US ride-hailing companies are redirecting some of their resources to help customers from underserved communities execute their right to vote.
Estimates saying that 15 million registered voters didn't participate in the 2016 US election due to transport troubles have inspired Lyft to offer 50%-off promo codes through voter-turnout NGOs like Vote.org.
The company will also collaborate with non-partisan, non-profit partners – such as National Urban League and The National Federation of the Blind – to help underserved communities. It will provide rides free of cost to those whose journeys to polling locations are challenged by accessibility issues, lack of personal or public transport, or conflicting work schedules. Fourteen per cent of those who didn't vote in 2016 said they were too busy to do so (Pew, 2017).
In the weeks before the midterm elections on November 6th, Lyft will be working with the NGOs When We All Vote and National Voter Registration Day to send passengers in-app reminders of voter registration deadlines. It will also educate drivers and provide them with voter information to pass on to passengers. Lyft's competitor Uber has since announced a similar scheme.
As explored in depth in our report Engaging Future Communities, part of our latest Macro Trend The Kinship Economy, consumers move through multiple group identities throughout their day – brands need to find ways of addressing those groups' dynamic needs in the moment.
For more on creating campaigns tailored to the needs of localised communities, see our report How to Target Local Consumers. To read up on inspiring case studies of brands setting their sights on a greater goal, check out Experiments in Moonshot Marketing.
On September 24, newspaper USA Today will release an interactive augmented reality (AR) model to expose how local government, the mob and the FBI all worked together to continue dumping refuse on a Chicago neighbourhood.
A companion piece to The City – an investigative storytelling podcast – the experience illustrates the corruption surrounding an illegal dump spanning several city blocks in the US metropolis. While listening to the story through the USA Today app, a 3D tabletop AR model of the North Lawndale neighbourhood shows how the dump grew over time, while detailed animations reflect residents' experiences of unfolding events.
Currently, AR experiences need powerful mobile devices, commonly take up large amounts of hard-drive space, and require users to install individual content providers' apps. However, as the number of AR-capable mobile devices is expected to grow to 3.5 billion by 2022 (Digi-Capital, 2018), creators from across the media sector are working to make big experiences more readily available on small machines.
The gaming industry is executing a big push in this direction. On September 13, Nintendo announced that gamers in Japan would be able to play the latest title in the blockbuster game series Assassin's Creed on their Switch consoles. This is extraordinary, as the console itself isn't powerful enough to run the game. Instead, Nintendo will make the entire game available as an interactive stream via the cloud – a groundbreaking direction for universal access to high-end gaming.
Microsoft and Sony, the other two gaming hardware giants, are similarly focused on developing cloud-based gaming. These efforts to make elaborate, interactive storytelling available on any connected screen, will have a knock-on effect for the entire digital entertainment and communications industry.
For more on the latest developments in interactive experiences, check out our coverage of Gamescom 2018.
For its latest Brand Relevance Index, global marketing agency Prophet surveyed more than 12,000 consumers to discover the best-loved brands in the US, UK, China and Germany. The report highlights how marketers must shift away from a 'customer' mindset, to a 'user' mindset.
Apple is the number one brand in the West (Alipay rules in China), with the likes of Amazon, Netflix, Lego and Spotify all featuring in the top 10. For Prophet, the core strategy that links the most successful brands is a mindset shift away from treating people as buyers, and instead thinking about how to use marketing to curate communities for users.
"In the Lego Ideas online forum, for instance, users can voice ideas for new, innovative products, while PlayStation has opened up a digital community for gamers to connect with dedicated channels and a virtually unlimited capability and scale in user-generated content," the report states.
By focusing on creating user communities rather than driving customers down traditional sales funnels, marketers can build stronger relationships. This strategy is particularly crucial in attracting new consumers to your brand. "Initially, users might not even yet be customers," the report explains. "But the more data that is collected from these user bases, the more scope brands have to improve and develop other potential revenue opportunities, enticing engaged users to purchase."
Community-centric commerce is something we explore in more detail in Branding Change: Lessons From New Disruptors and SXSW 2018: Take Back Control of Your Brand. We'll be taking a closer look at community-building in our upcoming Macro Trend, The Kinship Economy.
