Highball Machine: Fizzy Whisky on Tap

The Wall Street Journal: “At Kinfolk 90, a bar in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood … many customers are opting for a whisky and soda … The booze is a Scotch-like whisky from Japan. And it is delivered via a beer tap-like device that ensures the desired 3-to-1 ratio of fizzy water and alcohol. The cocktail, simply called a highball, is a mainstay at bars in Japan, where such machines are common. And to hear some proprietors of New York establishments tell it, the drink could be the next big thing in the city.”

“The cocktail’s appeal is rooted in its simplicity, noted Kinfolk 90 General Manager John Van Lieshout. But the machine “adds a degree of artistry to it,” he said. The bar can sell as many as 50 of the $12 cocktail on a busy night, he said. Mr. Van Lieshout also flavors his highballs with some grapefruit essence, delivered as a finishing mist via a spray bottle.”

“Kinfolk 90 is the first bar in New York City with a highball machine, having purchased it from Beam Suntory … a Beam Suntory official said the price tag is in the four figures. Beam Suntory hopes to have the machine, which it says is tailor-made to be used with its Toki whisky, in at least 10 New York bars by early 2018 and in dozens of establishments during the next five years.”


Dark UX: The Art of Online Addiction

Quartz: “Designing to encourage addictive behavior is a studied skill. Legions of designers are now learning the psychology of persuasion and use these tactics to make sites and apps ‘stickier.’ One of these schools is the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab. Spearheaded by behavior scientist BJ Fogg, the lab teaches students about the tenets of ‘captology’ the study of computers as persuasive technologies.”

“Addictive, well-designed interfaces mean that UX designers are doing their jobs. And micro visual cues like a bigger ‘Buy Now’ button, or flashy testimonials, can be just as much value-neutral tools of the trade as they are tactics in the battle for your attention.”

“Dark UX is an industry term for sly design tricks that benefit the client’s bottom line. It ranges from creating defaults, such as a pre-checked opt-in email subscription or pre-selecting the most expensive options. It can also manifest in the form of interfaces requiring clients to supply their personal information before being allowed to look at the products on a website.”


Quote of the Day: Rishad Tobaccowala

“The way I think about advertising is it’s in secular decline and I need to think about products and services much more than I need to think about communication.” ~ Rishad Tobaccowala, chief growth officer for the Publicis Groupe, in The New York Times.


Augmented Reality Retail: Last Jedi ‘Treasure Hunt’

The New York Times: “Disney is billing a new entertainment experience as a free ‘treasure hunt’ for ‘Star Wars’ fans … Some 20,000 stores in 30 countries will offer an augmented reality event that will allow participants to uncover ‘Last Jedi’ characters.”

“You download the ‘Star Wars’ smartphone app and head to the mall. Participating stores … will have a placard on display that says ‘Find the Force.’ Point your phone at the placard with the ‘Star Wars’ app open. One of 15 ‘Last Jedi’ characters, including two never before seen, will appear in the room. They might even talk. If you come back the next day, the same display will reveal a different character.”

“The app allows you to take photos of the characters, record videos and share the experience on social media. Anyone who does so via Twitter or Instagram … is entered in a sweepstakes. The grand prize is attending the ‘Last Jedi’ premiere … The effort illustrates what it now takes to generate excitement at traditional retail outlets, many of which have been struggling as online shopping continues to soar.”


How Netflix Creates ‘Taste Communities’

Wired: “The Defenders provides Netflix with a unique case study. Instead of merely allowing it to find out if someone who likes, say, House of Cards also will like Daredevil (yes, BTW), it tells them which of the people who landed on Daredevil because of House of Cards will make the jump to The Defenders.”

“Wildly different programs lead people to The Defenders’ standalone shows. The top lead-in show for Luke Cage? Narcos. But for Iron Fist, it’s a Dave Chappelle special. Someone who watches Jones probably will watch Cage, but beyond that the groups of people—Netflix calls them ‘taste communities’—gravitating toward those shows enjoy very different programming.”

“Every Netflix user belongs to three or four taste communities. It’s easy to say that this influences what appears in your recommendations, but it’s not quite that simple. Membership in those communities does more than dictate the top 10 comedies appearing in a row of your queue, it determines whether comedies appear there at all … Each time you open Netflix it exposes you to 40 or 50 titles. Netflix considers it a win if you choose one of them.”


MoviePass: Like Netflix for Theaters

Vulture: “The subject of the week in Hollywood is MoviePass, a company from the co-founder of Netflix and Redbox that’ll let you go to the movies once a day, every day, for just $9.95 a month — just barely more than the average price of a single ticket, and less in cities like New York and Los Angeles. While MoviePass has been around for a little while now, it’s in the news at the moment because of that new, comically low price point, as well as the controversy it’s provoking among theaters.”

