By Harriet Whitehorne
Why weigh down your wallet when you can go digital? Barclays new wearable payment wristband could be the end of cold harsh cash as we know it…
The device named bPay uses the same contactless payment technology as Barclays debit and credit cards and fits neatly around your wrist. The bPay band isn’t too dissimilar in appearance to those rubber charity bracelets that were all the rage back in 2005, albeit far more useful when you want to grab some food or buy a round at the bar.
Barclays first trialled bPay at Wireless Festival in 2012, where it was an instant success with festivalgoers who were tired of squeezing coins and cards into their snug denim cut-offs. We’ve all been there. Also, if you’ve ever found yourself at a festival devoid of all valuable possessions, you’ll be happy to hear that a bPay wristband is far less likely to be lost or stolen than a wallet or purse.
After being implemented at a number of other festivals and events over the last 2 years, including London Pride and the British Summer Time Music Festival, Barclays now aim to hit the mainstream and roll bPay out to the general public in 2015.
At the moment you can only put a maximum of £200 on your bPay account and there’s a £20 limit on each use. However if you’re a big spender, you can set up an auto top-up, which means as soon as you’re reaching your limit, more money will be transferred into your account.
Barclays has big plans for bPay, with ambitions to see it being used to purchase your morning coffee, daily commute, a fancy dinner, cinema tickets… etc, etc. You name it, bPay can buy it.
If bPay proves to be as successful as Barclays want it to be, soon our day-to-day lives could all be made possible with the simple swipe of a wrist. Sign me up!
by Harriet Whitehorne
Almost 5 years after his untimely death, Michael Jackson was resurrected last month and returned to the stage looking, dare I say it, fabulous. Singing Slave to the Rhythm, a song from his posthumous Xscape album, at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards, it was clear to see that MJ was back.
Throwing his signature moves amidst an army of energetic backing dancers, the late King of Pop held the crowd in rapture, some in tears. At the end of the performance there was a standing ovation from the audience, but I couldn’t help question who were they cheering? Not Jackson surely, he’s dead after all. I can only presume that they were cheering the companies that actually created this bizarre and macabre spectacle, Pulse Evolution and Tricycle Logic, as the amount of skilled work that went into producing Jackson’s holographic performance was truly mind boggling. It’s not without good reason that this captivating technology has been labeled ‘digital formaldehyde’. Holograms have come a long way.
However, despite the uptempo beat of his new track, I was unable to silence a dark nagging thought that this was all just a little bit wrong. Absurdly lifelike, hologram Jackson was doing everything right, not a step out of time or an off-key note. We all remember topless Tupac making his holographic debut at Coachella in 2012, and apparently a similar treatment has been given to Frank Sinatra and Elvis. Who else’s grave will be disturbed, with their immortalized image being dragged, kicking and screaming, back into the limelight?
In my opinion, holograms being used to raise artists from the dead is pretty distasteful, and I’m hoping that this emerging trend will soon be nipped in the bud. However, the endless (more tasteful) possibilities behind the use of holographic technology really excites me…
Holographic advertising spaces
Nike is just one of the companies that has embraced holographic technology for a use that doesn’t give me the heebie-jeebies.
Collaborating with media agencies Mindshare, Kinetic and JCDecaux, Nike showcased its Free Running shoe in a Holocube on the streets of Amsterdam. The Holocube projected a 3D image of the Nike Free bending forward and back to simulate its flexibility, which is the main benefit of that shoe model.
Nike’s advertisement demonstrates the effectiveness of using holographic technology for showcasing a product’s benefits on a traditionally one-dimensional media platform.
Holograms in the home
If you thought that the iPhone 5s and its fingerprint technology was snazzy, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Next year looks set to welcome the arrival of the first ever Smartphone with built-in holographic projectors.
Ostendo Technologies in California have been working on miniature projectors for almost a decade, and have now developed a device that’s tiny enough to fit into a Smartphone. There’s even speculation that we won’t have to wait until next year….
Last week Amazon released a teaser video for the launch of their mystery new product, believed to be a holographic 3D phone.
But what does this mean for us? Instead of simply face-timing our friends on the phone, in future we could project avatars of them and speak face-to-actual (well almost actual) face.
So let’s put an end to Tupac and MJ reappearances, after all it’s just plain creepy. Instead let’s look towards the future of holograms. I know I’ll be first in line asking for a phone upgrade next year.
