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Things that caught my eye this week

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This project among older Irish people in the UK caught my eye Dementia and Music | Comhaltas in Britain.

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (to give it its proper name) is an Irish based organisation with international branches that promotes Irish traditional music. It puts on grass roots sessions in local communities, trains young musicians and organises touring parties of musicians from Ireland around the world.

As a young child the Comhaltas tour of Britain meant a night out in the then packed Irish centre. There was the stress of getting ready; seeing my parents getting into their Sunday best (which has become less formal over the years) and my Mum never being able to find the shoes she wanted.

I would be wearing scratchy formal wear listening to Irish comedian / MC, mournful sean-nós singing and the lively céilí music with the occasional puirt à beul accompaniment.

A YouTube video with classic Irish tunes like these take me back playing records on my Granny’s turntable as a child; or my Uncle, Granny and I dancing like dervishes around the Marley tiled farmhouse floor as we whooped and clapped.

So the fit with Comhaltas and dementia made a lot of sense given the long term memories that would be likely accessed. And its amazing that something like this is specifically developed for the Irish community in the twilight of their years. Other organisations have looked to build something similar, such as Boots’ multi-sensory box. But this lacked the same degree of cultural relevance.

I loved Akira from the first time I saw it at an arthouse cinema in Liverpool in the early 1990s. It mirrored the cyberpunk culture I had loved since I originally watched Blade Runner. Akira had a quality and visual style way beyond what I had ever seen before. I’ve watched it many times since. But this video by an animator, going through a small section frame by frame was a revelation to me. The clever hacks that the animators did were amazing.

While we’re back in the 1990s, here’s Public Enemy live at Brixton Academy. Yet in 2020, Chuck D’s monologues feel even more relevant now than they did in 1990.

TikTok could be used for more than repeatable dance moves like BlackPink’s Samsung #danceawesome routine collaboration or Dettol India’s hand washing meme. This is a great video on publishing ‘serious content’ based on the experience of the World Economic Forum.

Google has launched a new workflow tool in the US. It looks interesting, here’s a YouTube walkthrough of it.

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 7 minutes

From Supreme to Gucci: How North Face uses big-name collaborations to drive ‘brand heat’ – GlossyTim Hamilton, North Face’s head of global creative, said it typically does two collaborations per year, at most. In addition to its upcoming collab with Gucci, North Face has an ongoing collab with Supreme that started in 2015. And it released collabs with athletic brand Brain Dead and MM6, the sportswear line of Maison Margiela, in August.  Hamilton said the brand’s collaborations typically require a lead time of 1-2 years and are almost always manufactured and produced by North Face. The MM6 collab, for example, began with discussions between Hamilton and the Margiela design team in 2019. – This lead-up time probably explains the balance in their collabs between hype and steadier brands. Hence no Virgil Abioh or Yeezy deal with North Face. Abioh has flirted with Canadian technical brand Arcteryx; which is owned by Chinese sports and outdoor clothing conglomerate Anta – who have a lot of cash. It is interesting that nothing has come from Abioh’s visual love letter so far.

Op-Ed | New Balance Collabs Are Second to None This YearNew Balance places an emphasis on “aligning with brands that are authentic in their space and have substance behind their message.” New Balance’s roster of collaborators represent a wide range of aesthetics, communities, and subcultures, meaning the brand can speak to a variety of consumers based on what product has been matched with which collaborator. In a sense, putting together a New Balance sneaker collaboration is like a game of exquisite corpse. “We’re able to keep product executions and stories fresh while creating different followings for each type of partnership,” – you could argue that adidas and Nike’s deals with Yeezy and Off-White relegate adidas and Nike to little more than original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). But New Balance also doesn’t have the deep pockets to go up against adidas and Nike head-on. That lack of deep pockets also affects North Face as well. I am surprised that the North Face and New Balance haven’t collaborated, though part of the issue maybe New Balance’s Danner Boots business. This competes somewhat with North Face’s boots business, but they have a very different aesthetic appealing to a different audience. North Face is owned by VF Corporation with sister brands Dickies, Timberland and JanSport. This means that brand collabs for North Face are probably complex politically.

