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Hotspots brings you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches from around the world. From a yoga retreat with lemurs to furniture for the visually impaired, find out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

LyftGBTQ+ – US

In time for LGBT Pride Month, ride-sharing service Lyft is giving riders a chance to add their gender pronouns to their profile in the app. The company has also partnered with the National Center for Transgender Equality to assist transitioning drivers in getting their name and gender designation changed on their driver’s licence. Lyft shows continued support of the LGBTQ+ community, which includes recurring donations and partnerships with Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU, and more.

It’s no coincidence that Lyft released this feature a couple of days before the start of Pride Month. Similar to companies pink-washing during International Women’s Month, many companies engage in ‘rainbow-washing’ during June by jumping on the LGBT-friendly bandwagon to boost sales with limited edition products. Lyft, however, did what many consumers call for, which is to make meaningful change in an authentic way that goes beyond marketing. Other brands can learn from Lyft and take it a step further by not waiting for Pride Month to come around in order to make a statement.

Top of Images – Brazil

The North Face has apologised for manipulating Wikipedia to get its products to the top of Google search results. For its ‘Top of Images’ campaign, ad agency Leo Burnett tailor made photoshopped North Face products such as backpacks and tents into Wikipedia’s images for well-known and remote locations. Because Wikipedia is consistently one of the top image results in Google, the idea was that when someone searches Google Images for a photo of a popular travel destination the doctored Wikipedia images would appear at the top of the search.

This example taps into how brands often take huge risks to reach consumers and why ‘going viral’ can be a bad strategy. The North Face risked consumer trust, which is particularly surprising for a brand that has built its reputation on goodwill. The controversy raises questions about how information infiltrates the digital space, with the potential to make people consume fake news or be influenced by something they thought to be neutral and fact-based knowledge that, in the end, was branded content.

Credit: theverge.com

Graciana Méndez – Trends Analyst, Latin America

Downward Lemur – UK

A hotel in Cumbria is hosting ‘Lemoga’ spa breaks, where guests can take part in yoga classes in the company of lemurs. It is part of the hotel’s ‘meet the wildlife’ wellness programme that aims to encourage people to spend more time with nature. The scheme also raises awareness of the issues lemurs face in the wild, with 10% of the proceeds donated to SEED Madagascar, a charity focused on sustainable environment, education and development.

Consumers are seeking new experiences that allow them to take a break from their digitally-focused lives. Wellness activities and services are increasingly popular as consumers look to take care of their emotional well-being just as much as their physical health. Many hotels offer spa and wellness facilities; by adding a unique spin to an existing experience, a brand can stand out in a crowded market and gain consumer attention.

Credit: Getty/Owen Humphreys – PA Images

Helen Fricker – Trends Manager, EMEA

Robot to Learn – Finland

Vinbotti, a friendly-looking, character-like robot, is teaching mathematics to children in four daycares in the Finnish city of Savonlinna. It goes through lessons such as additions and telling the time and is able to customise exercises according to the child’s level.

Robots and machine learning systems have started to replace humans, even outside of factories. Smart learning machines are producing results and making decisions based on data collected, so the final output is customised to the situation or the individual. Eventually, time-consuming, dangerous and complex jobs will be replaced by robots, and we will see more robot cleaners, teachers and doctors. Voice assistants will replace human interactions and wearable devices will be a solution to track users’ daily routines, helping them make smarter decisions regarding their diets, exercise routines and social habits.

Credit: yle.fi/

Julie Gable, Trends Analyst, EMEA

Plastic Bags With a Dose of Shame – Canada

Vancouver grocery store East West Market designed plastic bags with embarrassing messages to encourage customers to bring their own bags – from “Wart Ointment Wholesale” to “Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium”. Despite the fact that the goal of the campaign was to get consumers to use less plastic, it ended up having the opposite effect: the novelty and quirkiness of the campaign actually led consumers to want the plastic bag! The store owner said that despite the mixed results, they achieved the larger goal which was to create a conversation around plastic usage.

There is no doubt that, in order for a movement to take off, it needs attention, but once that immediate viral campaign wears off, brands need to focus on more actionable change. Shame is inherently a driver of the rethink plastic movement because the use of plastic is not something that gets hidden away, whether it’s a straw in your drink, a plastic water bottle or the bag carrying your groceries. If the true goal of this campaign was to reduce plastic consumption, bags printed with stats about the impact plastic usage is having on the environment could have been more impactful.

Credit: East West Market via greenmatters.com

Diana Kelter – Senior Trends Analyst, US

7:1 Furniture – Thailand

HomePro has collaborated with BBDO Bangkok to launch the 7:1 Furniture Collection, a line of furniture for the visually impaired that uses a 7:1 colour contrast ratio – making objects most accessible to people with a visual disability. In addition to the colour contrast, a specially designed outline system was developed to provide the furniture with more defined edges. The line includes items such as tables, chairs, sofas, kitchen and bathroom counters, rugs, shelves and cabinets.

For millions of people living with visual impairment, navigating around a home with uniformly coloured décor can be very challenging. Home modifications can create a safe haven away from struggles and can help people with disabilities feel more in control of their freedom and independence. The 7:1 Furniture Collection is a good example of how an impactful use of design can appeal commercially and also be meaningful to society. Another successful move was Herbal Essences developing bottles that use tactile packaging to aid visually impaired customers, making it easier to distinguish the shampoo from the conditioner in the shower.

Credit: brandinginAsia.com

Melanie Nambiar, Southeast Asia Trends Analyst