Virtual Authenticity?

Blink:

I have been scrutinizing the evolution of influence marketing since the end of 2017. Linqia, a company that specializes in digital marketing reports that 92% of marketers who utilize influence marketing find it to be effective. The latest development? CGI influencers.

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Since its conception, I have been struggling regarding the exact profile of a clear-cut influencer, specifically whether it is better to use a macro or micro influencer. Macro influencers are categorized as celebrities with massive, millions of followers, while micro influencers are everyday consumers who have significant social media followings (1,000 to 100,000) they engage deeply with on a regular basis. This much I do know, it depends on the industry and size of business. In fashion, it is good to have a macro influencer like Meghan Markle, Global Fashion Influencer. If you are a mom-and-pop restaurant in a small city like Raleigh, North Carolina, it would behoove you to find a micro influencer who broadcasts on Instagram.

Thanks to CGI influencers, the latest icons of digital stars, the world of influence marketing is experiencing major transformation. As their name implies, CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) influencers are created by computers, thus not human. Example: Meet Miquela Sousa, Instagram handle @lilmiquela, L.A. model of Brazilian decent, an Instagram “fashionista” with 1.5 million followers.  She posts daily about designer outfits partnering with brands like Prada and Diesel, as well as social and political issues (e.g., Black Lives Matter, DACA, etc.). Followers like her candor, authentic content, in comparison to most real fashion influencers they perceive as scam artists.

Consumers are constantly trying to cut through the social media clutter to identify trustworthy sources of product/brand information. Consequently, influence marketing was conceived and is still relatively a new concept. Currently the rise of CGI influencers is beginning to blur the line between reality and the virtual world. They are selling a glorious lifestyle reflective of our current hip culture that evoke massive consumer followings, as a result, big brands are beginning to cash in on their potential.

My query: Will CGI influencers, the new breed of digital/virtual avatars, dilute brand authenticity?

Biomimicry

Blink:

Last month I indicated companies no longer innovate, they implement disruptive innovation. Has the use of the term disruptive innovation become over employed? Presently, the best innovation I am witnessing has been conceived by individuals applying biomimicry.

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“Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.” – Biomimicry Institute

Bottomline: Mother Nature is the consummate engineer/designer. Animals, plants and microbes have continually adapted to new ways of living throughout earth’s changing history. Consequently, leaders in the field of innovation benchmark Mother Nature to develop new products, processes and policies. Recently, engineers at the University of California Irvine derived inspiration from the skin of stealthy sea creatures – various species of squids, octopuses and cuttlefish. Their skin cells (chromatophores) respond instantly to the different temperatures of aquatic environments. When it is cold the cells close up to retain heat; when it is warm the cells open up to release heat. Currently, the only application has been applied to space blankets utilized by marathon runners, but UC Irvine predicts the bio-inspired material will be applicable to various sports apparel. Coincidentally, Under Armour is in a long-term partnership (10 years) with another major California university, UC Berkeley.

 

“I think the biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology. A new era is beginning” – Steve Jobs

 

 

Playground 2.0

Blink:

When was the last time you visited a playground and watched children cavort: discover the playground’s equipment, engage with their peers and utilize their imaginations to create games? Real-world fun! Heads-up: Thanks to technology, get ready for Playground 2.0.

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Recognizing parents are concerned children are spending too much time fixed on their digital screens and not enough time outdoors being active, Biba, a Vancouver company, has created digital gameplay for playgrounds. Parents can download on their smartphones Biba’s suite of augmented reality, imagination-driven, mobile playground games to play with their children (ages three to nine). All they have to do is swipe Biba’s app on playground tags that do not require electricity or Wi-Fi, located in more than 3,600 playgrounds globally. Biba’s futurist concept placed number 9 on Fast Company Magazine’s Most Innovative Companies category.

My apologies, unless I am missing something, it still sounds like parents are going to have a difficult time controlling their children’s digital habits.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once advocated: “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” 

Hào jiŭ (Fine Wine)

Blink:

“There is nothing permanent except change.” – Heraclitus (Greek Philosopher)

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I am a big fan of Create TV, public television’s lifestyle programs. I especially enjoy their travel shows. Recently I viewed several features on France’s most fabled wine region, Bordeaux. Besides its physical beauty (terroir and chateaus) and yields of fine wine, I am fascinated by the history/tradition of its famous vineyards. Generation, after generation of winemakers. Unfortunately, that is all about to change thanks to a recent influx of Chinese capital.

