Kronkiwongi: How Lego Fans Fandom

Fast Company: “In a presentation at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity on Sunday, Lego’s senior global director of social media and video Lars Silberbauer, broke down how the brand built and approaches that strategy … The two pillars of the brand’s social strategy are based on two core human social needs: the need to play and build together, and the pride of creation … By facilitating, supporting, and promoting the efforts of its fans, Lego amplifies their passion to a global audience, further fanning the flames of fandom everywhere it goes.”

“Silberbauer outlined three examples of how they do this. The first is through a competition called First Lego League, a Lego robotics competition that’s not run by the brand at all, in which up to 70,000 kids worldwide against each other in building Lego robots that can solve challenges. Second was the crowdsourcing platform Lego Ideas, where the brand invites people to propose and build new Lego sets. Like a branded version of Kickstarter, aspiring Lego designers have to get 10,000 supporters for their projects in order to be considered.”

“The third example was the Kronkiwongi Project.” Silberbauer explains: “The insight behind it is that 98% of us were creative geniuses at age three, but the challenge is that only 2% of us retain that level of creativity. With this project, we wanted to reveal and celebrate, not that we get less creative, but the amazing openness and creativity that kids have. So we asked kids from all over the world to tell us what a Kronkiwongi is and to build one for us.”

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Google Eyes: Watch While You Shop

The Washington Post: “Google executives say they are using complex, patent-pending mathematical formulas to protect the privacy of consumers when they match a Google user with a shopper who makes a purchase in a brick-and-mortar store. The mathematical formulas convert people’s names and other personal information into anonymous strings of numbers.”

“The formulas make it impossible for Google to know the identity of the real-world shoppers, and for the retailers to know the identities of Google’s users, Google executives said. The companies know only that a match has been made. In addition, Google does not get a detailed description of the individual transactions, just the amount spent.”

“Google would not say how merchants had obtained consent from consumers to pass along their credit card information. In the past, both Google and Facebook have obtained purchase data for a more limited set of consumers who participate in loyalty programs. Consumers that participate in loyalty programs are more heavily tracked by retailers, and often give consent to share their data with third parties as a condition of signing up. (Not all consumers may realize they have given such consent, according to the digital privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation).”

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Vegas Shuffle: Invasion of the Drink Bots

The Wall Street Journal: “As Las Vegas has transformed into one of the world’s most-visited tourist destinations, casino operators are re-examining the perks that historically lured gamblers. Over the past year, casinos have started charging for parking at resorts on the Strip … Now operators have started scrutinizing complimentary drinks, introducing new technology at bars that track how much someone has gambled—and rewards them accordingly with alcohol.”

“It’s a shift from decades of more-informal interplay between bartenders and gamblers … On a recent night at a bar inside the Paris Las Vegas casino, Jamie Balazs and her father were getting used to the new drink-monitoring system. They had just been instructed on how much they needed to put into the machine to allow booze to flow. A bartender told her to push the “max bet” button four times, she said. She said she understood the desire to weed out freeloaders who aren’t gambling but found the instructions off-putting.”

“Her father, Jim Fletcher, was in town with a group to celebrate his 70th birthday. As a top-tier member in Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s rewards program, he felt the new system was ‘insulting’ … Bartender James Tanner said the system has made his job easier because he can avoid awkward debates with customers who were lingering at machines but not really playing.”

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Match & Miles: Fidelity vs. Loyalty

The Wall Street Journal: “Travelers fell in love with an offer of 150 points from British Airways for every dollar spent by U.S. customers on new subscriptions to Match.com. U.S. members of the BA loyalty program could also get 130 Avios points, as they’re called, per dollar with eHarmony. A $215 annual Match subscription earned 32,250 points, enough to make hearts flutter among mileage fanatics.”

“But the attraction was so strong that the dating services quickly called it off after a couple of days in early March, canceling new subscriptions, refunding fees paid and pulling back points awarded. Match.com says it ordered up the quickie divorce because an affiliated promoter launched the come-on without authorization. eHarmony says the relationship soured when some married travelers signed up and others created multiple profiles, violating terms and conditions.”

