September 27, 2013

Weekly Roundup: ‘Friends Without Benefits,’ the ‘replay Web’ and permissible indulgences

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-Mexico is becoming an “immigrant destination” for both executives and laborers as its economy powers ahead, reports The New York Times.

-A special report on Brazil in The Economist includes a look at how domestic brands, from Natura to Havaianas, are prospering.

-Designer labels are on the rise in Latin America, reports The FT.

-Nielsen has a look at how the Great Recession has changed shopping behavior for global consumers.

-The UN’s Broadband Commission outlines mobile broadband growth in a new report and says broadband use in developing countries will soon outstrip that in wealthier countries, via The New York Times.

-Ad Age reports that e-commerce is starting to negatively impact big packaged-goods brands.

-E-commerce is picking up significantly in Egypt, reports The Wall Street Journal.

-Big brands are tapping into crowdfunding to align themselves with their customers’ causes, according to Adweek.

-Adweek takes a look at how responsive design affects advertisers.

-In The Telegraph, Tesco’s chief executive outlines why companies must keep pace with the radically new habits of the next generation.

-Retailers are doing more to crack down on returns and refund fraud, according to Businessweek.

-A study by WSL Strategic Retail contradicts the old notion that men don’t bother with sales and coupons, and that they don’t like to shop, via CNBC.

-Bloomberg takes a look at the boom in men’s grooming products.

-The Washington Post takes a look at how retailers like Brooks Brothers are leveraging Big Data.

-The Guardian spotlights the rise of Nigerian videogame creators, who are winning fans with “experiences that are uniquely African.”

-Robots may supplant workers in Chinese electronics plants within five years, transforming the manufacturing industry, per The Wall Street Journal.

-In “Friends Without Benefits,” Vanity Fair examines how social networks, dating apps and Internet porn are affecting teen girls.

-A new Pew study examines “Who’s Not Online and Why” in the U.S.

-The New York Times takes a look at how people are carving out smartphone-free spaces in their lives.

-The New York Times’ Jenna Wortham observes that “the replay Web” exists as a counterpoint to the real-time Web.

-YouTube is trending up and Facebook trending down when it comes to British teens’ favorite websites, reports the FT.

-American teens are optimistic about their future, but their parents are pessimistic, according to a new report covered in Time.

-Flavorwire argues that popular notions about Millennials are far too simplistic.

-A report from Complex Media says Millennial males rebel against mass culture but are also highly brand-conscious, via Ad Age.

-The Economist takes a look at how generations are coexisting (or not) in the workplace.

-A new study of religious views among American college students finds that a “remarkable degree of indifference to religion” is on the rise.

-The New York Times takes a look at why divorce is growing more common for Americans 50 and up.

-As Chinese diets change, packaged foods are on the rise, and so are health issues, as The Atlantic reports.

-A growing category of snacks made with seaweed, vegetables and other healthy foods cater to desire for “permissible indulgences,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

-Chocolate prices are on the rise as dark chocolate (which requires more cocoa beans) becomes more popular, per The Wall Street Journal.

-India, one of the fastest-growing markets for beer, is embracing brews with higher alcohol content, per Reuters.

-As we’ve noted, kids are getting into gourmet cooking, and The Wall Street Journal spotlights the rise of these junior chefs.

-NPR covers the growing popularity of rooftop farms in New York City and Chicago.

-USA Today takes a look at America’s spreading “pretzel mania.”

-The FT spotlights “25 Chinese to Watch” and takes a look at China’s booming “success studies” industry.

-The New York Times reports that high-speed trains are transforming China, sometimes in unexpected ways.

-“100 Pop-Culture Things That Make You a Millennial,” via Vulture.

-Snazzy, attention-getting sneakers are striking a chord with today’s fashion-conscious men, reports The New York Times.

-From YouTube to Popular Science, websites are re-examining their approach to user comments, via The Guardian.

-USA Today looks at how digital technology is changing travel for vacationers, for better and for worse.

-According to Census data reported on by Pew, nearly one out of every two dollars earned in the U.S. goes to a college graduate.

-With nursing home care much cheaper in Eastern Europe than Germany, Bloomberg Businessweek spotlights the “grandma export trend.”

-Whatever became of Second Life? The Verge examines the alternative world’s “second life.”

-Our latest trend report spotlights findings from a wide-ranging study of Millennials in the BRIC markets.

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    October 14, 2014 | 3:46 pm

    To entice customers into tasting its new dark roast, Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons, with the help of JWT Canada, created a surprise immersive experience. A store in Quebec was wrapped in material that blocked all light from the outdoors. Patrons entered warily and, once inside, heard a staff member (who was wearing night vision goggles) guiding them through the dark. At the counter, customers were handed a cup of the dark roast—the brand’s first new blend in 50 years—with the darkness heightening their sense of taste. When the lights came on, the patrons saw they were on camera.

    The #TimsDark Experiment has garnered YouTube views and some press attention, and shows how creatively imagined immersive experiences—one of our 10 Trends for 2014—can encourage consumers to engage with a brand.

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    In late September, the startup Circle launched a web app that effectively functions as a bitcoin bank. Using a debit card or bank account, users transfer funds to Circle, which converts the money to bitcoin at no fee. Circle also insures this money at no cost. The company aims to make bitcoin more accessible via consumer-friendly design and is aiming to take on traditional banks and companies like PayPal, as The Guardian reports. Next up: Android and iOS Circle apps.