Bristol has a long and proud history of street art and ‘urban expression’. However, there is a new craze hitting our streets, and not everyone is too happy about it…
It’s a familiar sight, steeped in history and romance – but the ‘love locks’ that have recently been appearing on Pero’s Bridge in Bristol Harbour are causing such a stir that Mayor George Ferguson has decided to speak up. Despite the heartfelt intentions, Mr. Ferguson has warned of the menace that they may cause due to the bridge needing to be raised on a daily basis.
Additionally, he calls into question the very nature of the gesture itself, ‘Locking love – I find it rather terrifying. I don’t think one should do that.’
As scathing as that may seem, perhaps he has a point? Of course, the idea of a couple symbolising their everlasting love by inscribing their initials on a padlock picked up from the local newsagent has its romantic merits, but it is a bit final. Not to mention, unoriginal. Discussion is rife in cities already fallen victim to the love lock plague. In January this year, two friends in Paris launched the ‘no love locks’ campaign in an effort to put a stop to what they describe as ‘a freakish glut of indistinguishable metal lumps’.
But whether you see this trend as a rusting eyesore or une symbole de l’amour, shouldn’t Bristol be doing its own thing? A city so proud of its creative expression, birthplace of Banksy (a fellow cynic of the state of modern romance in his latest work) and home to the most ambitious permanent street art project ever to take place in the UK shouldn’t need to take inspiration from young lovers of Paris or Italy.
So… any ideas? Perhaps the council can contribute a wall for us all to display our affections in spray paint? Or in the spirit of another of Bristol’s favourite past times, how about releasing ‘love’ balloons from the top of Cabot Tower? There’s no harm in a city of romantics showing their appreciation for each other, but as Mr. Ferguson put it, ‘Let’s think of a Bristol way of doing it.’
By Alex Murrell
Location-based services have been the next big thing for almost half a decade. In fact, back in 2010, Joshua Brustein of the New York Times penned the following statement.
“Everything is in place for location-based social networking to be the next big thing. Tech companies are building the platforms, venture capitalists are providing the cash and marketers are eager to develop advertising. All that is missing are the people.”
This is a big problem. If you have demand, supply will usually follow. However, in this case we see all the ingredients for supply without any demand.
Enter Weve, the location-based advertising platform from EE, O2 and Vodafone. Weve has a combined subscribership of 20 million automatically opted-in consumers. Weve brings Brustein’s missing people to the party, providing the missing link to complete the location marketing circle.
Using Weve enables brands to send targeted messages directly to a consumer’s phone on entering a certain area. Understandably, brands have been keen to jump on board. After all, what’s more appealing than getting your product in front of a consumer who has just entered a store?
Don’t expect something for nothing
But before you get ahead of yourself, here’s a word of warning, people aren’t necessarily that happy to share their whereabouts. In fact, consumer willingness tends to fall into two broad buckets:
- Location-based information
- Location-based social media
In 2012, a Pew Research study found that almost three quarters of smartphone owners accessed real time, location-based information using their phones. These are healthy figures considering it was just 35% in 2011. The same is not true however of location-based social media. As of 2013, only 12% of users checked in or shared their location with friends. Even more damning is that this figure had fallen 6% from 2012.
The distinction between location-based information and location-based social media is a subtle yet important one. Lynn Baus, Creative Director at Responsys explains it nicely:
“Consumers are now more likely to ‘check out’ information that’s related to their current location rather than share or ‘check in’ with their current status.”
When it comes to location, people tend towards a ‘transactional’ frame of mind, only exchanging their location in return for something of real value.
This is an insight that the geosocial networks have picked up on. After witnessing a lull in growth, Foursquare disassembled their entire app and put it back together again. The redesign demoted the check in to just one in a range of features, including discovery and deals engines to help users find nearby points of interest. The strategy was crystal clear, entice users back to Foursquare by giving valuable information and down weighting their geosocial offering.
Make your message worthy
Brands who are looking to launch a Weve campaign must learn from the shortcomings of social. Without a worthy return in exchange for their location information, consumers will ignore your message. Worse still, they may opt-out from further messages and think less of your brand.
So how do you make your message worthy of disrupting a consumer? We believe there are two aspects upon which brands should concentrate:
It’s tempting to throw the net wide and reach as many people as possible, but the wider the net is thrown the less relevant your message is likely to be. The more relevant your message, the more likely consumers will be to accept it. Tailor your message and tone to a specific demographic and targeted location.
