The Strand: A Culture of Quizzes

The New York Times: “The Strand is the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores, a giant in an ever-shrinking field … The Strand employees are known for being ‘curmudgeonly’ but also clever, even cool: Former employees include Patti Smith … For about four decades, however, applicants have confronted a final hurdle to enter its ranks: the literary matching quiz.”

“Over time, the reputation of the Strand’s quiz has grown … The legend has become larger, in fact, than the quiz itself, which is only 10 lines long, covering a few inches of the photocopied application … Fred Bass, who with his daughter, Nancy Bass Wyden, owns the Strand, called the quiz ‘a very good way to find good employees,’ regardless of their duties.”

Carson Moss of The Strand says the quiz is not a make or break for applicants: “In a sense we feel it’s a reward for passionate readers, after they’ve slogged through an application,” he said. The Strand’s Constance Fox comments: “What I find most interesting is when people don’t answer, but then write: ‘I’m an artist. I know all about Picasso,’ or ‘Here’s what I know about children’s books.’”


Cadillac House: Not Your Father’s Dealership

The Verge: “The next stage in transforming Cadillac is to bring its 925 dealers up to snuff. That’s where the Cadillac House comes into play, a chic public space where anyone can drop by and steep in the brand’s past, present, and future. Each detail of the facility has been carefully considered — it sells Joe Coffee (a local favorite), offers free Wi-Fi, stages art installations … it hosted a block party bash featuring a short set by My Morning Jacket. The Cadillac House has a few cars on view, but it’s not a car dealership. Discreet product specialists are trained to answer questions about features on new models like the CT6.”

Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen comments: “Our office, the Cadillac House, this is what our dealer experience should be like. Our focus here must be on increasing the overall quality of the business. It must be about increasing transaction prices. It must be about brand positioning and upgrading quality of the dealer and doing so in a way that we continue to build the relationship between Cadillac the manufacturer and our dealer network. We have to navigate a very difficult path.”

He adds: “It’s really those small dealers that we want to turn into powerhouses. We want to create a boutique experience, separate from the rest of the GM brand, and we want to help our dealers.”


50 Ways to Kill ‘Pokémon Go’

The Wall Street Journal: “Already some local businesses lucky enough to be near a key location have latched on to Pokémon Go … one New York pizzeria manager who dropped a ‘lure’ in the game for $10 to attract trainers to its proximity—and business spiked 75%. A Brooklyn bar noted that the Pokémon inside were for paying customers only … ‘sponsored locations,’ where companies would pay to become locations in the virtual world in order to drive foot traffic, will be coming to the game.”

“For example, a brand could pay for Wi-Fi at a popular Pokémon location. Or hand out samples … Or put up real world signs or video screens touting their message.”

“Dario Raciti, U.S. director of Zero Code, the gaming and virtual reality division of OMD … noted that one of the worst things the creators of the app could do would be to overload the game with ads, turning every Pokémon adventure into a walk through the virtual version of a billboard-filled Times Square.”

Meanwhile: “Gizmodo has learned that … every McDonald’s restaurant in this country will either be a PokéStop or a gym.”


The Barbie Doll As ‘Purpose’ Brand

The Wall Street Journal: “Mattel researchers found that when people thought of Barbie, they thought about the pink convertible, the Dreamhouse and the closet full of tiny, plastic stilettos. They thought of a character whose life was more ‘Real Housewives’ than real world.”

“And so begins yet another crucial quest for Mattel: It is working to use marketing and other strategies to reposition Barbie as an emblem of imaginative, creative play … Mattel executives like to say that they want to change the focus from what Barbie has to what kind of play activity Barbie enables.”

“Mattel executives say that, in some ways, this new strategy takes the brand back to its roots. Before Barbie, most dolls were baby dolls, designed to allow girls to practice nurturing. Barbie was invented by a mother named Ruth Handler who wanted girls to have the option of acting out other grown-up activities …. Elizabeth Sweet, who studies gender-based toy marketing at the University of California at Davis, comments: ‘Unfortunately, the Barbie brand is rooted in appearance and beauty and body. And I don’t think they can really get away from that’.”