    Circle co-founder Jeremy Allaire gave a keynote at the Inside Bitcoins conference in April, citing the need for a “killer app” to bring bitcoin into the mainstream. Now Circle seems to be taking the lead, and others are sure to follow. —Nick Ayala

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  • High-tech tasting
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    Thailand got a lot of buzz this week with an innovative idea: a taste-tester robot, or electronic tongue, that’s programmed to distinguish authentic Thai dishes from wanna-be’s. Artificial tongues aren’t new but have been evolving. Most recently, Danish researchers developed a nanosensor that mimics “what happens in your mouth when you drink wine,” enabling winemakers to control astringency very early on. In Spain, researchers created a beer-tasting robot that can distinguish between varieties of brew.

    Meanwhile, advanced technology can also create recipes: IBM has touted how Watson, its “cognitive computing system,” can analyze the components of ingredients to come up with novel ideas for dishes; find a few of them here. —Marian Berelowitz

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  • Marriage gets marginalized
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    One of our 10 Trends for 2012 was Marriage Optional: More people around the world are living together or remaining solo instead of marrying. Pew reports this week that 1 in 5 Americans age 25 and up have never married, a fundamental shift since 1960, when only about 1 in 10 could say the same. Millennials are especially ambivalent: Two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed by Pew agree that “society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children” vs. 53 percent of the next generation up (age 30 to 49).

    Europe is seeing a similar move away from marriage, driven by “austerity, generational crisis and apathy towards the institution,” notes The Guardian. It says weddings are at historical lows in some nations; last year Italy recorded the fewest since World War I. For a look at how changing marriage patterns are affecting families, see our report Meet the New Family. —Marian Berelowitz

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  • Room-sharing service Breather
    September 16, 2014 | 3:30 pm

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    Described as the “Zipcar for rooms,” Breather is an app that enables access to “beautiful, practical spaces” that can be rented anywhere from 30 minutes to a whole day. While sharing-economy players like LiquidSpace and PivotDesk offer work and meeting spaces, Breather positions its rooms as homey spots that can serve a range of purposes (though not, the founder assures, seedy ones). Rooms include the basics—a desk, a couch, Wi-Fi—as well as some fun touches like a candy jar. Lockitron technology lets users unlock doors with their mobile phones. Breather is available in New York, Montreal and San Francisco, and recently raised $6.5 million in venture capital, citing plans to “own every major market in America.” —Hallie Steiner

    Image credit: Breather

  • Barco Escape’s immersive screens
    September 11, 2014 | 4:15 pm

    Maze Runner

    Escape is a triple-screen system from Barco that “allows you to truly be in the movies, not just at the movies”—in line with the rise of immersive experiences, one of our 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond. Audiences at five U.S. locations and one Belgian cinema will get their first taste of the concept with next week’s release of The Maze Runner, about a group of teens trapped in a massive maze, which will feature about five minutes of immersive footage at key moments. ScreenX is among the other multi-screen, multi-projection cinema experiences we’ve highlighted. —Aaron Baar

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  • “Smart” personal safety
    September 2, 2014 | 6:01 pm

    Defender

    Earlier this year we wrote about the Guardian Angel, a pendant that alerts emergency contacts whenever wearers feel unsafe, created by JWT Singapore. Smart technology is addressing personal safety in other ways too. The Defender is a smart pepper spray that works in tandem with a mobile app, taking a picture of an attacker while contacting authorities. It’s in the final week of an Indiegogo campaign that has well exceeded its goal. Similarly, First Sign has crowdfunded a smart hairclip that detects physical assault, records the evidence and sends for help.

    Meanwhile, college campuses are embracing a more basic form of this tech, encouraging students to download apps like Rave Guardian and Circle of 6, which enable a chosen network to monitor a student’s GPS location during a night out. In a different vein, students at North Carolina State University made headlines last week for their Undercover Nail Polish, which changes color in the presence of “date rape drugs.” —Allison Kruk

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  • Nestlé’s animal-welfare standards
    August 28, 2014 | 10:00 am

    Nestle

    We wrote about rising concerns over treatment of the animals that people eat back in 2012 as brands including Burger King, McDonald’s and Hellmann’s pledged to institute more humane practices. We also included Humane Food among our Things to Watch for 2013. The trend recently picked up more steam with Nestlé’s announcement of animal welfare standards for its suppliers worldwide, following an investigation by the group Mercy for Animals.

    “The move is one of the broadest-reaching commitments to improving the quality of life for animals in the food system,” notes The New York Times, “and it is likely to have an impact on other companies that either share the same suppliers or compete with Nestlé.” Observed the influential blogger Food Babe: “People want to know where their food comes from, and in order to survive the next decade, the food industry will have to change.” —Marian Berelowitz

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  • Alternative waters
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    Vertical Water

    With the coconut water craze going strong, watch for more variations on H2O thanks to consumer interest in more natural alternatives to soda and openness to novel products. Antioxidant-rich maple water (made from maple sap) is gaining attention, while almond water from the startup Victoria’s Kitchen has secured space at Whole Foods and Target. As the AP reports, there’s also cactus, birch and artichoke water—made from either water extracted from the plant or boiled with the ingredient in question—whose makers tout their vitamin and mineral content, as well as their infection-fighting properties. —Allison Kruk

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  • Smart mannequins
    August 13, 2014 | 5:01 pm

    Iconeme

    One of our Things to Watch in 2014, beacons have been popping up everywhere from airports to restaurants to museums. But the biggest pickup for these devices—low-cost transmitters that use Bluetooth to precisely track consumers’ mobile phones and send targeted content—has been among retailers. Now, British retailers including House of Fraser, Hawes & Curtis and Bentalls are testing mannequins outfitted with VMbeacon technology from the startup Iconeme.

    A “smart mannequin” enables nearby shoppers with a related mobile app to get details about what it’s wearing and how to find the products in the store or buy them online. The big question is whether customers will be motivated to opt in; skeptics say the technology doesn’t yet provide enough real benefit. —Allison Kruk

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