Frozen Poets: Storytelling in Iceland

The New York Times: “Iceland, it seems, is full of hidden poets. When they’re not at their day jobs, a great many of the island’s 330,000 inhabitants dabble in verse, including politicians, businessmen, horse breeders and scientists who study the genetic isolation of the island in pursuit of medical breakthroughs. Even David Oddsson, who was prime minister in 2002 … and central bank governor in 2008 … is a poet by training.”

“Birgitta Jonsdottir, the leader of the anarchist-leaning Pirate Party, which did well in a recent general election, describes herself rather loftily as a ‘poetician’ …. Poetry is a national pastime … said Sveinn Yngvi Egilsson, a professor of Icelandic literature at the University of Iceland. ‘It’s part of being an Icelander,’ he said. “In earlier times, verses were an integral part of social gatherings and were often improvised, he said. Poetry contests were held, with the prizes going to the wittiest, sharpest verses.”

“Poetry was the third-largest category of books published in the country in 2014, after fiction and the arts, according to figures from the national library. Far more poetry books were published in Iceland that year than books about economics or public administration … The cold oceanic climate and long winter nights may also have something to do with it. ‘People usually get bored, and they try to humor each other. One of those ways is poetry,’ Professor Egilsson said.”

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Brand Stories: Bloomindale’s on Broadway

The Wall Street Journal: “Retailers looking to convey their brand identities are increasingly embedding themselves with master storytellers: Broadway shows.During this fall’s theater season, retail marketers have found new ways to weave a show’s cast or creative team into brand-related content … And when the stars of the cast or creative team share with their own followers, they reach beyond the 600 to 1,500 or so people in an audience.”

“At the Music Box Theatre, a once-dingy dressing room has been redecorated as a private lounge for the cast and backstage visitors at the new musical ‘Dear Evan Hansen.’ Courtesy of Bloomingdale’s, the room is outfitted with cowhide ottomans and a chaise longue, as well as a ‘Twitter mirror,’ allowing guests to take selfies that post to the show’s Twitter feed—along with the automatic text ‘Backstage at #DearEvanHansen’.”

“For opening night of ‘Falsettos,’ the revival’s leading men—three adults and one child actor—were dressed by the retailer Brooks Brothers … If story matters for a brand, then the musical ‘Waitress’ and Ann Taylor appear to be a fit … Starting in October, Ann Taylor highlighted the musical’s story and creation by featuring director Diane Paulus and star Jessie Mueller in photos and video interviews. An in-store panel discussion and songs followed in Manhattan.”

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Mind Games: The Reality About Fiction

Nautilus: “Feeling a range of real emotions for fictional events is so commonplace we don’t often think to question it. But why should we get emotionally involved with characters and situations that we know are not real? Why should we get scared by something we know is only a movie? This is the paradox of fiction. To resolve this paradox we need to understand a bit about the nature of the human mind and brain.”

“The older parts of the brain evolved to see things, detect predators, manage emotions, and other, older cognitive skills. The newer parts of the brain are capable of reasoning and reflection. What this means is that only the newer parts (specifically the frontal lobes) ‘know’ that what you’re reading is fiction. The older parts of the brain have trouble distinguishing real from fictional faces, and even true from false sentences!”

“Storytelling is the ancestor of modern fiction, and it makes sense to speculate that a primary function of storytelling was to communicate important information about the environment … What probably happened was that we tended to believe what we heard by default, and only consider that it might be false if we have good reasons to suspect deception or misinformation … This is probably why literature can transport us, enrapture us, and create such transcendent experiences … Half of our minds believe these stories to be true.”

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Adidas Biofabric: A Shoe That Melts in Your Sink

Wired: “The Adidas Futurecraft Biofabric, a biodegradable running shoe, debuted at last week’s Biofabricate conference in New York … the Futurecraft Biofabric looks a lot like a modern athletic shoe. The open-knit upper has a golden sheen, and it connects to Adidas’s trademark Boost sole … the shoe is 15 percent lighter than one made from traditional polymers, and credits its weight-savings … a synthetic spider silk it calls Biosteel.”

“AMSilk creates that Biosteel textile by fermenting genetically modified bacteria.That process creates a powder substrate, which AMSilk then spins into its Biosteel yarn. All of this happens in a lab, and … uses a fraction of the electricity and fossil fuels that plastics take to produce … AMSilk also created an enzyme solution that lets shoe owners dissolve their kicks at home, in the sink, after about two years of high-impact wear … the solution comes in little packets … and can safely disintegrate a pair of Futurecraft Biofabric shoes in a matter of hours.”