Supermarket Bars: Drinking & Shopping

The Wall Street Journal: “Some high-end supermarkets are serving alcohol. Many have set aside space for wine bars and beer gardens where they host tasting events, with drinks and appetizers. Some stores encourage shoppers to ‘sip ’n’ shop,’ drinking while pushing a shopping cart for a more relaxed shopping experience.”

“At nearly 350 Whole Foods locations nationwide, shoppers can carry open beverages out of the bar area and around the store as they shop around. Some stores have added cup holders to their shopping carts or placed racks around the store where shoppers can place empty stemless wine glasses. In some Texas locations, the $1 cans of beer rest in ice-filled buckets labeled ‘walkin’ around beer’.”

“Shoppers perceive drinks at supermarkets to be a better value than drinks in a traditional bar or club … Bars stretch out the time shoppers, especially 20-somethings, spend in the store. That helps new shoppers get to know the store, even if they had planned to make just a quick stop.”


The Mall Experience: Armed & Dangerous?

“Amid a wave of gun violence in public venues across the U.S. and around the world, mall shoppers are paying more attention to safety,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “Some said they want to see more guard patrols or signs at shopping centers warning of random bag checks. Others suggested mall security officers be armed.”

“The spate of shootings in public areas in recent months has put the issue of security squarely on the minds of both consumers and landlords, who now must balance the need for safety with the need to create pleasant environments for their customers.”

“Shopping centers are more vulnerable than other public areas like transport hubs because they have multiple exits and people often carry large parcels. It can be difficult for private property owners to balance visible and intrusive security while looking to attract customers to shop, relax and be entertained.”


Hyatt Aims For Terminal Kindness

Quartz: “Hyatt Hotels spent two years developing a new system that radically speeds up check-in at its properties, giving clerks more time to pay attention to guests and their needs. While assigning a room once required 143 key strokes on a terminal fixed behind the check-in counter, guests can now be on their way with three strokes on a tablet, says Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian. The system is being tested in six hotels, and is expected to roll out across the company’s 600-plus hotels worldwide over the next year.”

“There were sound business reasons to redesign the system beyond just improving the experience for guests, Hoplamazian said. While the old system was difficult to teach and learn, the new one can be picked up quickly by new hires.”

“The streamlined process also means Hyatt can focus on personality, and not technical skill, when hiring. The company is now thinking of how its new front-desk experience will work in each of its brands. At the high end Park Hyatt, an attendant may accompany you to your room and check you in there. At Hyatt Place, where the desk clerks also serve drinks, they’ll have more time for each customer.”


Terrell Place: Where The Walls Do The Talking

Gizmag: ESI Design “has outfitted Terrell Place in the US capital Washington, DC, with 1,700 sq ft (158 sq m) of interactive media displays that react to activity within the building.”

“The aim of the installation is to create ‘a sense of connection across the building’s common areas,’ with the walls treated as a single media canvas to do so. The (almost) floor-to-ceiling displays are integrated into the walls of Terrell Place throughout the public spaces of its ground floor.”

Michael Schneider of ESI Design comments: “Each of the media scenes reflects the time of day and the movement of people through the lobby, acting almost as a large abstract data-visualization of the ebb and flow of Terrell Place.”


Sonos Builds a ‘Wall of Sound’

Engadget: “The new Sonos store in NYC “features seven listening rooms designed to let consumers experience Sonos products firsthand. But the most outstanding decor is … known as The Wall of Sound. It’s a 17-by-24-foot installation made up of roughly 300 Sonos speakers, of which eight are plugged in and active.”

“The store is intended to provide a home feel. For example, each listening room is laid out differently, giving you the sense you’re sitting in a study room, home theater or kitchen as you jam out to a Play:1, Play:3, Play:5 and Playbar.”