US – Disney and Google are bringing children's stories to life with a range of physical books that can be enhanced with the use of a Google Home device.
Featuring recognisable characters from the Disney franchise, parents sitting down to read with their children simply say: ‘Hey Google, let’s read along with Disney’ before reading the book out loud. Google Home will recognise the story and play relevant sound effects and music to enhance the storytelling experience.
Google Home will also recognise when parts of the book are skipped or when a child asks a question. In these moments, the device will play background music until the reading continues. The partnership with Disney is part of Google’s plan to make its home assistants more family-friendly.
In a bid to re-invent the traditional book format for the next generation, brands are using technology to augment reading. For more, read our microtrend Young Bibliophiles.
A skincare range for men of colour
Ceylon, US. Photography by Megan Rogers
Ceylon, US. Photography by Sylvain Lewis
Los Angeles – Ceylon is creating products that address the nuances of the underserved men’s beauty market – with a focus on men of colour.
According to the brand, there is a distinct lack of products designed for the treatment and protection of non-Caucasian skin, with men using these products reporting skin irritation, hyper-pigmentation, acne scarring, razor bumps and eczema.
To counter this, Ceylon consulted dermatologists to offer a collection that is gentle on the skin of men who are Asian, Hispanic, African, Native American, Middle Eastern or from Asia-Pacific. The basic range is made up of a moisturiser, facial wash and toner. ‘Ceylon is important… it's going to help break down stereotypes in communities of colour, especially with men and their relationship to grooming, which we feel is a gateway to better health and wellness,’ says co-founder Blake Rascoe.
UK – The Dare to Connect programme will be rolled out across International Hotel Group’s European Crowne Plaza hotels in 2019.
Created in collaboration with emotional intelligence (EQ) expert The School of Life, the programme is designed to help hotel team members become more attuned to guests’ needs in order to enhance the guest experience. The training will focus on developing six EQ skills: vulnerability, self-belief, connection, anticipation, authenticity and perseverance.
By applying the skills to their day-to-day roles, IHG says employees will be able to better recognise cues in guests’ behaviour and naturally engage with them without following a script. During a trial programme at four Crowne Plaza hotels across the UK, service scores grew by at least four percentage points amid an influx of positive reviews.
Paramount Recreation Club. Architectural Images by Terence Chin
Clear Channel’s smart billboards help the homeless
Clear Channel billboards, Stockholm, 2018
Sweden – This winter, the media company is sacrificing its seasonal advertising revenue in order to help homeless people find shelter.
With temperatures dropping in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, Clear Channel has created an emergency system for its digital billboards to help homeless people find nearby shelters. When the temperature drops below –7°C, the billboards will replace branded advertising with details of the nearest homeless shelter and how to get there.
While the city’s churches and non-profit-making organisations open emergency shelters in winter, information about these shelters does not always reach the homeless. Therefore, Clear Channel, whose billboards reach over a million people a day in Stockholm, aims to guide the homeless in times of crisis.
By acknowledging this problem and stepping in to offer a solution, Clear Channel is acting as a Civic Brand.
Stat: Wellness is still struggling to be inclusive
Recent research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied the rise of yoga, meditation and chiropractors among US adults. Although yoga is the most popular pursuit – 14.3% of US adults practised yoga in 2017 – meditation, at 14.2%, is not far behind. Furthermore, meditation is the fastest-growing wellness activity, suggesting it may soon overtake yoga.
The study also gave a limited racial breakdown, finding that white people were more likely to participate in all three activities than black and Hispanic consumers. The wellness industry, particularly yoga, has for years followed a narrative tailored towards affluent, white women. However, brands are beginning to take action in order to make the industry more inclusive and less alienating.
Thought-starter: What are the dangers of algorithmic advertising?
Netflix was recently accused of tailoring its visuals to the race of its users. Foresight writer Holly Friend asks: is it clever hyper-personalisation or just plain stereotyping?
Netflix’s algorithms are infamous. They entice us to watch new shows, analyse our levels of engagement and, as recently discovered, generate targeted advertising based on our perceived race.
At the end of October 2018, subscribers started to notice a pattern as they scrolled through Netflix – the promotional artwork for many films featured characters of their own ethnicity. This was first highlighted on Twitter and led to widespread comparisons between viewers, many of whom were presented artwork in line with their race.
Could Netflix's intricate algorithm be the next iteration of Amazon's 'Customers also purchased…' feature, potentially signalling the future of targeted advertising? We’ve grown to accept that companies are analysing our search history to sell us products. But what happens when they are targeting customers based on the colour of their skin? Read the full Opinion piece here.