We Never Close: 24/7 Adventures

The Wall Street Journal: “Apparently short of actual adventures, teens and 20-somethings are sneaking into chain stores and restaurants, including McDonald’s, Walmart , Chuck E. Cheese’s and IKEA, staying all night and posting videos online as evidence. A YouTube search for 24-hour overnight challenges turns up 1.6 million results. A closer examination of the phenomenon reveals something thrill-seekers didn’t expect—spending extended periods inside an empty chain store can be really, really dull.”

“The craze appears to go back to 2016, when Belgian youngsters hid inside an IKEA after it closed and then posted the video online. The fad soon spread to the U.K., where a boy slept overnight in an IKEA furniture store, worrying his family, who didn’t know where he was … Indiana college student Christian Perry said he was determined to finish the challenge at a Walmart Supercenter, however dull things got. Last May, he and a friend decided to spend a full 48 hours in one of the stores in Indianapolis. The Walmart is open around the clock. The pair needed a secret place to slumber and a way to stay sane.”

“Just minutes into the outing, Mr. Perry, who is 21 and studying computer science, realized he couldn’t bear Walmart’s music and needed a distraction. ‘I started reading labels after that,’ he said … The 13-minute video the friends posted on YouTube shows highlights of their itinerary. They looked at fish in the aquarium section. They read magazines, played games at the arcade and dribbled balls in the sports aisle … After hunkering down in the toilet-paper section the second night, the duo quietly slipped home. ‘It was one of the worst experiences of my life,’ Mr. Perry said.”

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Is there a cure for curation?

Wilfred M. McClay: “‘Curation’ lends to the proceedings a certain air of quasi-professionalism. It seeks to claim for the proprietors an exquisitely refined faculty of discrimination, a sense that ‘objective’ higher standards are being enacted and adhered to. The selection that has been made, we are being assured, was not a product of whim or fancy, let alone crass commercialism … as the word’s allusion to museums and museum work subtly suggests, the use of ‘curate’ carries overtones of social climbing, of seeking to associate oneself with the ‘better sort’ of people—tasteful, knowledgeable, attractive, suave, well-to-do.”

“The word derives from the Latin curare, to take care, and has in its historical ancestry the notion of a “curate” as one who is charged with the care of souls … Perhaps in some instances, such as that of the independent bookstore, it can even be said that the “thoughtful curation” of the inventory reflects an attentiveness to the needs of the soul.”

“But the word ‘curate’ itself may be too corrupted by misuse to be able to carry such larger meanings much longer … It is now commonplace to speak of ‘social curation,’ which means something akin to ‘the wisdom of the crowd,’ the belief that the most meaningful way of sorting through and selecting and organizing masses of data is by the aggregation of the opinions and tastes of millions of completely independent individuals. There is a good deal to be said for this view, but the process it describes is the very opposite of curation itself, a word that, if it is to mean anything at all, means the application of a conscious sensibility and organizing intelligence.”

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Giddyap: Aldi Offers Equestrian Experience

The Daily Mail: “Aldi is now offering discounted horse riding lessons to its customers – in a bid to encourage more people to get into the sport. The budget retailer has become the first supermarket chain in the country to offer riding lessons, after teaming up with two prestigious riding schools to offer sessions.”

“The lessons, which can be bought online, will be available at the Summerhouse Equestrian in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and Parbold Equestrian near Wigan, Lancashire, with prices starting from £21 (US $30). The supermarket has also unveiled its new equestrian range – meaning you can now get riding tops, jodhpurs, boots and special socks from your local store. Those who buy their riding lessons from Aldi will save 30 per cent off the regular price.”

“Aldi’s joint managing director for corporate buying, Julie Ashfield, comments: “We believe that cost should never lead to compromise. Our competitively priced equestrian clothing ranges have proven extremely popular in the past, and this year, we want to go one gallop further in making horse riding more accessible for all. By offering discounted horse riding lessons for all the family, we hope that parents across the UK will be able to introduce their children to the sport, or have a go themselves.”

