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16 July 2024

When Sam Altman and Arianna Huffington announced the launch of Thrive AI Health in an op-ed in TIME, they opened with an alarming statistic: 129 million Americans have at least one major chronic disease. The startup wants to tackle that with a hyper-personalized AI health coach that offers precise recommendations in real-time. Trained on peer-reviewed science and incorporating behavior change methodology used by Huffington's Thrive Global, Thrive AI Health Coach will offer suggestions related to sleep, food, movement, stress management and social connection. No word yet on pricing or a release date, but the service will be available as a mobile app.

All about prevention
This isn't the first AI-powered health innovation that promises personalized support (see Nvidia's partnership with Hippocratic AI and the NHS's forthcoming rollout of Flok). However, the emphasis here is on preventative healthcare. Thrive AI Health's big promise is that it will 'scale and democratize' customized health nudges, empowering people who want to be healthier without placing more demands on overstretched healthcare systems. Preventative care is much needed.

Recent research found that 31.3% of the global population (around 1.8 billion people) failed to meet recommended physical activity levels, up from 26% in 2010. That number is projected to rise to 35% by 2030. Smart companions that encourage people to adopt better habits — a trend we've dubbed OPTI-BOTS — could help provide motivation and guide those who don't know where to start.

Not just for better health
Implications ripple beyond healthcare. Once people are accustomed to bots offering a personalized route to better health, they'll look for similar services that coach them through DIY phone repairs, help prepare for job interviews or understand their savings goals. Which knowledge gaps prevent your consumers from reaching their full potential? Can you build AI-powered solutions that meet those needs?

Data control and consumer trust 
A final thought: the promise to provide customized insights needs to be accompanied by privacy assurances, which could hold back adoption. When Edelman surveyed people across 12 countries about trust and health, 55% said that, over the next five years, technology will have a negative impact on healthcare, up 8 percentage points from Q1 2018 📈. Unwanted information and compromised health privacy were cited as concerns. Thrive AI Health emphasizes users will have control over data they share, but will that be enough to allay concerns? And how should these uncertainties factor into your own OPTI-BOTS?

15 July 2024

After struggling to attract enough teenagers to stock shelves and price goods, Dutch drugstore chain Kruidvat reimagined the application process for after-school jobs. Recognizing that first-time job interviews can be intimidating, the company now encourages teens to apply together under its apply with your bestie initiative. Friends, cousins, neighbors — after responding to an opening as a team, young job seekers are also interviewed jointly, making the experience less daunting and more fun.

If the BFFs are hired, store managers do their best to schedule them to work the same shifts. Additionally, the AS Watson-owned brand has streamlined its process by allowing candidates to apply via WhatsApp, promising to connect applicants with a recruiter and a nearby store within 24 hours. Kruidvat has also simplified employee contracts. For part-time positions under 12 hours per week, it condensed a previously lengthy document to a single sheet of paper.

Kruidvat started allowing friends to apply together in 2022. Following positive feedback from employees and store managers, it recently launched an extensive marketing campaign spotlighting the option, which saw the number of applications by twosomes jump by 83%.

Read our trend take on Kruidvat's Gen Z-friendly recruitment
12 July 2024

The beginning of July marks school graduation season in China. In Shanghai, language learning app Duolingo joined Xiaohongshu’s University of Life pop-up event, an initiative welcoming graduates to the ‘school of life’ and encouraging them to embark on continuous learning. Armed with a (fake) kitchen knife, Duo, the brand’s iconic owl mascot, chased raced attendees around the event and playfully compelled them to create a 10,000-day language-learning plan. Hilarity ensued.

On the surface and in isolation, this might seem like a silly brand activation. However, it aligns with a running joke among the app’s users. Duolingo's wildly successful approach to user engagement centers on gamification and the daily streak system. This has given rise to a community of regular users committed to maintaining their streak. For them, Duo the Owl is regarded as a half-hilarious, half-tyrannical figure who will make you complete your daily lesson, often with progressively passive-aggressive reminders.

While we doubt that the Duolingo marketing team originally intended to paint Duo as an unhinged taskmaster, the brand has done extremely well by running with the organic community response. Official Duolingo social media accounts lean into the persona and reply in character to user-generated content online, while offline, the brand stages activations such as this one at the Xiaohongshu event.

Duolingo demonstrates that one of the best ways to build an authentic brand community is to center it around shared behaviors and responses that arise organically when users interact with your brand. What common user experience can you lean into? 