Nike and Levi's launched groundbreaking campaigns this week, with both taking defiant stands on controversial issues. Prepared to put their reputations on the line, and unafraid to alienate parts of their fan base, both companies have set a benchmark for purpose-driven marketing in this hyper-polarised age.
Nike celebrated 30 years of its 'Just Do It' mantra with a campaign featuring ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who caused controversy in 2016 by kneeling at games during the National Anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. An emotive video spot and poster has social media all fired up, from those who support the brand's deal with Kaepernick (who's currently being shut out of the NFL), to those proclaiming they'll now boycott the brand.
It's easy to be cynical about such a marketing move – Nike can afford to lose a few fans and absorb a momentary four per cent drop in stock. But there's no denying that as an example to other brands who want to lead – not just reflect – the cultural conversation, the Nike-Kaepernick team-up has set a benchmark.
Despite the noise around Nike, it's Levi's that has really put its reputation on the line this week, launching a campaign for greater gun control in America. In an open letter for US business publication Fortune, Levi-Strauss CEO Chip Bergh wrote: "We simply cannot stand by silently when it comes to the issues that threaten the very fabric of the communities where we live and work. While taking a stand can be unpopular with some, doing nothing is no longer an option."
Levi's has established a $1m Safer Tomorrow Fund to "fuel the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America." The brand is also forming a coalition of business leaders to tackle the issue, and encouraging employees to use their paid volunteer time to "get more politically active."
Both these brands are trying to change things, but you might say Levi's has really put its money where its mouth is – it's aiming for the kind of moonshot we outline in Experiments in Moonshot Marketing.
Scottish craft beer company BrewDog is getting into the video streaming business with the launch of The BrewDog Network. It's another example of brands moving into the entertainment space as traditional advertising and marketing models become increasingly ineffective.
The BrewDog Network offers more than 100 hours of programming at launch – including 14 original shows such as Are You Smarter Than a Drunk Person?, in which the intellect of an average trivia competitor is tested against "a Mensa genius who has had one too many drinks". The service costs $4.99 per month, accessed via the web, with iOS and Android versions to follow.
The company boasts 85,000 fan investors through its Equity for Punks crowdfunding initiative, and has already expanded into hotels and bars. Chris Burke, general manager of The BrewDog Network, revealed to the Wall Street Journal that he's aiming for 50,000 subscribers in the first six months. "It has the potential to be a meaningful revenue stream, but it's also about telling the story of BrewDog," he commented.
We've been tracking the growing phenomenon of brands moving into original programming as part of our Brand Studios trend (see our 2018 Media & Marketing Look Ahead for more) – numerous examples can be explored in our New-Wave Branded Content report. But few brands are brave enough to create their own dedicated streaming platforms. Does BrewDog have a passionate enough fan base to sustain a subscription video service?
As usual, it depends on the quality of the content. Get that right, however, and there's no reason why BrewDog can't compete healthily in this space, as more and more consumers seek TV-like experiences away from traditional broadcast channels. See The Future of Television for more.
IGTV, Instagram's newly launched long-form video feature, offers marketers the ability to create branded entertainment for an audience untethered to traditional TV platforms. Mercedes is the latest brand to experiment with the format.
Mercedes has collaborated with ad agency R/GA on a two-minute black-and-white film celebrating the 130th anniversary of the first long-distance drive, undertaken by Bertha Benz – wife of Mercedes-Benz founder Karl Benz – in 1888. The film has been shot specifically to take advantage of IGTV's vertical format, which is now the standard way mobile users are consuming video. Automated video platform Wibbitz reports that the usage of vertical videos leads to a 130% increment on views and four times more engagement on Facebook.
"Because it's more of an entertainment platform and not an advertising platform at launch, we [had to] think about content that feels more like storytelling content," said Mark Aikman, general manager of marketing services at Mercedes-Benz USA, in an interview with US media platform AList. "Mercedes-Benz isn't new to vertical video – we've been using that advertising format for a while because of the importance of mobile in today's world."