A millennials love affair: China’s second-hand luxury goods market booms | Reuters – yes Chinese like new things like new apartments. Yes but: Chinese luxury consumers have become more sophisticated. Chinese consumers have travelled and seen the pre-owned market like Milan Station and BRAND OFF in Hong Kong and Japan respectively. In absolute terms middle class wages are lower in China still than the US; yet this isn’t reflected in luxury product pricing

Alibaba Takes Over China’s Top Hypermart Chain for $3.6 Billion – Bloomberg – interesting that Alibaba is working on an offline retail strategy

Robert Lighthizer Blew Up 60 Years of Trade Policy. Nobody Knows What Happens Next. — ProPublica – I am not normally interested in publishing about politics, but this article on US trade policy is an interesting starting point to think about the current debacle

Revisiting Lyn Collins’ “Think About It” – Micro-Chop – great essay. Its also good to see how the edits of Ultimate Breaks and Beats played a role in popularising the ‘think’ break

Hong Kong walks: discovering traditional, trendy Tai Hang | Financial Times – it makes me ‘home sick’ as Hong Kong island was my home for a while

Baaaa for business: Princess Diana’s iconic sheep sweater is back | Financial Times – its interesting that luxury brands are now raiding not just archives but childhood memories for cues. Also the convoluted customer journey outlined in the article for the original purchase via a bridesmaid’s mother

Debate over vegan ‘sausages’ and ‘burgers’ heats up ahead of EU vote | Financial Times – unsurprising given the size of the beef and pork industries in the European Union

WPP back on hunt for deals, says chief | Financial TimesRead’s challenge is to win back investors who think agency holding groups are struggling with multiple structural tests: cost-cutting and clients taking business in-house, competition from consultancies such as Accenture, and waning clout as middlemen in digital ad markets dominated by Google and Facebook. WPP’s share price is 65 per cent lower than its 2017 peak, and has fallen more than a third since the pandemic battered the economy. The three-year decline is a more severe than at rivals such as Omnicom and Publicis. Meanwhile, investors have flocked to the simpler growth story of adtech providers such as The Trade Desk, which this year has soared to almost three times WPP’s market value on a tiny fraction of its revenues. The £2bn market capitalisation of Sir Martin’s S4 Capital, a digital-only advertising group, is almost a quarter of WPP’s value even though it generated less than three per cent of its £12.4bn sales in the year to June 30.  – a number of things from this interview. The Trade Desk has a lot of heat around it, WPP attempted to do this with Xaxis but has got little credit. Read tried to spin that Accenture and WPP have sweet spots at different points in the economic cycle. Hence the comment about Accenture being good at cutting marketing costs.

Mr Read’s pitch is that WPP has combined its traditional creative strength with the tech expertise to build ecommerce platforms for clients such as Sainsbury’s, and become the single biggest integrator of Adobe’s software. “Our goal is to be to revenue growth what Accenture is to cost reduction,”

Chinese-Americans campaign for Trump on WeChat | Financial Timesit is becoming increasingly difficult to organise on WeChat, not only because of the looming US ban but also because of Chinese censorship. Simple WeChat filters for sensitive terms such as “democracy” can detect articles about US politics. Sometimes when Mr Ming sends articles to his groups, those with Chinese-registered phone numbers on their WeChat accounts cannot receive the links, no matter where they are in the world. Ms Wen, who used WeChat in 2016 to organise a door-knocking campaign for Mr Trump, was glad to shift away from the platform this year. “I know it is completely surveilled. Nowadays I mostly use Telegram,” she said, referring to the encrypted messaging app. – interesting move to Telegram, mirrors what I saw in my Hong Kong friend network after the Hong Kong National Security law was passed

Google’s new ‘hum to search’ feature can figure out the song that’s stuck in your head – The Verge – now this is clever

The future of fashion week? Look to Shanghai | Vogue BusinessShanghai Fashion Week, which pioneered digital pivots like live streaming, returns today as a largely physical event, featuring around 90 brands across a number of venues, including its main stage in fashionable shopping district Xintiandi and emerging designer platform Labelhood

How to steer clear of discounts this holiday season | Vogue Business“Markdowns have almost single-handedly ruined our industry,” says Hewitt. “They train the consumer not to buy in-season because they can come back in three months and get a discount. It’s a vicious cycle.” – during the 2008 recession Rolex reputedly bought back watches in its retail and wholesale channels. And then recycled them

Kibbles & Bytes #1122: Apple Releases Four iPhone 12 Models and the HomePod mini – Don Mayer nails the assessment of 5G in the latest edition of his newsletter.