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Fonts of Success: How Typeface Builds Brands

The New York Times: “When ads for the Netflix show ‘Stranger Things’ first appeared in 2016, the glowing, blood-red, unevenly shaded font that spelled out the title told viewers exactly what they could expect. The retro typeface — and a haunting, one-minute title video — became synonymous with the supernatural thriller series and, as the show gained in popularity, memes centered largely around its instantly recognizable title have become plentiful … Hollywood has long known this marketing trick, with movie studios strategically choosing fonts, colors and lighting for a film title that will reflect its tone and genre.”

“When Southwest Airlines revamped its brand in 2014, it overhauled its font and logo as part of the upgrade. It wanted to create the image of an airline that cared about customer loyalty — one that had heart. So, Southwest changed its all-caps Helvetica font to a thicker, custom-made Southwest Sans font that included lowercase letters — changes meant to convey a softer, friendlier tone.” Southwest communications director Helen Limpitlaw comments: “We’ve definitely seen an increase in revenue, an increase in bookings and brand momentum.”

“In 2002, Monster Beverage rolled out its Monster Energy drink logo, which featured three neon-green claw-marks in the shape of an ‘M’ on a black background, with ‘Monster’ in white Gothic-like lettering under it. The eye-catching logo and colors exuded energy and youth and connected with fans of sports like snowboarding and Formula One racing, who were its target customers … Now, 16 years later, Monster’s logo remains valuable and recognizable.”

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Coffee & Laundry: A New Social Fabric

The New York Times: “On a bustling Hong Kong street lined with dried seafood stores, where baskets of sea cucumber vie for space with scallops and abalone, one shop stands out. Amid the pungent smells of dried fish and shrimp, the scents of brewed coffee and freshly laundered clothes come wafting out of the aptly named Coffee & Laundry. The shop — half laundromat and half cafe — offers customers a variety of drinks and pastries along with 10 self-service washing machines and dryers.”

“Washing their own clothes at a laundromat is a new experience for Hong Kong residents. The first self-service laundromat is believed to have opened only in 2014. Since then, the number has taken off; more than 180 laundromats had appeared by the beginning of this year, according to one estimate.”

“On a recent evening after work, Michael Bolger, 27, sat reading a dog-eared book while waiting for his clothes at Coffee & Laundry.” He comments: “It’s nice to just sit and read in a place that’s not your apartment. It’s kind of therapeutic, sitting here and watching the washing machines.”

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Mistaken Identities: Fake Birthdates Foil Facebook

The Wall Street Journal: “A recent survey of U.S., French, German, Italian and British consumers found that 41% had intentionally falsified personal information when signing up for products and services online. Most common was providing a fake phone number … Respondents also said they have provided a false birth date, made up a postal address, lied about a name or selected the wrong gender.”

“All the lying does seem to foil advertisers. It is ‘a much bigger problem than people are aware of,’ says Nick Baker, director of research and consulting of U.K. market research company Verve, which conducted a 2015 survey showing a large amount of fake information on website registrations and the like. Incorrect birth years, he says, are particularly nefarious because advertisers are often trying to match up habits or buying patterns with a specific age group.”

“But some companies that provide data to marketers say they are depending less and less on biographical information. Preethy Vaidyanathan, the chief product officer of New York-based marketing technology company Tapad, says they track much more valuable information from phone and web browser use.”

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Talking in Code: Dress Appropriately

Quartz: CEO Mary Barra’s “management philosophy is epitomized by GM’s workplace dress code—which is equally brief, and also an antidote to the restrictive, wallet-draining policies at many large corporations. It reads, in full: Dress appropriately.”

She explains: “What I realized is that you really need to make sure your managers are empowered—because if they cannot handle ‘dress appropriately,’ what other decisions can they handle? And I realized that often, if you have a lot of overly prescriptive policies and procedures, people will live down to them … But if you let people own policies themselves—especially at the first level of people supervision—it helps develop them.”

“By simply stating ‘dress appropriately,’ Barra does exactly what she asks of other leaders: She avoids assumptions, instead choosing to trust her employees’ judgment—and has found the experience remarkably liberating.”