“Biodegradability both defines the shoe’s appeal and presents its biggest obstacle … High performance sportswear has certainly trended slimmer and lighter … But a shoe that’s designed to disintegrate?” James Carnes of Adidas thinks it’s on trend: “Most people don’t think about buying a product that’s intended to break down. Luxury absolutely used to mean heavy and stiff and solid, and slowly it’s changed into buying other things. Like if you buy a down jacket, it’s expected to be insulated and lightweight.”

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Dad Shoes: Hot But Not Cool

Business Insider: “The Air Monarch is by all accounts a boring shoe, meant neither to inspire nor offend. This makes it stand out in terms of the other shoes on the usual lists of bestsellers … But the shoe’s mundane design could be precisely what attracts both older customers seeking something comfortable and acceptable, as well as some younger consumers looking to subvert trend-obsessed fashion attitudes.”

“Adidas’ Stan Smiths, similarly, have been flying off the shelves for years now. The shoe is distinctive enough that designers, models, and moguls want to be seen with them on their feet, but they’re not so outlandish and colorful that the average person would be wary of buying and wearing them. And indeed they do buy them, as the shoe has sold an estimated 40 million pairs since 1973.”

“Then take NBA MVP Steph Curry’s partnership with Under Armour. The ‘Che'” Curry Two Low was torn apart on Twitter after its debut because of its ‘boring’ appearance. But the shoes ended up performing very well, selling out in two days even though the shoes are not on limited offer like many of the collaborations that have star power behind them … The flashier shoes are designed to create a halo effect, enshrining the brands in a holy glow that makes it feel trendy and cool … but it’s the consistent and reliable success of dad-approved shoes like the Air Monarch, Stan Smith, and Chef Curry Two Low that are helping to make these brands real money.”

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Special Delivery: Fancy Burgers & Better Boxes

The Wall Street Journal: “With flourishes like truffle butter, veal jus, slabs of bacon and soft pretzel buns, fast-casual and higher-end restaurants have elevated the once humble burger to cult status. But fancier ingredients also up the risks of a burger gone wrong, creating challenges for delivery services … Packaging is a central focus for Deliveroo and the restaurants it works with. That’s something upper-end restaurants often don’t have much experience with because they haven’t traditionally delivered.”

“What works best … is the corrugated cardboard box. These are ideal for burgers because they are small and sturdy, which means they allow the burger to keep its shape when stuffed into a delivery container. The results are even better when the boxes have small air vents to prevent overheating … Boxes that are completely sealed can result in soggy food … Lower on his list but still acceptable is parchment paper. Some restaurants simply wrap their burgers in the brown paper, bag them and send them off with drivers. The plus here is authenticity. The burgers arrive as if they were being served in the restaurant. The downside is that they can get squashed.”

Polystyrene containers not only “create a mini-sauna for the meal, often leaving the food soggy, it also looks too much like lower-end takeout.” Some chefs keep the burger together with a skewer, however “Dave Bone, the chef at Scottish restaurant Mac & Wild in Central London … relies instead on the béarnaise sauce and cheese to hold the bun and patties together.”

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Data Off-Base: Insight in the Age of Trump

The New York Times: “So when Mr. Trump won the election last week, an industry that prides itself on always knowing what motivates and excites the American public was in a state of shock. Marketers now find themselves asking serious questions about how they study consumers, use data and quantify the value of facts — questions about the fundamental nature of their business.”

“Sarah Hofstetter, the chief executive of the digital agency 360i, said the disconnect between Mr. Trump’s win and the predictions from polls and forecasters threw into question ‘the rules of market research,’ traditionally rooted in surveys, interviews and discussions with focus groups in controlled settings.” She comments: “It’s a wake-up call. One data set is not going to give you the full picture, because with people, what people say is not always what they think or what they do, whether intentional or not.”

“At the same time, advertisers are prepared for a new period of second-guessing any customer data, whether it has been gathered internally or supplied by the brands they work with … Some marketers have been left wondering if facts and reason matter less than they expected — a counterintuitive discovery in the age of information.”

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‘Newman’s Own’ Videos Target Millennials

The New York Times: “Newman’s Own is making more of a show of its record of magnanimity, rolling out a marketing initiative aimed at millennials who might not recognize the famous face of the brand and might have little to no knowledge of its altruistic story … Newman’s Own worked with the production company the Narrative Content Group … to produce videos that highlight a few of the 600 charities the company works with each year.”

“The foundation, which is funded entirely through sales of Newman’s Own products and does not accept donations, gave away $260.8 million before Mr. Newman’s death and $224.4 million since then, or about $28 million annually since 2008. But only a third of Newman’s Own customers said they realized the company gave away its profits … That figure was even lower among millennials … only 12 percent acknowledged they knew how much of Newman’s Own’s profits were donated.”

“The videos are not typical promotional ads, because they do not mention anything about Newman’s Own products. Instead, they highlight its partnerships, such as those with organizations that provide guide dogs to blind veterans and a school for girls in Kenya.”

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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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