However, just receiving a relevant message may not be enough. It’s still a shout for attention, a disruption as they go about their lives. To be truly persuasive at the point of purchase, brands must pair their messages with a worthwhile promotion; for example, a price promo, competition or product trial. A brand needs to give its consumers a real reason to choose their product over a competitor.
Ask yourself this question “there are thirty thousand products in a supermarket, so why should your product be one of the shopper’s chosen 30?”
Bored of Clinton Cards and disappointed by lacklustre supermarket flowers? Why not get Mum something a little different this year? We’ve scoured the internet and found some wonderfully unique presents that your mum will love, so you don’t have to.
Firstly, if you don’t fancy stepping too far away from your yearly Interflora order, take a look at these green-fingered gifts…
Twisted Handlebar Vase in Coral - etsy.com
Is your mum a member of the cycling sisterhood? Has she ever mentioned how her journey would be dramatically improved if she had a tiny vase attached to her bike handles? Yes? Then this is the gift for her.
If cycling isn’t her style, what better surprise than a planter that she can wear around her neck? Now your mum can have a tiny shrub that is a constant reminder of her favourite child. So 2014.
Wearable Planter - etsy.com
Fancy buying your mum some sweet treats instead, but Thornton’s has been your go to for the last five years and six might be stretching it? Why not buy her a necklace that smells like her favourite confection instead. How original, I hear you say. Just imagine what she’ll say…
Scented Rasberry French Macaroon Necklace - tinyhandsonline.com
Although, nothing really says happy Mothering Sunday like a mug with a heart felt message…
Mother’s Day Mug - notonthehighstreet.com
Or if all else fails, how about something that will just make her life that little bit easier?
Cleaning Slipper Genie - amazon.co.uk
Feeling inspired? No need to thank us, we’ll let you take the credit. Mum’s the word.
We all have our own little rituals, from our morning routines to how we make a sandwich. It keeps us feeling comfortable, calm and in control.
Obviously there are more than a few brands out there that are aware of this and, as is the case with good marketing, they have grabbed this insight with both hands and used it to their advantage.
Take Corona as an example. It’s just not the same without the lime in the neck, is it? But how did it end up there in the first place? Some say the ritual was born in Mexico when it was served like this to keep the flies at bay on hot days, whilst others have said it was to kill bacteria. The truth is that it was invented on a whim by a young bartender. But who cares? Corona owns that ritual and we all partake in it, whether we need to or not. Most of us just love that extra zesty taste – but how often do we stick a lime in any other bottleneck?
If Corona actively nurtured this ritual, then there are some brands that have it thrust upon them by consumers. Consider Jägermeister, synonymous with Jägerbombs and trouble. Though neither Jägermeister nor Red Bull claim direct responsibility for this phenomenon, the fact is that this ritual has transformed Saturday nights out, as well as exploding Jägermeister’s sales. In 2012, the UK enjoyed 4.4 million litres of Jägermeister, the equivalent of almost 180 million shots or 6.3m bottles. Only five years ago sales were at 700,000 bottles, and in 2003 only 70,000. According to industry analysts CGA, Jägermeister is now the third bestselling spirit in the UK. The sales team at Jägermeister will of course welcome massive growth, but its reliance on consumer control doesn’t guarantee brand growth. Their current marketing plan aims to inject longevity into the brand beyond the ‘bomb’.
However, some brand rituals aren’t always quite so successful. Over in India, Pepsi have been trying to encourage an entirely new way of holding a can. Although the ambition to claim its own ‘can-clutching identity’ is admirable from the cola market challenger, it’s just not ergonomically viable. Don’t we all prefer a solid grip on our drinks? Whichever cola I choose to drink, it won’t taste better spilt down my face and into my lap. The Pepsi ‘grip’ adds no benefit, real or perceived, it’s just aiming to be different for the sake of it. We think it’s fair to say that a ritual that is pushed onto consumers rather than being naturally adopted is always going to be a harder sell.
There’s a ton of science behind how rituals can affect perceived enjoyment, but to sum up – it’s pretty much all in your head. Simply knocking on a table and taking a deep breath before tucking into a carrot is proven to increase enjoyment. That’s not to say that a Magners won’t taste better in a glass with ice, or you won’t enjoy an Oreo more if you twist, lick and dunk it in milk – but the reality is, our emotional response is getting a bigger kick out of it than the physical difference each ritual makes. But, whether a brand introduces a ritual to endear us to its product or does it to provide a genuine improvement made by the suggested ritual, does it matter? If it grabs the consumer imagination and sends sales upwards, that’s what counts.