The need for brands to take an entertainment-first approach to marketing is becoming ever more vital, as young consumers continue to block traditional display ads and spend more time on ad-free platforms such as Netflix. For more on how marketers can take advantage of new video and TV formats, see The Future of Television, New-Wave Branded Content and State of Media: The Fan-First Revolution.
Media that appeals to more than three senses can increase brand impact and engagement by more than 70% (Martin Lindstrom, 2017). We're seeing an increase in multisensory campaigns that stimulate multiple senses – including this new initiative from Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam that brings the vinyl experience to life via augmented reality (AR).
Listeners can pull up the ad agency's AR app Lava, and view virtual moving 'sculptures' emerging from the record as it spins on the turntable. The first album to utilise the app is the debut from Dutch band Necessary Explosion. The sculptures react and adapt as you move around them, and the app also works with Spotify and Apple Music.
In a statement, Anita Fontaine and Geoffrey Lillemon, creative directors of W&K Amsterdam's Department of New Realities, described the app as "the future digital vinyl sleeve". They added: "We see this approach as a new emerging genre for lots of artists, one which can open up new possibilities for all kinds of AR music experiences."
Also launching this week is Electronauts, a virtual reality (VR) music production app from US firm Survios. The game throws users into a surreal virtual world where they can play specially designed instruments, and remix music curated by Norwegian super-producers Stargate. "Electronauts harnesses the power of VR to go inside of a song and feel completely in control of the music," said Nathan Burba, Survios co-founder and chief executive.
"This opens up for a totally new level of creative freedom and will inspire both seasoned artists and musicians as well as people with no musical training," added Stargate's Mikkel Eriksen.
For more on the power of immersive and interactive media experiences, see The Future of Television and Cannes Lions: Make the Invisible Visible. Look out for our upcoming series of Sensory Branding reports for an in-depth look at multisensory design and branding.
Walmart is the latest brand from outside the traditional entertainment business to enter the TV arms race, following in the footsteps of Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Telefonica. Brands in every industry consider TV and TV-like media experiences – particularly original scripted series – as the key way to engage millennial and Gen Z audiences who can't be reached via traditional marketing channels.
Close to 500 scripted series aired in 2017 (a number that's more than doubled since 2010), across a diverse range of channels, from traditional broadcast television to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Scripted programming on average captures 35% of TV consumption for millennials globally, and TV viewing in Europe "remains at a historically high level", revealed Frédéric Vaulpré, vice-president of French research firm Eurodata, at this year's MIPTV festival.
Now Walmart may be joining the competition for consumer attention. Anonymous sources have suggested to US tech blog The Information that the US retailer is considering a streaming platform aimed at middle America. Walmart believes there's an opportunity to offer a cheaper service to this audience, considered underserved by the dominant streaming platforms, Netflix and Amazon.
Walmart may be influenced by the way Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica has diversified beyond its core business and into original TV programming. Via its PayTV company Movistar+, Telefonica is investing €70m ($81m) a year in 10-12 shows, particularly high-end drama series, in a bid to attract more customers. "We want to offer our clients something unique and distinctive," commented Movistar+'s head of content, Domingo Corral, in an interview with UK marketing blog The Drum. "One way is original programming – it is a very powerful tool."
For more on the changing world of TV, see our The Future of Television report.
US lingerie brand Aerie is showing the rest of the advertising industry how inclusive imagery is done – including not patting themselves on the back for taking action.
The brand's latest online product pages include women with a range of disabilities, illnesses, ethnicities, ages and shapes. Wheelchairs, crutches, insulin pumps for Type 1 Diabetes, ostomy bags and mastectomies feature among the diverse group of women of all backgrounds, ages and sizes seen sporting the full product range – from bralets to performance wear.
Instead of orchestrating a big launch to shout about the new visuals, the brand simply added them to existing product pages – doubtlessly counting on customers to share them on social feeds in their own time. Response was vocal and overwhelmingly positive, with advocacy groups lauding the casual inclusion, and many people saying this was the first time they saw themselves in commercial imagery.
