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Things that caught my eye this week

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Carhartt Labor Day colouring book – the American workwear brand put together a great children’s colouring book for labor day weekend. It allows parents to explain what they do for their kids and provides an activity for a socially isolated public holiday. You can download your Carhartt Labor Day colouring book here.

Carhartt Labor Day colouring book

Vox Media have done a great video on rotoscoping and animation. Rotoscoping as a technique allowed animation to have life-like motion, but the creativity of animation.

I was introduced to rotoscoping with the Ralph Bakshi Lord of The Rings animated movie. Peter Jackson’s live action version borrowed from this version shot for shot, but I find the animated version more enthralling because of Bakshi’s use of rotoscoping.

Video shot from an original 35mm trailer print

Simon Peel of Adidas’ now famous speech that recommended a healthy skepticism on short term performance marketing and the impact of longer term brand marketing. He realises digital is important, but lays out why marketers should ask why? Peel talked honestly about marketing effectiveness, marketing efficiency and misleading metrics. I had read the articles, but this is the first time that I’d seen his talk. More on marketing effectiveness here.

IPA Eff Week talk 2019 by Simon Peel of Adidas

Microsoft had been experimenting with sealed underwater data centres to see if they were possible and what the benefits were. Prior to the project starting there would be some predetermined benefits:

  • Reduced energy costs as refrigeration wouldn’t be needed. (You could achieve a similar effect, if you buried the data centre deep enough)
  • Reduced data centre costs. Internet hotels and server farms can cost a lot if built in cities with expensive real estate

But there were questions over corrosion, damage and reliability. Microsoft got around corrosion by filling a submerged data centre with a nitrogen atmosphere. They found that a data centre without human intervention had much less faults than a matching data centre on-shore.

Microsoft are now working on how the end of life process would work for an underwater data centre.

Microsoft’s Natick project on underwater data centres
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Dark stores and coercive diplomacy

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I came across a couple of interesting terms recently: dark stores and coercive diplomacy.

Dark stores

Gartner for Marketing (formerly L2 Inc.) were talking about a new development at Amazon’s Whole Foods subsidiary. It was what Gartner called digital dark stores. The first one has been established in Industry City to serve much of Brooklyn, New York.

Amazon themselves called it a ‘permanent online-only store‘ on their blog.

So whats the difference between dark stores and the ‘last mile’ warehouses that Amazon uses for fulfilment in places like London?

  • Looking at the limited amount of photos available, this doesn’t feel warehouse-like. There wasn’t obvious automation in the pictures. Instead it feels like a supermarket that’s well stocked, but lacking price tags and shopper marketing accoutrements. Gartner describe it as ‘technically a grocery store’, which implies that there might be zoning or planning regulations that they might be working around
  • It is only for the Whole Foods brand; rather than fulfilling Amazon Fresh and Amazon Prime Now items

This isn’t just an Amazon thing. Gartner points out that American supermarket brands Kroger and Giant Eagle have also embraced the order-only store model. More at Gartner for Marketing here.

Coercive diplomacy

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute published a report on September 1, 2020 called The Chinese Communist Party’s coercive diplomacy. It was written by Fergus Hanson, Emilia Currey and Tracy Beattie. Hanson, Currey and Beattie analysed ten years of Chinese government diplomacy. In there words:

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is increasingly deploying coercive diplomacy against foreign governments and companies. Coercive diplomacy isn’t well understood, and countries and companies have struggled to develop an effective toolkit to push back against and resist it.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is increasingly deploying coercive diplomacy against foreign governments and companies. Coercive diplomacy isn’t well understood, and countries and companies have struggled to develop an effective toolkit to push back against and resist it.

This report tracks the CCP’s use of coercive diplomacy over the past 10 years, recording 152 cases of coercive diplomacy affecting 27 countries as well as the European Union. The data shows that there’s been a sharp escalation in these tactics since 2018. The regions and countries that recorded the most instances of coercive diplomacy over the last decade include Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and East Asia.

There seems to be an escalation of economic and non-economic measures deployed. Economic measures would include:

  • Trade sanctions – such as the recent ban on German pork products. This was rolled out just a few days in advance of a trade negotiation meeting between China and the European Union
  • Investment restrictions in strategic industries such as the ‘agreement‘ that Yahoo!, Softbank and Alibaba had over Alipay (which included what would now be Ant Group). Strategic industries like state security is notoriously (and deliberately) ill-defined in China
  • Tourism bans
  • Popular boycotts such as Korean corporate Lotte being driven out of China and the 2012 anti-Japan protests where the public smashed Japanese stores, attacked factories and burned Japanese cars

Coercive pressure is also applied at below state level on businesses. It may also be applied on individuals, based on the data leak provided from Zhenhua Data seems to imply.