For the record, Bordeaux has endured foreign invasions over the years; beginning with the English (12th and 13th centuries), then the Dutch (17th century) and the Germans during World War II. Now, because of high French inheritance taxes, owners are opting for retirement, thus taking advantage of Chinese liquidity. Currently the Chinese own approximately 3 percent of roughly 6,000 estates, shipping an estimated 80 percent of the wine they produce back to China. How are the French reacting? The money is good, but they are in uproar with the new owners changing the names of the famous vineyards. To make a stronger link to Chinese consumers they are utilizing names of animals – “Golden Rabbits,” “Tibetan Antelopes,” “Grand Antelopes,” etc.

The Bordeaux wine region is morphing. Heraclitus was a smart philosopher, but so was my grandmother who once told me: “Jimmy, nothing is forever.”

 

 

Kudos to the Fashion Industry

Blink:

I take pleasure in reviewing innovative projects to save our vulnerable planet. One industry that is rising to the challenge is the fashion industry.

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“Business is a combination of human energy and money and to me that equals power. I would go so far as to say that business is the most powerful force in society today, and it is a force that ought to be harnessed to affect social change to improve the quality of life in those societies around the world where the basic needs are not being met.”                                                                                                                                     – Ben Cohen

Detailed below are some leading examples of sustainably focused companies in the fashion industry:

  • Patagonia – The company has always been a socially responsible company. Their latest mission statement mandated by Yvon Chouinard, their 80-year-old founder: “Patagonia is in business to save the planet.” Yvon wants to build a sense of urgency inside and outside the company since he believes we are not just witnessing climate change; we are experiencing a climate crisis. Three pillars Patagonia believes are critical to achieve their mission are agriculture, politics and protected lands. More specifically, one major initiative that piques my interest is regenerative agriculture, a long-time priority for their supply chain. Currently, they are working with small cotton farmers in India to create jobs to control pests with traps as opposed to utilizing chemicals, as well as weed and harvest cotton by hand. Note: Studies indicate that regenerative agriculture captures more carbon than we’re emitting. Cotton is a crop that captures carbon.
  • Everlane – Noteworthy, the clothing brand founded in 2011 waited six years before introducing its brand of jeans, holding out for a sustainably responsible manufacturer that recycled 98% of the water it utilized. Their line of “clean silk” shirts are made in an energy-efficient factory using chemical-free dyes. Throughout their supply chain they conduct ongoing audits to reduce waste, plus the use of plastics ranging from their employee kitchen (e.g., straws) to buttons from a foreign supplier. Their founder and CEO is concerned how the world is choking on plastics and wants to be a leading advocate for its eradication.  
  • Synflux – A Japanese start-up research collective has developed machine learning algorithms (a.k.a. AI) enabling fashion clients to customize the shape, fabric and color of their garments. Consequently, their technology will reduce fabric waste by an estimated 15 percent.

Kudos to the fashion industry!

Disruption

Blink:

Warning: This is a disruptive blog post!

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I know I am not the only individual who believes that the word disruption has become exaggerated. Examples:

  • Companies no longer innovate; they implement disruptive innovation.
  • There are no longer niche food companies, there are only disruptive food companies.
  • The Big 3 consulting firms, McKinsey, BCG and Bain, are no longer retained to change organizations, they are bought in to disrupt organizations.
  • Working long hours no longer interferes with your personal life, it disrupts your personal life.
  • Your kids no longer exhibit bad behavior, they exhibit disruptive behavior.

In closing, why have I not read the word disruptive applied to climate change? Climate change is ominously disruptive!

Pizza, Pizza!

Blink:

Pizza Hut, a NFL sponsor, will be going to their marketing playbook today, implementing a series of promotions, plus leveraging their loyalty program to drive sales on Super Bowl Sunday. They project to sell more than 2 million pizzas. Old adage: Food defines a culture. Pizza, pizza!

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You read correctly, over 2 million pizzas in one day. I am not surprised given the bombardment of pizza ads I watched during the Australian Open last month. I rarely eat pizza on this side of the ocean, thus I googled U.S. pizza consumption to learn why all the pizza brands, both Foodservice and Retail, competed for Australian Open air time. By the numbers:

  • Unfortunately, I only found stats dating back to 2015 (source: Technomic): U.S. Pizza Market sales were $44.43 billion; the Top 50 Chains accounted for 55.7% of total sales.
  • Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza per day or 350 slices per second. Bizarre metrics, but it does make you wonder how many slices will be consumed per second during the Super Bowl?
  • 94 percent of Americans eat pizza regularly. Annualized it is estimated an American eats 46 slices per year.

How much pizza will you consume today?