Outside the Box: Walmart Podcasts its Values

Fast Company: “Walmart has a podcast called Outside the Box that “looks at business issues like sustainability, American manufacturing, the workforce of the future, and more through a collection of entrepreneurs, innovators, and thought leaders. Senior Walmart staffers are seamlessly woven in among them … Outside the Box is an interesting and engaging podcast, even when it does have company folks involved because they include those we’d actually want to hear from, like chief sustainability officer Kathleen McLaughlin. It’s about as far from a sales pitch as possible.”

“Walmart says the podcast is about stories that align with the brand’s values, and so far, discussions have unfolded from a business perspective, not a Saturday shopper’s. Walmart’s senior director of digital communications Chad Mitchell comments: “A key tenet of our strategy is reaching people where they’re naturally consuming content, and all signs point to podcasts these days.”

“Mitchell says the idea was to give people a better sense of what was happening within the walls of Walmart today and what Walmart stands for.”

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How ‘Stranger Things’ Went Global

Wired: “It’s hard to overstate how important it is to Netflix’s long-term ambitions that shows like Stranger Things ‘travel’ … it has to spend wisely to ensure it’s producing content that plays as well in Canada as it does in Cameroon … Making movies or series that play well overseas depends to a certain extent on quality, of course … But for a show like Stranger Things—which is an Emmy-nominated and critically-praised show in the US—to succeed abroad, Netflix has to translate its genius to as many markets as possible. Literally.”

“That means the creation of a Key Names and Phrases tool, a sprawling spreadsheet in which teams of freelancers and vendors input translations in the name of consistency. Does the show include a fictional location? A catchphrase? A sci-fi item that has no real-world corollary? All those things go in the KNP, allowing Netflix to know how they read in Greek, Spanish, Swedish, Vietnamese, and so on … That focus on consistency goes beyond the words themselves to the voice actors saying them. Netflix says it looks for people who sound like the original cast but also, as Sheehan puts it, ’embody the spirit of the character and tone.'”

“Netflix’s global accommodations go beyond subtitles and dubs, of course. The company has advanced efforts in recent years to make its service more usable in emerging markets, countries where bandwidth may be limited or unreliable … The result? A show that went viral first in Canada, and gradually spread to find enthusiasts around the world. In one month, Netflix users in 190 countries watched Stranger Things, and viewers in 70 of those nations became devoted fans. A handful of people tuned in from Bhutan, and from Chad. In a first for the streaming service, someone watched Season 1 in Antarctica.”

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Slow & Low: How Netflix Raises Prices

Quartz: “When Netflix raised rates this month, it increased the price of its most popular plan in the US by $1 and its premium package by $2. The hike hit new signups first and is still rolling out to existing users—a strategy Netflix uses to give people time to adjust. The company, shrewdly, did not touch the basic plan—its cheapest offering at $7.99 a month—so that folks on tighter budgets could still afford the service … The key, for Netflix’s management, was learning to raise prices without spooking subscribers—by doing so in small and infrequent doses.”

“Netflix has been careful not to raise rates too quickly in markets where it’s still building out its library and launching originals geared toward local audiences. It needs to become a service its customers can’t live without, before they rethink its value … Some analysts expect and welcome another modest price lift in the US next year to cover the rising cost of Netflix’s content. An extra dollar here and there, if Netflix continues to add new ‘must-watch’ series and movies all the time, shouldn’t dent its base too badly.”

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Porky Pig: The Anti-Mickey

The Wall Street Journal: “There were essentially two modes of expression in the Hollywood studio cartoon: the Disney style and that of Warner Bros. Disney strove for believable narrative and overwhelming naturalism—even in a fantasy like his 1937 milestone, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’ Conversely, the Warners style, which is often conflated with that of Avery, its most innovative director, came to mean uproarious, fast-paced and often transgressively violent humor in which characters frequently violate the fourth wall and confront you with their artificiality.”

In 1935, “Warners released a cartoon called ‘I Haven’t Got a Hat’ introducing a group of animal schoolchildren, and the one who began to attract notice was a certain pig with a speech impediment. Within a year, he was starring in his own series of shorts, and before 1936 was over, Porky Pig was rapidly becoming the embodiment of a whole new kind of animated film. … By 1938-39, Bob Clampett had become the dominant directorial influence in Porky’s career. On his watch, Porky became considerably cuter, thanks equally to Mel Blanc, who now provided the pig’s voice and made the stutter more adorable than grotesque.”

“Clampett’s characters are like cuddly, bouncy balloons being manipulated by a maniacal genius … Clampett seems determined to contrast exaggerated cuteness with even more extreme violence, as if throwing a hand grenade in the middle of a Disney Silly Symphony.” By 1943, “two characters had already succeeded Porky as the studio’s biggest breadwinners, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny. As popular as Porky had been a few years earlier, he was essentially a passive character—like Laurel & Hardy, things happened to him. He couldn’t compete with the brash, aggressive stars of the World War II era, like Bugs and Daffy, who belonged to the age of Abbott & Costello.”

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Ikea’s Vending Machine

Business Insider: “Earlier this month, Ikea opened a kitchen pop-up store in central Stockholm. To advertise its new and path breaking retail concept, the Swedish furniture giant has placed a vending machine selling kitchen tools inside the subway station of Hötorget, in the city center.”