Some rituals we’ll buy into, some we won’t. I will eat my After Eights after 8pm. Nutella does belong on thick, white bread and I’ll only drink Pimm’s when watching Wimbledon. But ask me to ‘shake my Tic Tacs’ and I’ll show you the door.
Interview by Harriet Whitehorne
Epoch’s extraordinarily talented designer, Matt Hitchcock, has been causing a bit of stir in the creative community recently. Matt’s been featured in a book compiled by the West of England Design Forum, showcasing some of the finest creative talent in the South West for work done outside of your 9-5 job role. Matt’s passion for creative expression lies in Squatties.
Here’s a Q&A with the man himself to find out more:
So Matt, tell us exactly what is a Squattie?
Hi Harriet, thanks for the kind opener. Squatties are my characterised tributes to real life people and pop-cultural icons. I translate them into a 3D box in my simplistic illustration style. I have an (almost) obsessive rule based framework that only allows the use of increments of 45 degrees. The characters have a compressed appearance, like they’ve been squeezed into a squatting position by a scrap metal crusher. A Squattie ultimately ends up available for download from the website as a free paper toy.
What inspired you to begin making these characters and their environments?
It’s all one massive evolution that started from a modest sketch of an interlocking skull and bearded man. I took it onto the computer to refine, and before I knew it I was making side profiles of lots of horror themed characters for a series of canvases that made up part of an exhibition. I wanted more of a challenge, so extended them to full bodies. Before I knew it I’d moved on to whole scenes, mainly because I wanted to play with the tools that required me to do so. I have two scenes currently, an Apple store and a zombie apocalypse infested street, that’s the one that made it into the book you mentioned. In a way, everything has been born from me just experimenting with things I want to learn, right down to making the website.
Zombie apocalypse street scene.
Apple store scene.
Talk us through some of the things that inspire you as a designer?
It’s probably no surprise but I’m a massive geek and proud of it, and that runs through the core of my work. I love visual simplicity and anything made that embraces its limits and shows them off unforgivingly. Pixel art, and low poly 3D modelling are thriving and carry heaps of charm. The look is intrinsically linked to the old computer games I grew up with, that make me feel nostalgic, and that’s kind of what I try and inject into my stuff.
I’ve noticed you’ve only got one female Squattie at the moment… any plans for more lady Squatties in the future?
Cubes and harsh angles aren’t all that feminine. It’s not a form that lends easily to the female figure, well that’s what I told myself. I’ve been guilty at not attempting to prove myself wrong. My girlfriend recently challenged me to the task and I accepted. I think she just wanted to keep me quiet for an evening, but at the end I re-emerged victorious. The identity of this particular character will be disclosed very soon.
My personal favourite is your boxer dog Squattie. Do you have a favourite?
A parent shouldn’t really have a favourite, however I’m pretty fond of my Banksy in monkey disguise, mainly because it was fun putting in a few references in the absence of actually having a visual checklist to go by. Straight-up regular people often don’t work too well anyway, unless they can bring something interesting to the table by means of accessories, facial hair, clothing, any kind of hook. I really should make more animals…
What’s your next step in building the Squattie empire? Or is it all very ‘hush, hush’..
I’m always looking out for interesting opportunities and partnerships and ways of taking the Squatties project to the next level. Animating the scenes is a small technical challenge away. I’d also like to create some kind of game. If I can learn something new from it, the chances are I’m going to try it. I’ll keep returning to the Star Wars theme until I make the entire range of characters on the reverse of the vintage Kenner toy cards (ludicrous self set goal), but that’s currently on hold. All current energy is going towards a range of characters for a digital group exhibition that I’m really excited about, and stoked that I was asked to join. I’d love to spill the beans, but let’s just say if like me, you enjoyed gaming in the 90’s, you’ll hopefully enjoy what’s coming from the exhibition as a whole. It’s going live later this month. I’ll announce it on my Facebook page when it’s up.
Take a look at Matt’s work here and watch out for future Squattie global domination.