“Frequent flier Dylan Schiemann didn’t sign up because he figured there was a line he shouldn’t cross with his wife.” He explains: “It seemed like a good offer, but I decided pretty quickly not to go with it. No matter how open you are, you just don’t go on a dating site if you’re married.”

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Cereal Killer: ‘Product 19’ Flakes Out

Slate: “When you hear the name Product 19, you’ll either flash on an experimental invention from some corporate R&D department, or, if you’re one of its fans, you might think of the health cereal, rare in the aisles of American supermarkets yet loved all the same … While most people these days seemed to barely know of its existence, Product 19 died—a slow, oaty, fade to black, leaving devoted fans desperate.”

“For nearly 50 years, it was simply an answer to a business problem, first released in 1967 as Kellogg’s answer to General Mills’ Total, which had hit the market six years prior … Kellogg’s needed something to compete with this healthy new blockbuster, so they began attempting to develop a vitamin cereal of their own, eventually settling on Product 19 … The cereal was made up of flakes made from a combination of lightly sweetened corn, wheat, oats, and rice, and promoted itself as providing the full daily amounts of multivitamins and iron … The original box was so covered in charts and blocks of text, it truly looked more like some experimental substance than a breakfast cereal.”

“Product 19 never gained the household name recognition of competitors like Total, or even Special K, but the cereal did manage to hold on to a devoted fan base … But as sales of Product 19 began to slump, it began slowly disappearing from stores … Facebook groups like ‘Bring Back Kellogg’s Product 19’ began popping up around the same time … Then it stopped. Without much action on social media in the two years since Product 19 went into decline, Kellogg’s released a statement officially declaring that Product 19 had been discontinued.”

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Berlin Bookstores: Retail Beyond the ‘Amazone’

Deutsche Welle: “Visitors to Hundt, Hammer, Stein bookstore in Berlin’s central Mitte district are greeted by signs reading ‘you are leaving the Amazone’ and ‘leave your algorithm, browse offline,’ before descending stairs into a cozy book basement that features a finely curated selection of both German and English literature. Owner Kurt von Hammerstein says with some glee that the big chains that decimated indie booksellers in the 1990s are now struggling to compete with Amazon on mass market titles, forcing them to shut down outlets across Germany. This has left fertile ground for the innovative indie bookseller.”

“Opened in 2004, Hundt, Hammer, Stein is one of the oldest stores in its street, and survives in large part through customer loyalty, but also political awareness. Hammerstein says that ‘a very high critical mass” of concerned Berliners refuse to support sellers like Amazon that are perceived to underpay workers while dodging taxes’.”

“This loyalty should extend to authors, notes Maria-Christina Piwowarski, the manager of Ocelot, a vast book emporium cum cafe and reading lounge that opened in 2012. In February this year she wrote an infamous online ‘rant,’ as she calls it, about authors who link their works to Amazon rather than the bookstores who actually promote them. She also opined that by offering ‘personal recommendations’ and ‘direct conversations with customers,’ that authentic booksellers should not view Amazon’s ‘uninspired algorithms’ as true competition.”

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Super Consumers: Learning From Big Brand Fans

The Economist: “Only a tenth of customers are super-consumers but they account for 30-70% of sales, an even greater share of profits and almost 100% of ‘customer insights,’ says a new book, Super-Consumers, written by Eddie Yoon of the Cambridge Group … These people are not defined simply by the amount of stuff they buy (though they tend to be heavy users), but by their attitude to the product … they regard the things that they consume as answers to powerful emotional needs.”

“Super-consumers exist in every imaginable consumer category, from the glamorous to the staggeringly mundane. There are people who wax lyrical about the serial numbers inside toilet rolls or who worship at the altar of Kraft’s Velveeta processed cheese, which they call ‘liquid gold.’ Often, Mr Yoon points out, companies treat super-consumers as weird obsessives to be dismissed or ignored. That is a mistake, for they can, when treated well, propel growth. As well as buying large quantities themselves, they infect their social circle with enthusiasm.”