“What the company hopes to offer over time is a large base of proven, frequent moviegoers — and the proprietary information that comes from having access to their every ticket-buying decision. It’s a Big Data move, one that will utilize investor money to subsidize a money-losing business model in the hopes that other revenue streams will eventually open up, most likely coming from the likes of AMC, who might one day offer MoviePass tickets at a discount and use the consumers’ behavioral information to improve advertising, curation, concessions, and so on.”

“MoviePass’s challenge is that it threatens to cut into the revenue stream of Hollywood’s most loyal customer, with the added, ethereal benefit of ‘data,’ a concept with which theaters already have a complicated relationship, considering the struggles of tracking and the unpopularity of in-theater advertising. And ultimately, it isn’t good for anyone in the business of movie-making if people become used to the idea that they should be entitled to all movies for ten bucks a month. Just look at the music industry.”


Serenity Kids: Paleo Baby Food

Quartz: Serenity Kids is “marketing a line of liquid baby food that has the highest meat content of any pouched baby food. It hit the market this month. Meals include liquified uncured bacon with organic kale and butternut squash, chicken with peas and carrots, even beef with kale and sweet potato. The product is sold in packs of six 4-ounce pouches for about $27.”

“As a concept, the diet is comprised of food that would have been available to Paleolithic humans‚ which includes non-processed foods that could be found by foraging or killing animals for meat. That means no dairy, no grains, and definitely no Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies.”

“Designing such a diet for very young children hasn’t come without controversy … Health officials considered it a risk because there was fear children would miss out on important nutrients during a critical stage. Complications down the road could mean poor growth and a weaker immune system, among other things … As of early August, Serenity Kids pre-sold 1,800 pouches. As of now the company is selling the food online, and hopes to be in grocery stores within the next year.”


LVMH: A Winner in Real-Life Retail

Axios: “LVMH, the French conglomerate and owner of brands Louis Vuitton and Sephora, had a 15% rise in first-half 2017 revenue, and that did not come by running fire sales — profit was up 23% … LVMH’s success is a reason for traditional retailers to despair as much as hope. The secret behind LVMH’s success is near total control of products from conception through manufacturing and sales, the opposite strategy of traditional mass-market retailers that largely act as middlemen and little more.”

“Next to Louis Vuitton, LVMH’s most important brand is Sephora, the beauty retailer that has been gobbling up market share in the $22-billion cosmetic retail industry. Customers interviewed by Axios raved foremost about the in-store experience, with freely accessible samples of any product absent any interaction with a salesperson. If shoppers want help, these customers say, Sephora’s staff is knowledgable and eager to find them the right look.”

“LVMH is demonstrating one formula for making a success of brick-and-mortar retail. That does not mean it can rest: Even high-flying luxury retailers like Louis Vuitton must constantly innovate as e-commerce matures and offers more products and more ways to buy them.”


Does Rudeness Affect Job Performance?

The Wall Street Journal: “When we’re pressed at work, it’s tempting to let manners slip … a growing body of research suggests that rudeness can harm an employee’s well-being and job performance. When rudeness feels like a threat, it occupies cognitive resources and focuses our attention on processing the unpleasant interaction, says Amir Erez, a management professor at the University of Florida.”

IN 2015, Dr. Erez conducted a study of doctors and nurses who had been subjected to disparaging words. He comments: “The results were scary. the teams exposed to rudeness gave the wrong diagnosis, didn’t resuscitate or ventilate appropriately, didn’t communicate well, gave the wrong medications and made other serious mistakes.”

“Mistreatment in other workplaces may not lead to such critical failures, but persistent low levels of rudeness—such as being ignored or put down, particularly by someone in a position of power—can threaten an employee’s sense of belonging, according to research published this year in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. This isolation, in turn, can bring on stomach problems, sleeplessness and headaches.”


Why Do Grownups Suck At Innovation?

Alison Gopnik & Tom Griffiths: “Why does creativity generally tend to decline as we age? … the explanation may have to do with a tension between two kinds of thinking: what computer scientists call exploration and exploitation. When we face a new problem, we adults usually exploit the knowledge about the world we have acquired so far … On the other hand, exploration — trying something new — may lead us to a more unusual idea, a less obvious solution, a new piece of knowledge. But it may also mean that we waste time considering crazy possibilities that will never work, something both preschoolers and teenagers have been known to do.”

“This idea suggests a solution to the evolutionary paradox that is human childhood and adolescence. We humans have an exceptionally long childhood and prolonged adolescence. Why make human children so helpless for so long, and make human adults invest so much time and effort into caring for them?”

“The answer: Childhood and adolescence may, at least in part, be designed to resolve the tension between exploration and exploitation. Those periods of our life give us time to explore before we have to face the stern and earnest realities of grown-up life. Teenagers may no longer care all that much about how the physical world works. But they care a lot about exploring all the ways that the social world can be organized. And that may help each new generation change the world.”