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Hotspots brings you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches from around the world. From Uber launching a campaign telling users to delete their app if they tolerate racism to handheld scanners that provide consumers with faster, more hygienic in-store shopping experiences, check out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

US – Delete Uber…Again

In line with the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, Uber launched a campaign telling users to delete its app if they tolerate racism. Uber sent emails and in-app notifications to users with this anti-racism messaging and the ride-sharing company also installed billboards in 13 major cities across the US. As a co-sponsor of this year’s March on Washington, Uber distributed the ACLU’s Protesters’ Rights guide, discounted meals for event staff at the National Action Network (the non-profit host of the march), and offered a select number of discounted rides to people who attend.

No stranger to boycotts and ethics concerns, Uber has been working hard to rehabilitate its image and its relationship with users. While it’s uncertain what exactly being a co-sponsor of the 2020 March on Washington entailed, we do know that consumers are looking for brands to put their money where their mouth is and actually exhibit demonstrable investment in racial equity, not just stop at a verbal expression of solidarity. Moreover, Uber’s campaign brings to mind the non-Uber-initiated #DeleteUber campaign in 2017 that resulted from Uber’s perceived profiting off of an anti-Trump protest. This more recent campaign can be seen as a nod to the impetus of that boycott as the company takes an explicit stand against racism, one that does not center on unity or togetherness but unabashedly expresses their values.

Source: AdAge

Alex Milinazzo – Trends Analyst, US

Ireland/Netherlands – Simpler Scanning

Dutch retailer Jumbo has introduced handheld scanners with several new functions that include a map, to make navigating the store and finding products easier, and a microphone, to allow customers to ask for assistance without having to find an employee. The new scanners also have improved sensors, improved battery life and Wi-Fi connection. Retailer and wholesaler BWG Foods has launched Scan, Pay & Go technology which allows customers to use their own smartphones to do the scanning and payment in one contactless and seamless experience. This offers less queueing and less touching of shared handheld devices or tills.

The pandemic has made consumers reluctant to shop in-store, and when they do, they try to spend less time and avoid touching surfaces and products unnecessarily. Retailers have implemented various systems to ensure social distancing is viable, and scan-and-go services are helping many achieve this. The increased need for shorter queues and less interaction with staff, which has become a matter of safety, has pushed brands to innovate and introduce improvements to these solutions. Scan-and-go systems are crucial in helping consumers feel safer while in-store and when combined with other technologies such as virtual queuing, post-COVID shopping trips are becoming less of a hassle for customers.

Liisa Kontas – Trend Analyst, Nordic

Argentina – A refreshing FM

Coca-Cola relaunched its FM radio in Argentina to entertain consumers isolated at home during the pandemic. The new radio will stream through an app called ‘Coca-Cola For Me’ on workdays and will feature six hours of content anchored by local influencers to support the public, especially young people, during the lockdown.

Described by the brand as “the app that separately we make together,” it aims to speak to, empathize with and support younger generations during this particular moment. They can engage and interact with the brand through social media channels using different hashtags related to several public discussion topics, encouraging real-time interaction with other isolated individuals virtually. In addition to entertainment content, the radio will promote different challenges for listeners that can be done at home to win Bubble credits that can later be redeemed online. The radio also will feature a free space for entrepreneurs to promote their products and services to support small businesses during the economic crisis that the lockdown period has generated.

Brands are providing new two-way entertainment options to help consumers feel more connected during these isolating times, and many of them are encouraging consumers to continue doing common activities such as birthday celebrations or party nights to keep their spirits up, even if this is through a streaming platform.

Source: Coca-Cola Store

Vanessa Rondine – Trends Analyst, Latin America

Singapore – Sustainable Shopping with susGain

susGain is an app that gives users cashback every time they make eco-friendly shopping and lifestyle decisions. When making purchases at a partnered local business that has made at least one sustainable pledge, users of the app can collect points and receive a percentage of their spend back. In addition, the same cashback amount will be matched by the app and directed to a charity of the user’s choice. Points can also be collected on the app when users participate in eco-friendly activities across the city. In the in-app map, users can search for registered water refill stations, e-waste recycling bins or local clothing swap and volunteering events, where a QR code can be scanned to redeem points.

Consumers are often less likely to consider changing their habits if there is nothing in it for them personally, or if they are unable to see the tangible impacts of their actions. susGain’s incentive model not only rewards individuals who participate in eco-friendly actions; consumers are also likely to feel good participating because their actions will directly benefit socially conscious businesses. While the company doesn’t in itself promote consumption, it instead aims to make green and social businesses the preferred options when shopping. Apps and platforms that provide value to consumers can play a role in motivating them to engage in environmentally friendly behaviour.

Melanie Nambiar – Southeast Asia Trends Analyst

Japan – Focus at Starbucks

Starbucks has partnered with Think Lab to develop a co-working-themed café where customers can come and focus on their work. The branch store has a first floor which has regular café service and a second floor called the Smart Lounge, which offers booths for solo customers or group meetings. The store also has projectors and private tables for video calls. Tables can be booked via the Starbucks app.

Teleworking has become a normalised facet of our lives under the new normal. While consumers are beginning to return to the office, many are balancing their time between working from home, the office and co-working spaces. Shared co-working spaces are especially appealing to current consumers who are tired of working from home but want to be mindful of going to the office due to health risks. Thus, Starbucks’ Smart Lounge offers consumers a relaxed and relatively safe environment to telework. Furthermore, the mobile order pick-up and hand-off system gives consumers a contactless solution to safely get their caffeine fix.

Source: Starbucks

Elysha Young – Trends Manager, APAC

Australia – Nothing Special

Tooheys Extra Dry and 72andSunny Sydney have launched a campaign celebrating the iconic Aussie beer as ‘proudly ordinary’. In collaboration with the Big Lez Show and Betoota Advocate, Tooheys Extra Dry launched a number of digital films and social content highlighting the extremely ordinary nature of the beer, including customer reviews such as ‘Nothing special’, ‘Average at best, average at worst’ and ‘It’s not really worth describing this beer in any detail at all’.

Rather than pretending it’s something it’s not, Tooheys has embraced the idea that it’s ‘the beer you settle for when you run out of the good stuff’. This positioning, while perhaps confusing to older audiences who expect to be told why a product is better than its competitors, not worse, is playing less into its product attributes than into its overall brand positioning as cheeky, honest and no-frills – values which align with the ‘classic Aussie’ sense of humour. Transparency and authenticity resonate with younger consumers who appreciate honesty over big claims that seem too good to be true. Gen Z tend to celebrate their averageness, valuing inclusivity and realness over aspirational perfection and exclusivity, and indeed prefer to look like they’re not ‘trying too hard’. The campaign incorporates elements of this ‘intentionally ugly’, lo-fi aesthetic which will likely appeal to younger consumers looking for a cheaper alternative to more premium craft beers.

Elysha Young – Trends Manager, APAC