“High-passion fans … can also reveal interesting patterns in consumer markets: Generac, a producer of standby generators, discovered that people who buy lots of their generators are also more likely to be enthusiastic consumers of fridges (they often have several stocked up with food), multivitamins and life insurance. These are customers, in other words, who wish to be prepared for all eventualities … Even super-consumers who are fixated on old or existing products … can provide companies with lots of valuable advice and insights on stuff that makes money. Analysing big data is all very well. But nothing beats hanging out with your biggest fans.”

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The Art of Retail: A New Media Canvas

The New York Times: “Art is playing a larger role in stores, as retailers do whatever they can to make shopping in person fun, inspiring and worth the time.” Peter Marino, a retail architect, comments: “Shopping can be stressful but the art uplifts and makes you smile. And when people go back to the hotel, it’s the art they discuss and remember.”

“The focus on art is part of the change in retail and the continuing move to digital transactions. ‘The product isn’t enough now, it’s the experience,’ said Rob Ronen, an owner of Material Good, a watch and jewelry store in SoHo … ‘Because if the shop is just about the product people go online’ … The jeweler Stephen Webster opened a store in London’s Mayfair neighborhood in May that has opposite the door a taxidermied swan in full flight, with wings outstretched, greeting his visitors.” He explains: “People ask questions about the swan, and it focuses people more on what is in store.”

“Art historically has a strong track record drawing people into stores. Take the Paris department store Bon Marché, which became the fashionable place to be in 1875 when it opened an art gallery … Carla Sozzani, founder of Milan’s 10 Corso Como concept store, which has blended fashion, design and books with art for 25 years, believes that displaying art slows the way people shop.” She comments: “Even the way people purchase changes because they think more about what they are buying so they buy things they really want, which creates a faithful clientele.”

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Robo-Shop: Not an Automatic Win

The Economist: “The idea is that a combination of smart gadgets and predictive data analytics could decide exactly what goods are delivered when, to which household. The most advanced version might resemble Spotify, a music-streaming service, but for stuff. This future is inching closer, thanks to initiatives from Amazon, lots of startup firms and also from big consumer companies such as Procter & Gamble.”

“Buying experiments so far fall into two categories. The first is exploratory. A service helps a shopper try new things, choosing products on his or her behalf … The second category of automated consumption is more functional. A service automates the purchase of an item that is bought frequently … If a shopper automates the delivery of a particular item, the theory is that he is likely to be more loyal.”

“But neither Amazon nor the big product brands should celebrate a new era of shopping just yet … One problem may be the e-commerce giant’s prices, which fluctuate often. Another report … found that far more British consumers would prefer a smart device that ordered the cheapest item in a category to one that summoned up the same brand each time. That suggests that automated shopping, as it expands, might make life harder for big brands, not prop them up.”

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How Wyndham Wins the Loyalty Game

The Wall Street Journal: “The top performer in a new comparison of hotel loyalty program payback is Wyndham Hotel Group, which revamped its Wyndham Rewards loyalty program 18 months ago to make it a lot more beneficial to travelers … average payback at Wyndham is nearly 14%. For every $100 you spend at Wyndham, Ramada, Days Inn, Wingate and other hotels, you can get back $13.60 worth of stays on points.”

“Wyndham … changed its program in 2015 to price every award room the same: 15,000 points. There are no capacity controls or blackout dates and you earn 10 points for every dollar spent, so points accumulate quickly. Wyndham says redemptions are up 90% since before the change and seven million people have joined the program since the 2015 relaunch, a 17% increase to 47.5 million members.”

“Wyndham says it is investing $100 million in the loyalty program, most of which is going to hotel owners to buy rooms for free stays. Since most hotels are franchised under a brand name but owned separately, hotel owners pay the chain a small percentage of room revenue to cover points given out, and then hotels that provide free rooms when points are redeemed get paid by the chain. In Wyndham’s case, the chain is subsidizing the cost of the free rooms for hotel owners.”

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