branding together

U2unes Download: Apple and U2 Announce Next Big Gift to Music

Posted by Shirley Brady on September 18, 2014 03:24 PM

After exclusively launching U2’s new Songs of Innocence album to 500 million iTunes accounts this past week, Apple is delivering something else in response to customer demand. And true to Apple form, it’s an intuitive, easy-to-use and simple piece of technology—a delete button

A case study in how not to show customer appreciation, the unwanted gift of U2 music to all iTunes customers, whether they were fans of the Irish rockers or not, was hyped as the largest album release ever, and a "shrewd" marketing partnership (to the reported tune of $100 million) to celebrate the roots of the brand's longstanding tie-in with the band.

It turns out that the U2 album giveaway was a teaser for a bigger gift to come—and not only to music lovers but to musicians and the music industry as a whole. As TIME reveals in an exclusive cover story today, Apple is working with U2 on a bigger "secret project": a new digital music format designed to delight and excite customers to buy not only individual tracks but whole albums-as-experiences, and in so doing, "save the music industry."Continue reading...

social commerce

Following Facebook, Twitter Expands E-Commerce Efforts with Buy Button

Posted by Sheila Shayon on September 9, 2014 11:28 AM

Twitter has dipped a big toe into e-commerce, launching a “Buy” button in the hopes of creating a new and robust revenue stream beyond advertising. The move follows a similar test by Facebook, and precedes what many expect to be an announcement from Apple today about a new mobile commerce platform.

The Buy button launched with an exclusive crop of brand partners, from musicians to retailers, including Eminem, Pharrell Williams, Rihanna, GLAAD, RED, the Home Depot and Burberry.

Embedded in posts for a small number of Twitter users, the button gives access to limited-edition or time-sensitive products. According to Twitter's announcement, “This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile devices convenient and easy, hopefully even fun."Continue reading...

tech style

Geek Chic: Wearable Tech on the Runway at New York Fashion Week

Posted by Isobel Oliphant on September 5, 2014 07:24 PM

Wearable tech is in the spotlight this week with a slew of devices unveiled at two once-opposed, now merging, worlds. 

At the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, brand innovators including Asus, Sony and Samsung are showcasing smartwatches and activity-tracking smartbands, while Motorola released its Moto 360 smartwatch today. And as New York Fashion Week got underway, Intel launched its MICA band in collaboration with Opening Ceremony and announced a smartwatch with Fossil; Rebecca Minkoff (partnering with Case-Mate) and CuteCircuit showcased their respective takes on wearable tech; and a panel today explored the intersection of fashion and technology.

Wearables are no longer the stuff of science fiction, and the future of fashion (and the fashion of technology) is here, as the high-end brands help the garment industry evolve from textiles to tech styles, and Fashion Week is morphing into Fashion Geek Chic.

IDC estimates that more than 19.2 million wearables are expected to ship this year, tripling last year’s sales figures, while wearables could become a $50 billion industry in five years according to Credit Suisse research. Yet many observers feel that widespread adoption hinges on a true marriage of form and function.

Apple devotees are certainly waiting to see if the brand's highly-anticipated smartwatch (and just-revealed collaboration with designer Marc Newson) will strike that delicate balance when revealed next week at its first ever product launch with fashionistas on the invite list.Continue reading...

sip on this

Chick-fil-A Enhances Brand Story with Rollout of Thrive Farmer-Direct Coffee

Posted by Dale Buss on September 5, 2014 10:47 AM

Chick-fil-A's new THRIVE Farmers Coffee menu is what the chain calls "coffee with a story." But the new line of Central American coffees that are supplied directly by farmers actually embodies four stories.

It's a story of the fast-food brand shoring up a glaring weakness in its menu; it's the story of Chick-fil-A making a bold move in the fast-food sustainability derby; and it's the story of a brand taking advantage of the opportunity to divert attention to a kind of sublime value and away from its controversial recent history of taking a hard line on socio-political issues like gay marriage.