Why a new generation of challenger brands need to rethink how to challenge | A Little West of Centre – Blands. That’s what Ben Schott, writing for Bloomberg, coined them. And what a coining it is. The new generation of humble, conscious, in-it-to-sell, underdog companies, sporting D2C models, consumer champion narratives, minimalist aesthetics, affordable luxury positionings and post-choice selling techniques (this is THE mattress, that is THE toothbrush).

Sony Launches SR Display: You Can See 3D Pictures Without Wearing 3D Glasses – Gizchina.com – really interesting technology

Indonesia’s central bank hints burglary in e-wallet playerconsumers should look at the track record of providers before using them to save large amounts of money. Indonesia’s total e-wallet transaction value size is expected to reach US$15 billion by 2020, according to a recent report by The Asian Banker

Problem Solved #13: A lesson in tackling bloody taboos from Bodyform | The Drumthe result was to present the viewer with flame-engulfed apartment of a perimenopausal women; a monster ripping at an endometriosis sufferer’s uterus; a ‘flood gate’ moment following an unexpected sneeze; a woman who has chosen not to have children; and the often-turbulent journey of trying to conceive

Diane von Furstenberg: Interview | Vanity FairThe iconic wrap dress, designed in 1974 and sold more than 15 million times since, made von Furstenberg an overnight sensation and began a dialogue with women that she has maintained ever since, in a large part through admirable philanthropic efforts, including the annual DVF awards. Now she’s taking that dialogue to the podcast, a medium she champions for its value in shifting the focus away from appearance.

British Airways Avoids Huge £180 Million Data Breach Fine for Hack That Compromised the Personal Details of Over 400,000 Customers – good for BA given airlines are haemorrhaging cash at the momen. I am worry about the message that this sends to large corporates and customer data

Shenzhen — Justin McGuirk – pretty much nails how I found Shenzhen over the decade that I visited regularly. More on Shenzhen related posts here.

Facial recognition data leaks are rampant in China as Covid-19 pushes wider use of the technology | South China Morning Post – interesting that this is being collected by non-state actors such as property management companies and schools as well as the state bodies

iPhone 12 launching without earbuds or wall chargers is compared to eating without chopsticks in China | South China Morning Post – I was expecting this as Chinese consumers are value orientated, brands focus on ‘client delight’ and there is a culture of free gifts with products. So taking items out of the box and the green explanation won’t wash

Beijing 1986: portraits of a forgotten China | Financial Times – amazing photos from 1986.

Shenzhen/Huawei: the other Bay Area | Financial TimesThe impression of military manoeuvres by alternative means was reinforced by Tencent, another Shenzhen resident. It was among big Chinese social and video platforms including iQiyi and Weibo, that simultaneously cancelled the livecast of Apple’s iPhone 12 launch – a small example of the nexus between the Chinese government, corporate decision-making influenced by the government and an undercurrent of Han nationalism

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Hidden cameras and secret trackers reveal where Amazon returns end up | CBC News – interesting aspect of Amazon’s business model. It does make me wonder how much of a drag is returns on Amazon’s business? Retail returns are usually running at 10 percent of products bought. With e-tailing; this rate is thought to be as high as 40 percent according to the programme. That sounds like an extremely high rate of returns. Back when I was in college 25 percent was quoted as a returns rate for catalogue businesses.

Inside Palantir, Silicon Valley’s Most Secretive Unicorn“Where you get into trouble is when the software gets so complicated that you have to send people in to manage it,” said one former CIA official who is complimentary of Palantir. “The moment you introduce an expensive IT engineer into the process, you’ve cut your profits.” Palantir, it turns out, has run headlong into the problem plaguing many tech firms engaged in the quest for total information awareness: Real-world data is often too messy and complex for computers to translate without lots of help from humans – to be fair enterprise software companies have always sold a good deal of smoke and mirrors in terms of over-exaggerated claims – sounds a lot like IBM’s Watson in this respect

Apple’s New 5G IPhones May Be Left on the Shelf | Yahoo! Finance – 5G lacks a killer app for consumers

Exposure to TV ads up 15% during height of lockdown – Even children were watching more broadcast TV and exposed to a greater volume of advertising in the weeks following the lockdown in March.