12 July 2024

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) will introduce an on-demand electric boat taxi service this July to enhance transportation and boost tourism. Managed by Krung Thep Thanakom Co (KT), the BMA's business arm, the service will initially operate in Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem and its surrounding canals, with plans to expand to major canals like Khlong Lat Phrao. Passengers can hail boats via a dedicated app, with fares calculated based on travel distance. KT is finalizing the design and pricing for six- to ten-seat electric boats, starting with two prototypes for a trial phase this month.

Since the on-demand ride-hailing concept gained mainstream adoption in the mid-2010s, Asian startups have applied the model to the region’s myriad informal transportation modes — from motorcycle taxis to rickshaws. However, the BMA’s latest app is the first to introduce it for non-road-based public transportation.

Bangkok is notorious for its nightmarish traffic jams, so encouraging commuters to get off the streets and take to the waterways could help alleviate an urgent urban problem. By introducing an on-demand, app-based service, the BMA makes it as frictionless as possible for users to adopt a sustainable alternative. And the appeal of the electric boat service goes beyond convenience and eco creds; boat rides offer an element of delight, especially to a city's visitors.

Can you encourage the adoption of sustainable alternatives by cranking up both the friction-free and FREEDONISM dials?

11 July 2024

YouTube’s annual Culture & Trend Report is out, revealing ‘how fans have shifted from consumers to creators — and how they brought viewers along with them.’ Here are our top survey insights ▶️

💰 Monetization: A whopping 85% of online users aged 14-44 identify as fans of someone or something, and 8% of Gen Z describe themselves as 'professional fans' who earn money from their passion.

📅 Devotion: 80% of fans use YouTube to consume content about the person or thing they’re a fan of at least weekly.

🌟 Individualization: 47% of Gen Z report belonging to a fandom that no one they know personally is a part of.

These fans may not be super fans of your brand, but 74% of Gen Z fans appreciate seeing brands engage with their fandom. As consumers increasingly derive their identity from (online) pop culture rather than from the brands they buy, consider how your brand can position itself within these communities, and who you can connect with.

Sign of the times
10 July 2024

A few weeks ago, we wrote about two AI bots running for office. Now, joining AI Steve in Brighton and chatbot VIC in Cheyenne is Pedro Markun in São Paulo. Markun, a self-described hacker, technology activist and political innovator, has launched a pre-campaign for São Paulo's city council. He's doing so in partnership with a large language model called Lex, which was developed specifically for this campaign. The human/AI hybrid candidacy aims to deliver unprecedented governance skills by combining Markun's experience in civic technology with Lex's data analysis and policy formulation capabilities.

The campaign presents Lex as the first legislative AI in Brazil, designed to analyze data, draft public policy, monitor contracts and interact directly with citizens. The AI promises to enhance various aspects of city governance, including access to municipal resources and transparency in public spending. Markun and Lex's joint candidacy, running under the Sustainability Network party, seeks to bring innovation to São Paulo's politics to ensure all voices are heard and decisions are based on in-depth, objective analysis. The pre-campaign is currently seeking financial backers and will offer contributors early access to test Lex.

10 July 2024

Someone Somewhere and Adidas have teamed up for a collaboration that celebrates both Mexican artisanship and soccer culture. The spark for this partnership? A LinkedIn post by Antonio Nuño, Someone Somewhere's cofounder and CEO, just five months ago. Nuño highlighted a compelling opportunity: Adidas sold a staggering 2.9 million Mexican national team jerseys during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Looking ahead to 2026, when Mexico will co-host the World Cup, Nuño proposed a game-changing idea: what if those jerseys featured hand-embroidered elements?

"Assuming that each t-shirt has a patch with an hour of embroidery (for example, the three Adidas lines), the product would generate six months of fair work for more than 3,000 artisans (out of the 10,000 we have on our waiting list), and allow more than 15,000 people, including families, to break the cycle of poverty." Nuño supported his vision with AI-generated images and asked followers to share the post. Fast forward to today, and the dream is becoming reality. Maybe not for millions of shirts (yet), but Adidas is launching a new collection of jerseys meticulously hand-embroidered by women artisans from the Sierra Norte de Puebla region, with each piece requiring over 11 hours of intricate needlework.

Someone Somewhere was established to connect brands with artisans to produce clothing and accessories that create stable, fairly paid jobs. The collaboration with Adidas showcases Mexico's rich heritage and craftsmanship while providing economic growth in underserved rural areas. Other brands: time to explore similar partnerships that celebrate and sustain local skills and culture?