And, of course, its fourth story is the one that Chick-fil-A is concentrating on as it rolls out THRIVE coffees to its 1,800 US restaurants, sharing how the partnership is helping actual Central American farmers boost their incomes and their families' wellbeing compared with traditional distribution models for coffee.Continue reading...

that's entertainment

Central Perk Pops-Up for Friends' 20th Anniversary

Posted by Sheila Shayon on August 28, 2014 02:34 PM

It's hard to believe it’s been a decade since the iconic sitcom Friends ended a ten-season run. In honor of the beloved sitcom’s 20th anniversary—it premiered September 22, 1994—a replica of the show's iconic "Central Perk" coffee shop will be opening in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood September 17 for one month.

The pop-up is a collaboration between Warner Bros. and Eight O' Clock Coffee, which will also serve up a limited-edition Central Perk Roast for the occasion for free. 

Visitors to the pop-up can expect special appearances by James Michael Tyler, aka "Gunther"; photo ops with the actual orange couch from the show; in-store performances similar to Phoebe’s improvised songs like Smelly Cat; and contests and giveaways with prizes including Friends on Blu-ray, a DVD of all 10 seasons and Central Perk Roast samples.Continue reading...

retail

Target, Finally Getting Canada, is Really Sorry

Posted by Dale Buss on August 15, 2014 10:01 AM

Target says it's got some of its biggest problems in Canada figured out and has begun to reverse them with a three-pronged turnaround plan that will focus on the chain's supply chain, pricing and merchandise selection in an attempt to turn around an important geographic expansion that has gone badly awry.

The chain has been facing a number of problems lately, including the monumental data breach last December and a loss of much of its overall brand mojo in the US, and those problems helped lead to the departure of CEO Gregg Steinhafel earlier this year.

But the problems in Canada—where Target massively launched last year by opening 124 stores and three distribution centers—led to a loss of nearly $1 billion as sales fell short of expectations and rivals pummeled the retailer.

Now, new Target Canada boss Mark Schindele is insisting that the new initiatives will improve its business performance, pricing and inventory issues and deliver the Target brand experience to Canadian customers.Continue reading...

brand strategy

In Smart Home Battle, Quirky, Electrolux Vie for GE's Appliance Business

Posted by Dale Buss on August 14, 2014 06:03 PM

General Electric continues to show it's serious about recasting its business around reliable B2B products like jet engines and wind turbines with news that it's talking with Swedish giant Electrolux about selling its home-appliance business. Another potential bidder, Bloomberg reports, could be a group including the Blackstone Group and Quirky, a five-year-old startup that has an ongoing product partnership with GE.

The 122-year-old GE appliance division is on the block for a second time as CEO Jeffrey Immelt focuses on industrial operations, and the division could net $2 billion in a sale. "GE is evaluating a wide range of strategic operations for our appliance business including discussions with Electrolux and other interested parties," a GE spokesman told Bloomberg. 

But while the interest of Electrolux, No. 2 in US sales of appliances and maker of brands like Frigidaire and AEG, could mean a boost in business for the brand, which has had stagnant sales in the US and Europe, the potential bid by Quirky with private-equity firms including Blackstone is much more interesting in terms of the future of the smart home.Continue reading...

campaigns

Goodbye, Kitty: Japan Sends Hello Kitty into Orbit to Boost Space Program

Posted by Mark J. Miller on August 14, 2014 01:42 PM

NASA isn't the only space program in jeopardy. Japan, for one, is also trying to re-engage young minds with the fascinations of space using a tried and true method: Hello Kitty.

The iconic figure, which is celebrating its 40th birthday, has created billions of dollars in revenue for its owner, Sanrio, and Japan hopes that its internationally-recognized animated toy will drive the same kind of cultural interest for its space program. 

To get more private companies interested in using satellites, the government has invested $40 million toward the project, Reuters reports. The satellite carrying the 1.6-inch Hello Kitty figurine was fine-tuned over a couple of months of experimentation and is about the size of a garbage can.Continue reading...

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