Alibaba Group – investors day presentations – some interesting insight into Chinese e-tailing, retailing and internationalisation of these models

Blockbuster Chinese games said to boycott Huawei and Xiaomi app stores over revenue tax | South China Morning Posttwo Chinese gaming startups, Lilith Games and miHoYo, said they won’t sell their would-be autumn hits via app stores pre-installed on smartphones made by Huawei and Xiaomi. Instead, they’ve opted for stores charging smaller fees or none at all—including Apple’s App Store, which levies the same 30% charge in China as it does everywhere else. While the duo didn’t say outright they were unhappy about the 50% rule set by the Chinese Android stores, many gamers and developers see them as the good guys stepping up against tech’s behemoths

How to Monitor Facebook Pages – Meltwater Help Center – now allows users to monitor Facebook pages that they’re in charge of. The limit is 50 specific Facebook pages. It pulls out the Facebook analytics data into a Meltwater interface

European Semiconductor Sales Drop, Global Sales Rise – EE Times Europe – not surprising given the disruptions to manufacturing

Google Chrome remains China’s most popular web browser, even with Google search and other apps blocked | South China Morning Postconsumer backlash against some domestic browsers can be attributed to their aggressive user acquisition tactics, such as being deliberately difficult to uninstall. But he said that a shift in consumer tastes might also play a role. When Chinese internet companies first started designing websites and applications in the late 90s, the minimalist aesthetic was unpopular, he said a friend told him at the time. “Chinese consumers wanted stores where all the merchandise was crammed onto the shelves at maximum capacity, with narrow aisles where people were just bumping into one another,” he said. “It felt like plenitude.” “Those early design preferences endured for a surprisingly long time online, and I think there’s still a much higher tolerance for it than we’d see in the US or other Western countries,” he added. “I think as consumers get more sophisticated, though, they’re looking for a retail experience that doesn’t feel like a fire sale all the time.”

Opinion: How Can Luxury Brands Successfully Price In The Post-COVID World?In these challenging times of lockdowns and demand contraction, luxury brands have increased – even more than usual – the prices of their bestselling products to offset part of the compression of margins due to the pandemic. Take for instance, Chanel which earlier this year confirmed it had brought the prices up of its iconic handbags (11.12, 2.55, Boy, Gabrielle) ranging between 5 and 17 percent in euros and Louis Vuitton which also raised the prices of some of its products in March and May. It is not a surprise that brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Dior, whose handbags are products that are considered iconic and perceived by consumers as investment pieces, can be more bold in increasing prices to protect their margin. But not all companies have such strong brand positioning and therefore cannot raise their prices so easily.

Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin: “Millennials Don’t Want Formal Luxury.” | Luxury Society – I suspect that this is across age cohorts but the blend of streetwear and luxury is a key sign of it

Is online advertising subprime? Contagious – interesting thought experiment

South Korean Activists Accuse China of Using Huawei to Hack Their Election | Daily Beast – of course Samsung is looking to pick up 5G smartphone and infrastructure sales from Huawei….

New info about Facebook-Instagram deal delays antitrust report: source | CNBC – it will be interesting to see what comes out

Axios China – Top German official hushed up report on China’s influence – not terribly surprising when you read books like Hidden Hand. More China related posts here.

The end of the American internet — Benedict Evans – more precisely. The end of Americans being the dominant users and culture on the internet

Brussels drafts rules to force Big Tech to share data | Financial Times – grab the popcorn

State of AI Report 2020 – interesting report on the hype

The great uncoupling: one supply chain for China, one for everywhere else | Financial TimesUntangling supply chains that have built up over a generation is a complex and difficult task and the multinational companies which sell into the Chinese market will stay and even expand. But if companies that once used the mainland to make goods for export do decide to depart in significant numbers, it will represent a major reversal of five decades of economic integration between the US and China