Validating what Epoch has been exploring in terms of Alex’s ‘Digital Detox’ article, Coca-Cola have just released their own ‘Social Media Guard’ film, to help cure people of their addiction to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
See Alex’s article below and here’s the link to the Coke vid:
THE TREND TOWARDS DISCONNECTION
This recent backlash to technology is based on a simple, sociological observation - the more connected we become digitally, the less connected we become personally. A recent study into the effect of Facebook on people’s sense of well-being found that;
“Rather than enhancing social well-being…interacting [online] may undermine it.”
Ethan Kross, University of Michigan Institute for Social Research
The premise being that the ubiquity of affordable smartphones, internet connectivity and social networking is causing us to be anti-social in typically social situations.
In Q4 2013, the trend towards disconnection was becoming increasingly obvious and widespread. Though in its early days, more established brands have already begun to leverage (or at least reference) it in their above-the-linecommunications. From restaurants beginning to offer discounts to those who leave their devices at the door, to a growing rise in popularity of digital detox camps – what started with chalkboard signs outside bars and restaurants has spread quickly.
This growing tendency to switch off is a surprising contrast to the way we see consumers behaving at present. Figures from social media agency We Are Social identify Western Europe’s mobile phone, internet and social penetration (129%, 78% and 44% respectively) is at the top end of the global scale. As entire industries are accelerating plans to redirect budgets to mobile-first, social-centric and seamless digital strategies, research into our digital habits demonstrates just how connected we’ve become. According to the iPass Global Mobile Workforce Report, over 25% of mobile workers keep their phones within arm’s reach over night. Of those, 58% wake up at least occasionally to check their phone, 11% wake every night. With such high figures it may come as no surprise that society is beginning to question the relationship it has with online connectivity.
APPLYING THE TREND
So, with growing investment and expectation on digital media, how can the shift towards technological downtime prevail as an opportunity? The solution lies with a sound and well-informed knowledge of the trend. By understanding where your target market sits in the connection spectrum, you can actually communicate more effectively to suit their attitudes. We have identified three ways in which the digital detox can be used to engage with consumers:
- Embrace: employ digital detoxing as part of a brand’s DNA. This strategy would complement laid-back brands that profess a slow paced, constantly-casual lifestyle such as Kronenbourg or Lipton.
- Oppose: position ‘phones-down’ as an old and dusty point of view. Young, energetic brands such as Budweiser, Red Bull or Nike can overtly oppose the trend. Their targets are ‘always on’ and they’ll be ‘always on’ with them.
- Adopt: leverage the trend as an occasional escape from busy lifestyles. This works ideally for brands whose proposition and product revolve around occasions of disconnection, relaxation and unwinding like Guinness (‘Good things come to those who wait’) and KitKat (‘Take a break’).
None of these approaches are or wrong; they are all suitable for different brands. The key to success here is to understand your consumers’ needs and to craft your strategy with the aim of aligning your brand to their lifestyle. Be part of their lifestyles and brand advocacy and sales uplifts won’t be far behind.
Creative Planner at Epoch Design
This month interactive light show Submergence finally touched down in Bristol, the city in which it was first conceived. Created by digital arts collective Squidsoup, residents of the Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio, Submergence is part of their Ocean of Light research project. After two successful shows at the Geneva Mapping Festival and at Galleri Rom in Oslo, this is the first time Submergence has been shown in the UK. We sent Harriet, Epoch’s most recent addition to the Creative Team to take a closer look….
Oooo twinkly lights, 8,064 points of twinkly light to be exact, all suspended in a dark room that you’re invited to wander around.
As soon as I set foot inside, I was suddenly submerged in a sea of perpetually shifting light. Perhaps it was the G&T I’d knocked back beforehand, (this was out of work hours after all), but my sense of space and time became disorientated. Despite visiting with three friends, and the room being no more that several foot square, I managed to lose all of them in the myriad of light. Occasionally I’d catch sight of their equally mesmerized faces when the LEDs lulled at the end of each twenty-minute display.
Accompanied by an undulating electronic soundtrack that compliments the movement of light, Submergence forces its audience to go through a subtle range of emotions, from apprehension to restfulness. By the end of the experience you can’t help but feel completely blissed out. In fact, I’d delved into a dreamy subconscious state that took the bracing Autumnal air to bring me back to reality.
Video sourced from www.squidsoup.org
You can find Submergence in The Eye, overlooking the water on Glass Warf, opposite Creative Commons. It will be showing until 12th October, if you haven’t already been, I recommend you do.
Meet the brave band of Epochians set to conquer the 15 Peaks Challenge in July.
If you’d like to show your support, you can follow our progress and make a donation over at our fundraising page: