate size and style for the recipient, including basics such as hosiery and underwear. The branding and packaging is styled after luxury collections, and each package includes a handwritten note of support.

ALICAS encourages public donations of unworn clothing to help create the boxes, but has also campaigned for retail outlets to donate their unsold stock. Earlier this year, Burberry came under fire when it was discovered that it had destroyed £28.6m ($37m) worth of unsold goods, drawing consumer attention to this widespread practice in the fashion industry (Burberry, 2018).

Between 2016-17, 60% of referrals to women's refuges were declined, typically owing to a lack of available space (Women's Aid, 2018). As funding from local authorities continues to diminish in this sector, more schemes will surely follow ALICAS's example of providing practical resources for people in need. For more on positive social initiatives, see our recent Brief post.

As consumers grow more concerned about the ethical and environmental credentials of the businesses they shop with, companies will need to align their practices with their consumers' ethos, or risk becoming obsolete. Stylus recently explored resale and recycling enterprises in Liquid Retail: Pause & Pulsate and Reframing Sustainability.

Published: 29 Oct 2018

Adidas Ups Loyalty Game with Membership App ‘Creators Club’

Retailers and brands are reimagining loyalty schemes by moving away from rewards for purchases made. Demonstrating its commitment to loyal fans, Adidas has launched a members-only loyalty club that rewards engagement and interaction with early access to products, exclusive deals and invitations to special events.

Called Creators Club, the new loyalty programme sits within the brand’s AI-powered shopping app (launched in November 2017), which features personalised recommendations and content.

Based on points, it’s organised into four tiers. Each level comes with its own set of benefits, encouraging users to rise through the ranks to unlock additional rewards.

The four tiers are:

  • Challenger (0-999 points): Limited editions, personalised content, and an overview of all purchases made, regardless of the channel.
  • Playmaker (1,000-3,999 points): Exclusive customisation tools, special offers and a birthday present.
  • Gamechanger (4,000-11,999): Free personalisation, early access to drops and priority customer service, including ‘Skip the Line’ and a dedicated support number.
  • Icon (12,000+): Access to personalised training and nutrition apps, invites to special events, and high-priority access to sneaker drops.

Turning the traditional rewards concept on its head, a user’s ranking isn’t solely based on purchase, but also considers interaction – such as attending events and participating in the community. For example, writing a review equates to 50 points, while making a purchase translates into 10 points for every $1 spent.

Fuelling Adidas’s omnichannel focus, after signing up, each user is equipped with a unique ‘Creator ID’, enabling the brand to identify consumers at every touchpoint – a pre-requisite for contextual marketing and customised in-store experiences. More than half of consumers in the US and the UK (56% and 54% respectively) feel more loyal to brands that show a deep understanding of their preferences and priorities (Wantedness, 2018).

Currently only available in the US (global rollout is planned for 2019), users sign up via the app, website or in-store. See also Supercharged Loyalty Schemes and Beyond Points & Plastic.

Published: 29 Oct 2018

How Good Design Practice Can Really Benefit Your Business

Global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company has launched The Business Value of Design, a key five-year study that looks at the correlation between good design practice and profitability.


Conducted by the company’s McKinsey Design division, the study tracked the design practices of 300 publicly listed global companies in industries ranging from consumer goods to retail banking and medical technology.

“This is the first time that there has been a rigorous quantification of the business value of design, and the first time individual design actions have been tied back to business performance,” said Ben Sheppard, a partner at McKinsey Design, at a launch event in New York.

The team collected more than two million pieces of financial data and recorded over 100,000 design actions. McKinsey explains that an example of an ‘action’ could be putting someone on the executive board with a responsibility for design, user experience, or both. Or tying management bonuses to design quality or customer-satisfaction metrics – not just sales.

Its new McKinsey Design Index (MDI) also gives each of the companies a single score based on hundreds of these design actions taken. 

Companies in the top quarter had 32% more revenue and 56% higher total returns to shareholders compared with industry peers, and were also the ones who made user-centric design everyone’s responsibility by implementing cross-functional teams.

From November 9, any company can take a 30-minute MDI online assessment to understand where its design performance sits on the MDI and uncover where potential opportunities might lie.

Published: 26 Oct 2018

Brands Test How Far Fans Will Go

In two activations that are unconnected but related in spirit, a rock band and a fried chicken brand are both making fans go the distance to enjoy their product this month.

To promote its debut album, US rock band Greta Van Fleet shared an unpublished single that will only play in public parks. Fans visiting March.gretavanfleet.com on their smartphones are greeted by a message that reads, "We have a new song to share with you, and would like you to experience it in nature. If you share your location, we'll help you find the nearest park to listen."

Once fans arrive at their destination, the site unlocks the song and encourages listeners to share impressions of their experience online.

While this is a small intervention encouraging people to enjoy their local neighbourhood, US fast-food chain Popeyes is sending Texans on a 12-hour quest for free fried chicken.

Austin-based creative agency GSD&M devised a way to incorporate Popeyes' 12-hour chicken marinating process into the customer experience and really drive home the dedication involved in such a long prep time. Outside Fort Stockton, a Texas town of just 8,000 people, the agency planted a lone drive-through terminal that sends orders to Popeyes' New Orleans flagship restaurant – a 12-hour drive away. The Drive-Thru officially opens on November 9, and fans embarking on the journey will have a chance to win a year's worth of free chicken.

Campaigns like these, that nudge people to go out of their way, make an impact by enabling new experiences while on a brand mission. This isn't about branding the journey from start to finish; what matters is that the brand served as the catalyst for new memories.

For more on providing customers with tools to break their habits and surprise themselves, see Engaging Future Communities and How to Target Local Consumers.