9 July 2024

Copenhagen's tourism board is launching a new initiative called CopenPay, which will see local attractions offering rewards for green behavior. For instance, visitors arriving at the National Gallery of Denmark with plastic waste are invited to a workshop to turn it into a piece of art, while taking public transport or a bike to Copenhagen's iconic CopenHill grants a unique experience of skiing down the slope on the building's roof. 

The program is open to residents, too, who might opt for a free kayak rental in return for fishing litter out of the water, or a complimentary vegetarian lunch after volunteering on an urban farm. By incentivizing eco-friendly choices, CopenPay aims to bridge the gap between people's desire to act sustainably and their actual behavior. First running as a pilot, from 15 July – 11 August 2024, CopenPay currently lists 24 participating attractions. Depending on how the initiative is received, Visit Copenhagen plans to roll it out as a year-round program.

Read our trend take on CopenPay
8 July 2024

The United Nations designated 11 June 2024, as the first-ever International Day of Play. Underlying the fun and games is a serious purpose — the UN emphasizes the critical need to (re)prioritize the right to play for several reasons:

  • 🧸 Community Building: Play fosters a sense of community and national pride, breaking down cultural and socio-economic barriers.
  • 🎲 Child Development: It enhances resilience, creativity and problem-solving skills.
  • ✌️ Social Harmony: It promotes tolerance, social inclusion and peace building.

According to IKEA’s Play Report 2024, 51% of parents across seven countries now spend more time playing with their children than a few years ago. This is encouraging, especially since over half of kids (51%) and parents (54%) crave more playtime.

5 July 2024

Baggu makes – you guessed it – lightweight bags crafted from recycled nylon and canvas. Its eco-credentials and bold prints helped make the brand a hit, most recently with Gen Z. But has that dream soured?

Earlier this month, the brand released a capsule collection designed by Collina Strada, including a horse bag complete with feet and a strap tail. Fans' initial enthusiasm quickly waned, with consumers expressing disappointment that Midjourney had been used to generate two prints featured in the collection. Although a disclaimer was added to the product pages and Hilary Taymour, the designer behind Collina Strada, has been open about her use of generative AI, some felt the brands had not been transparent enough about the role the technology played in the creative process. Others highlighted the impact AI has on small makers and on the environment.

Given that gen AI isn't going anywhere — 96% of global executives feel an urgency to incorporate AI into their business operations — brands in the fashion industry and beyond will need to have strategies in place to mitigate potential backlash. Three approaches to consider: 

🔎 Transparency: Be open about when, where and how AI is (or isn't) used and steps being taken to minimize environmental impact. Carbon labeling has become more common over the last few years. What would an AI equivalent look like?

🎨 Participation: With studies suggesting that familiarity drives a more positive view of the technology, consider developing gen AI-powered co-creation tools that make fans a part of the process. See Reebok Impact, which transforms user's photos into personalized sneakers.

💞 Meaning: Can you honestly say that AI is truly enriching your service or experience, or are you guilty of deploying the tech for its own sake? Consumers will appreciate thoughtful applications in the vein of Rebind, a startup that's enhancing the reading experience with AI-powered author takes. 

4 July 2024

After Barbie’s record-breaking 2023, Disney and Pixar’s Inside Out 2 has taken the crown as the highest-grossing film of 2024. By the end of June, the film surged past the USD 1 billion mark in global revenue, making it the fastest animated film to reach this milestone 🎬

The sequel invites audiences back into the mind of Riley, now a thirteen-year-old facing four new emotions — Anxiety, Ennui, Embarrassment and Envy, alongside the original emotions — Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. Directed by Kelsey Mann, Inside Out 2 strikes a chord by tackling contemporary issues, like rising anxiety levels among teens.

Like Inside Out, could you blend humor and introspection to help people, especially teens, explore the full spectrum of their emotions? Take cues from an Inside Out-inspired game, InsideU, where kids can meet and befriend their emotions. Next, consider developing tools and frameworks that bridge divides and foster communication and (re)connection among people, from families to strangers.

4 July 2024

For the Brazilian market, LG Electronics has unveiled a new technology that combines artificial intelligence with air conditioning to provide relief for (peri)menopausal people experiencing night sweats and hot flashes. Menopause Mode, which is currently in beta phase, uses a smartwatch app to monitor body temperature, heart rate and blood oxygen levels, identifying hot flashes throughout the night. When the app identifies a hot flash, it sends a command to a connected LG Dual Inverter +AI air conditioner to quickly lower the room’s temperature. After cooling for 10 minutes, the air conditioner returns to its original setting.