Non economic measures include:

  • Arbitrary detention. The best example of this would be Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor detained as part of China’s dispute with Canada. Another example might be Australian citizen Karm Gilespie. China didn’t admit it had detained him for over six years, until they announced his death sentence in the summer
  • Restrictions on official travel
  • State-issued threats which are usually issued on a regular basis as part of wolf warrior diplomacy. (Wolf Warrior is a set of two films with a Chinese action hero, a la Rambo – but with less humour).

Some of the imputus for coercive diplomacy might come from the Chinese Communist Party’s continued rancour over Qing dynasty-era unequal treaties. More China related content here and more on retailing here.

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Irreparable Damage Boris Johnson Is Wreaking on Britain – Carnegie Endowment for International Peaceunlike many members of his party, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not have any particular animus toward foreigners. He has betrayed pretty well everyone in his various lives as philanderer, journalist, and politician: wives, mistresses, editors, readers, party colleagues, Parliament, and the wider public. EU negotiators are merely the latest victims of his boundless treachery – wow a sick burn, but factual and truthful in their analysis of Boris Johnson

FCB Inferno - Valspar ad
Boris Johnson in a Valspar ad

China pledges expanded trade with EU but stops short on market access concessions | South China Morning Post – interesting that China is intransigent on so many fronts. More on China here.

Pooj Morjaria, founder, Did They Help? – Wunderman Thompson IntelligenceA growing pattern of morally driven consumption has emerged over the past few years, from ethical fashion edits to anti-excess beauty to carbon credit spending to cruelty-free travel. But what was once pioneered by a niche group of true believers is ballooning into a base rate, fundamental expectation of brands. Morally and ethically sound practices are increasingly considered table stakes for brands—and are an important factor in consumers’ path to purchase. The difficulty, according to Pooj Morjaria, was tracking and cataloguing brand behavior. Which is why he created Did They Help?, an independent watchdog website that keeps a running record of brands’ good and bad deeds

Science-backed brands – Wunderman Thompson IntelligenceA heightened focus on health is reshuffling the hierarchy of consumer priorities. In the wake of a global pandemic, consumers are putting more stock in medically and scientifically endorsed offerings. 89% of Americans put their trust in medical scientists, and those reporting a great deal of confidence in medical scientists has gone up from 35% before the outbreak to 43% in April, according to findings from Pew Research Center. Now, brands are harnessing that trust by enlisting medical professionals and spotlighting scientific credentials

Beats by Dr. Dre Sets Its First-Ever Campaign on TikTokI like when campaigns actually inspire creative action. For this challenge, people need a bit more creative than just replicating a dance. I really liked the emphasis on color, which works well on TikTok as a full-screen, immersive experience. You couldn’t really replicate this on other platforms. What we’re starting to see on TikTok is this mass participation in creativity. The concept of UGC isn’t new, but TikTok has made UGC so much more powerful. – Good TikTok Creative newsletter on the campaign

Language Log » “Mulan” critique – academics on the issues with Disney’s life action version of Mulan

China’s top 100 brands: National pride affects rankings | Marketing | Campaign Asia – With some world markets souring on particular Chinese brands, people in China rally round homegrown heroes. – the move towards rallying around the flag started before world markets went off some Chinese brands. The current environment has only accelerated this process somewhat

Ex-Google boss Eric Schmidt: US ‘dropped the ball’ on innovation – BBC NewsIn the battle for tech supremacy between the US and China, America has “dropped the ball” in funding for basic research, according to former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt. And that’s one of the key reasons why China has been able to catch up. Dr Schmidt, who is currently the Chair of the US Department of Defense’s innovation board, said he thinks the US is still ahead of China in tech innovation, for now. – The irony is that at Google Schmidt & co. pretended that this was precisely what they were doing

U.S. Google Antitrust Case Set to Expand With GOP States Joining – Bloomberg – Democrats want to more time for a broader probe. Areas focused on include Google search, advertising and Android. Of course, all of this would go away with Kamala Harris as vice president in a Biden administration.

China Defense Blog: China Army “hot chow” drone delivery service  – what looks like larger DJI drones pressed into providing hot cooked food to Chinese soldiers in the field