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Uber v. Lyft: Sharing Space, But Not Cultures

Anne Kadet: “Most of us think of ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft as virtual outfits—a vast, digital web of drivers connecting with passengers via app. But if you were a driver, you’d have a different perspective: Uber is a place. And so is Lyft. Both companies operate hubs which their drivers, who are contract workers, can visit to sign up, resolve problems or just get a free coffee and use the bathroom. And in New York City, strangely enough, the rivals maintain hubs in the same building.”

“Lyft recently reopened an expanded, 12,000-square-foot hub on the building’s fourth floor. The space looks like a cross between an Apple Store and a third-grade classroom. The décor features the brand’s hot pink, white and lavender hues. Drivers help themselves to bubble gum and chocolate kisses wrapped in purple foil … Lyft General Manager for New York City Vipul Patel says the company hopes its effort to create a welcoming environment will encourage drivers to extend such hospitality to passengers … Downstairs on the first floor, the Uber Green Light Hub is about three times the size of the Lyft Hub, and the look is more tech startup than kindergarten. The two-story loft is stark black and white; the music playing one recent morning favored thumping dance beats. No candy here!”

“While its onboarding process is similar to Lyft’s, Uber also offers two of the (Taxi & Limousine Commission) required classes for free, and the third at a discount. Uber even has doctors on-site to administer the TLC-required physical … Uber says anyone who takes advantage of its free classes, physicals and optional training course can drive for another outfit. But it expects drivers will enjoy the overall Uber experience enough to stay loyal.”

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Barley Independent: Beer is Certifiably Craft

Robert Glennon: “When the dust settled from various mergers, two conglomerates, Molson Coors and AB InBev, controlled 90% of U.S. beer production. They’ve been buying up craft breweries, including Blue Moon, Karbach, Wicked Weed and Goose Island. Last year Heineken acquired Lagunitas. Are the acquired brands still craft brewers?”

“Lurking beneath the legal technicalities lies a critical issue for craft brewers: access to shelf space and beer taps. It’s a big challenge given the structure of the beer industry. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Congress and most state legislatures implemented a three-tier system of producers, distributors and retailers. Most producers must retain the services of a distributor. For some craft brewers, that’s a major problem. Most distributors are aligned with one of the two conglomerates, which exert leverage on distributors to favor their brands.”

“At one level, the question is whether drinkers care whether their beer comes from a small, independent brewery … The answer may become clearer. In June 2017, the Brewers Association launched a seal to be put on bottles or cans, labeling the product as ‘Brewers Association Certified Independent Craft’. As of Feb. 26, 3,033 craft brewers out of 5,546 nationwide pledged to use the seals. Consumers may end up voting with their wallets in a referendum on the importance of sustaining small, independent craft brewers.”

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Bingo Box: China Leads Robo-Retail Revolution

The New York Times: “A global race to automate stores is underway among several of the world’s top retailers and small tech start-ups, which are motivated to shave labor costs and minimize shoppers’ frustrations, like waiting for cashiers … Companies are testing robots that help keep shelves stocked, as well as apps that let shoppers ring up items with a smartphone … China, which has its own ambitious e-commerce companies, is emerging as an especially fertile place for these retail experiments.”

“One effort is a chain of more than 100 unmanned convenience shops from a start-up called Bingo Box, one of which sits in a business park in Shanghai. Shoppers scan a code on their phones to enter and, once inside, scan the items they want to buy. The store unlocks the exit door after they’ve paid through their phones … Not to be outdone, JD, another big internet retailer in China … put readable chips on items to automate the checkout process. At its huge campus south of Beijing, JD is testing a new store that relies on computer vision and sensors on the shelves to know when items have been taken.”

“While such technologies could improve the shopping experience, there may also be consequences that people find less desirable. Retailers like Amazon could compile reams of data about where customers spend time inside their doors, comparable to what internet companies already know about their online habits … In China, there is less public concern about data privacy issues. Many Chinese citizens have become accustomed to high levels of surveillance, including widespread security cameras and government monitoring of online communications.”

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