An estimated 29 million women in Brazil, representing 7.9% of the country’s female population, are in perimenopause, the period leading up to menopause, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. One-third of these women will experience moderate to severe hot flashes, which can disrupt their sleep and significantly impact their wellbeing. As natural and inevitable as it is, menopause remains a taboo topic in Brazil and most other countries. LG’s initiative aims to break the silence by sparking conversations, while offering a practical fix for one of menopause’s most bothersome symptoms.

Menopause Mode, developed by São Paulo-based creative agency AlmapBBDO, underscores the potential for smart home technology to address the unique health needs of specific demographics. By leveraging data from wearable devices and integrating it with home appliances, companies like LG are paving the way for more personalized, adaptive solutions that cater to the challenges of different stages of life.

Sign of the times
3 July 2024

As return-to-office policies gain traction across various sectors, tensions between employers and employees are rising. In Philadelphia, a union representing city workers is challenging Mayor Cherelle Parker's directive requiring around 5,000 employees to return to full-time office work by 15 July 2024. The union argues that the mandate not only harms workers but also violates their contracts.

Similarly, outdoor brand Patagonia faced backlash when it abruptly gave 90 remote workers just three days to decide whether to relocate closer to one of its metro hubs or face termination, a move that seems at odds with the company's historically progressive stance on work-life balance and environmental consciousness. Let my people go surfing? Maybe not…

A worker’s employment-related carbon emissions can be cut in half by switching to remote

While companies cite improved collaboration, team cohesion and the revitalization of business districts as reasons to require full-time office presence, workers are fighting to maintain the advantages of remote work, including better work-life balance, greater autonomy, increased productivity and time saved from commuting.

Employees at organizations enforcing return-to-office mandates express a lower intention to stay compared to those not faced with such mandates

Additionally, some speculate that RTO policies may serve alternate motives for businesses, such as maximizing real estate investments or facilitating voluntary attrition during downsizing efforts. As the debate unfolds, it's clear that finding a balance between organizational needs and employee preferences will be crucial in shaping the future of work.

3 July 2024

Cadbury’s Give a Cheer to a Volunteer campaign is harnessing generative AI to celebrate the unsung heroes of community sports in Australia and New Zealand. The chocolate brand, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary and often centers gratitude in its activations, has developed a custom platform that allows Aussies and Kiwis to create personalized, animated tributes to their favorite sporting volunteers. Users simply upload a photo of the volunteer and provide details like gender, age, body type, whether or not they use a wheelchair, name of their club, type of sport, their role and something unique about them. The AI-powered tool then generates a 3D, animated character starring in a shareable video that recognizes their contribution.

The campaign, developed for Mondelēz International by Ogilvy and Wavemaker, provides people with a fun way to express gratitude for the efforts of volunteers. From coaching and refereeing to fundraising and groundskeeping — most local sports teams wouldn’t be able to exist without them (a campaign running in India encourages people to thank their first cricket coach). By combining the novelty of AI with a personal, human-to-human thank you, ‘Give a Cheer to a Volunteer’ is a playful yet meaningful gesture that acknowledges the impact volunteers have on their communities.

Read our trend bite for this campaign
Sign of the times
2 July 2024

Underscoring the growing tension between digital expansion and environmental concerns, Futureproof Clare, a grassroots environmental group, has launched a judicial review against the recently approved EUR 450 million Ennis data center County Clare, Ireland. The sprawling 145-acre project, with an annual electricity consumption equivalent to 210,000 households, plans to draw power from both the national grid and an on-site, fossil gas-fueled plant, backed up by 66 diesel generators. Critics argue that the unchecked proliferation of data centers threatens Ireland's emission reduction targets and its commitment to a green energy transition, with the Ennis project alone expected to produce up to 657,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.

Given the surge in AI use, analysts at Goldman Sachs Research estimate that power needed for data centers will grow 160% by 2030. They believe the accompanying rise in carbon dioxide emissions will represent a social cost of USD 125 to 140 billion.

As public scrutiny intensifies, the dispute over the Ennis data center serves as a microcosm of a larger global challenge: balancing the energy demands of an increasingly digital economy with the urgent need to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The conflict highlights the critical need for businesses to align their digital growth strategies with sustainability objectives, addressing environmental concerns head-on and investing in cleaner, more efficient technologies. As communities push back against the environmental and health toll of these facilities, companies that navigate this complex landscape with transparency, innovation and a genuine commitment to sustainability are likely to emerge as leaders.

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