The move is a continuation of Aerie's previous efforts to shift the needle when it comes to keeping it real. In 2014, the #AerieReal campaign abandoned retouching its models, revealing the realities of stretch marks, scars, and all the ways flesh organically bunches and spills when even the trimmest bodies twist and bend – a move that led to drastic sales growth.
The takeaway is as straightforward as Aerie's approach: if a brand expects to sell to any type of consumer, it has to make every type of life experience a part of its brand identity. For more on navigating inclusive branding, check out No Offence: Speak the Language of Now and A Fashion A'woke'ning.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Held in Sydney, media and marketing conference Mumbrella360 (June 12-14) brought together a range of industry experts from companies including Google and Volkswagen. During conversations on how to use content marketing and artificial intelligence (AI) alike to reach 2018's diversifying consumer psychographics, some pundits suggested that the best way to fix a troubled digital advertising landscape, is to have far less of it.
"Artificial intelligence [AI] is a business opportunity, not a technology matter," said Akshaya Bhargava, executive chairman of investment insights firm Bridgeweave, at the CogX Festival in London (June 11-12). Speakers throughout the event were keen to prove him right, and highlight the need for every brand to be working with AI to supercharge their processes.
"Increasingly, you can't separate out AI and digital," commented Alex Willis, head of communications at the All England Lawn Tennis Association. "AI is becoming a layer that underpins all of [our work], not just a single activation." Willis described the way the Wimbledon tennis championships have embraced AI to transform the brand into "a data-driven media organisation" more than simply a sports event. "We're being judged on technology being launched last week, not last year – how do we adapt to that? We need to think about audience, experience and content," Willis added.
The Wimbledon audience is being served this year by hyper-personalised tools and services, including two chatbots, on-site augmented reality experiences, and SlamTracker, a scoring and insights app that's tailored to the type of fan engaging with it. "You now think of innovation when you think of Wimbledon," said Willis.
This is the kind of transformation – from brand to media platform – that we're tracking in every industry, from fashion (see the Kate Spade example in SXSW 2018: Take Back Control of Your Brand) to automotive (see the BMW example in State of Media: The Fan-First Revolution).
According to Dr Karen Croxson, head of research at the UK's Financial Conduct Authority, "the Silicon Valley view is thinking about [AI] as an engineering problem: how do I get an AI to do what you do? They've set themselves a very high bar. Better to think about how can AI improve what I do."
AI as a job enhancer was exemplified by the work AI solutions firm Satalia has been engaged in with British furniture brand DFS. Satalia helped DFS optimise delivery routes to ensure greater efficiency, replacing a cumbersome non-automated system with one underpinned by machine-learning algorithms that could adapt in under 500 milliseconds to offer the most optimal time windows to customers in real time. "Adaptive is key," commented Satalia's chief executive Daniel Hulme. "If your system is not adapting itself then it's not AI."
Allaying fears that AI could replace roles like delivery drivers, DFS's head of technology Russell Harte explained that using Satalia's technology has improved employee engagement ("drivers consistently get [home] on time now", whereas before they might have no idea when their shift would finish), as well as customer satisfaction.
One of the most intriguing presentations at CogX came from Ben Livshits, chief scientist at web browser firm Brave Software. Brave is a blockchain-driven browser that seeks to offer users high levels of privacy and a faster experience by blocking ads by default.
So where does that leave advertisers in this Brave new world? "Digital advertising is broken," said Livshits. "There are too many middlemen, there's too much fraud – an estimated $16bn in fraud in 2017, rising to $50bn by 2025." Brave's solution is to offer "blockchain-based digital advertising" to brands. Brave users are rewarded for their attention with a Brave cryptocurrency called a BAT (Basic Attention Token). "User attention is privately monitored on-device in the Brave browser," said Livshits. "Advertisers achieve higher ROI, better targeting and reduced fraud, and publishers receive BAT based on user attention."
It seems like a neat solution, although Brave has a long way to go to challenge Chrome's dominance as the leading web browser – Brave currently boasts only 2.2 million monthly active users.
See Cryptocurrency's Journey into Mainstream Culture for more on the potential of blockchain technology.