“Although its main job is to nudge bypassing commuters to a visit in the 400 square meter kitchen showroom just a stone’s throw away, Ikea’s vending machine is a pop-up store unto itself – where customers can buy items like the classic garlic press KONCIS … The vending machine, due to stay up for a couple more weeks, is outfitted with a message encouraging customers to “get a kitchen to go with their garlic press’.”

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Nestle’s Supermarket Barge

Business Insider: “Nestlé, the world’s largest packaged food conglomerate, came up with a way to spread its presence abroad: sponsor an Amazonian river barge to sell its products to the backwoods of Brazil … the boat was a way to expand in hard to reach parts of Brazil, reports the New York Times. Since 2010, the boat delivered tens of thousands of cartons of milk powder, yogurt, chocolate pudding, cookies, and candy to isolated communities in the Amazon basin.”

“According to The New York Times, the boat was taken out of service in July 2017, but private boat owners have taken over to fill the demand.”

“The program, called ‘Nestlé Takes You Onboard,’ was part of a larger effort of Nestlé’s door-to-door marketing campaign … Nestlé currently also employs thousands of local vendors, who sell its products to quarter-million households, many of which are in isolated, low-income areas of Brazil … The ‘supermarket’ boat, which measured 1,076 square feet, journeyed to 18 cities and up to 800,000 consumers on the Para and Xingu rivers in Brazil … It carried 300 different items, including chocolate, yogurt, ice cream, and juices.”

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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.”

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Surprise #1: Google+ Is Most-Loved Network

The Washington Post: “Google+ has topped the American Consumer Satisfaction Index’s 2017 list evaluating how users feel about Internet social media companies … For those who don’t remember the social network or didn’t think it was still around, Google+ was Google’s largely failed attempt to answer the rise of Facebook and Twitter … It didn’t take off for many reasons, including: its complexity, the fact that people were pretty set in their social media ways and Google’s somewhat ham-handed attempts to require people to use it to comment on YouTube.”

“But Google+ did find footing with groups looking to make community pages, and now has an estimated 111 million users, according to Forbes — about one-third of Twitter, or 1/6 of Facebook. It’s continued to work on the product for those customers. And that, at least in terms of customer satisfaction, seems to have paid off.”

This “could indicate that, the smaller or more specialized an audience, the more you can do to focus your network to fit. The survey credits Pinterest’s high ranking, for example, to ‘increasing site efficiency and search technology’ as well as moves to make it easier to shop directly from the site … For Facebook, the right path may not be as clear when looking for direction from 2 billion users. The upshot of the report seems to be that if you want people to be happy on the Internet, you should go niche and really listen to your community.”

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Escape Rooms ‘Pop Up’ As Brand Experiences

The Verge: “The SXSW conference has a history of being home to some of the most elaborate marketing events imaginable. Whether it’s a chance to stay over at the Bates Motel, visit the restaurant from Breaking Bad, or see Kanye and Jay Z perform (courtesy of Samsung), it’s as much a part of the show as technology talks and movies. But this year, a new style of tie-in swept the festival: the escape room.”

“Disney launched a pop-up escape experience tied to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Fox took over the ‘Prison Break’ room at The Escape Game Austin to promote the new season of, yes, Prison Break. And HBO had a multi-room installation in place to promote Game of Thrones, Veep, and Silicon Valley … It’s marketing sleight of hand, circumventing audience exhaustion over endless advertising by offering up free experiences that many would pay for if given the option.”

“And with audiences happy to share their own participation, these real-world marketing experiences form a self-sustaining cycle of hype: fans take part and take photos, which they then share on social media, which inspires more people to come, and the entire thing starts all over again.”

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Polaroid Swing: The Hogwarts of Photographs

The Guardian: “The Silicon Valley startup Polaroid Swing will this week offer more than 200 photographers equipment, exhibition space and possible commissions in its new artist support programme … The company, which launched its Polaroid Swing app last summer, has taken the name and spirit of Polaroid and repackaged it into a new enterprise with a mission, it says, to create a ‘living photograph,’ a step toward something you might see in the Harry Potter movies.” Co founder Tommy Stadlen explains: “Photographs should be alive. Every photograph in the digital world and eventually in the physical world, why can’t you move it? Why can’t you have the composition of a still and be able to see it move?”

“The concept is based on humans seeing the world in ‘short moments, not photos or videos,’ he said. So with a Swing photo you will see the wave crash or the eye blink. The motion is triggered by dragging your mouse pointer across the image, or your finger across it in the case of a touchscreen … The idea is that applicants will use the Polaroid Swing app to take pictures which they then submit through social media. The best submissions will be whittled down to a shortlist judged by a diverse panel which will include the photographer Paolo Roversi, the Tate chairman, Lord Browne, and the supermodel Natalia Vodianova.”

“Around 100 people in the UK, 100 in the US and more around the world will then be invited on to the programme which will mean getting a free iPhone, being part of digital and physical exhibitions and having the possibility of brand commission work … Stadlen said they were new and different, and that the company’s ambitions were not restricted to the digital world. It eventually hopes to create hardware that allows moving photographs in the physical world.”

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