5 in 5: co-branded vests, Xbox PSA, the end of the Earth, neuroaesthetics, digital deep-clean

Each week, Padilla’s Insights + Strategy team stands at the intersection of people, culture and brands to bring you five stories that you can read in five minutes.

1. Patagonia puts Wall Street on notice

This week it was revealed on social media that Patagonia would no longer sell co-branded gear with organizations they deem “ecologically damaging,” including financial institutions. Why should you care? Apparently, this has become some sort of uniform or status symbol on Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Many brands would relish a reputation like that where they have become the wardrobe of choice for powerful organizations and wealthy individuals. Patagonia doesn’t see it that way. They recently announced a strategic shift to support “mission-driven companies that prioritize the planet.” While their vests are gaining in popularity with a coveted consumer group, for Patagonia, it may be a greater risk to their reputation as a leading defender and advocate for the environment. It’s a really smart business move for them. Furthermore, whether you personally agree with this or not, this is what consumers want – businesses willing to stick to their principles even if it risks the bottom line. [Bloomberg]

2. Introducing Xbox games by the Federal Drug Administration

As part of the FDA’s anti-smoking campaign, they have released a free game for PCs and Xbox called, One Leaves, which they describe as “part high school, part hospital and part hell.” Why should you care? The name (and the game) were based on the alarming statistic that, “three out of every four teens who smoke in high school will continue into adulthood despite trying to quit.” Not only is that troubling, but over this past year public health professionals have been raising the alarm about teen tobacco use trending upwards and decades of progress reversed by vaping. This is a real and significant problem. Rather than stick to the standard public service announcement and a heavy-handed patronizing message, they made a video game that changes every time. A “popular eSports influencer and Fortnite star” tweeted about it and there are rumors of an escape-room experience at the Winter x Games. We aren’t always “A for effort” kind of people, but in this case, no matter what the game is like, props to the FDA for getting to know their audience and meeting them where they are. [CNET]

3. Seeing, but not believing

In 2020, the Flat Earth Society will be sponsoring a cruise to Antarctica (and what they believe lies beyond) as part of their mission to convince people the Earth is flat, not a sphere (which, for the record, was proven a couple thousand years ago by guys like Aristotle and Pythagoras…maybe you’ve heard of them). Why should you care? Laws passed this week in Australia and recent announcements by social media companies signal a shift where the negative impacts of fake news and misinformation are being taken seriously. Most of this has been directed at anti-vaxxers recently, but the precedents set in the actions taken to combat that specific subset of misinformation will ripple across industries. We are at the beginning of redefining free speech and this won’t be solved overnight. While the cruise isn’t media per se, they are spreading information and should be accountable. Is it an expression of free speech? Is it fraud if they don’t fall off the Earth or “go past the ice wall” (i.e. their term for Antarctica)? Are there cruise ship standards and staffing requirements to handle large swaths of existential crises when people realize the navigation systems are only possible because the Earth is a sphere? Most importantly, when these people return with greater conviction for defending their falsehoods, how does the media (not to mention society) begin to relay facts to people when even seeing with their own eyes leaves them unconvinced? [Lonely Planet]

4. Mood rings for mood rooms

Google is currently exhibiting an installation at the Milan Furniture Fair to experiment with how design aesthetics affect mental well-being, or neuroaesthetics. Why should you care?  While this may seem like an departure for Google, albeit an interesting one, industry experts say they have been moving in this direction for years by investing more in industrial design. Google has already entered homes through their smart speakers and Nest, so partnerships with furniture companies to expand personalized adaptation in the home is a smart move. What is most striking here is the objective to affect mood through beauty and design (an ancient idea) through personalized data. Certainly there are a lot of positives that could come of this to help individuals with basic wellness to medical conditions like mental health concerns, behavioral issues, or illnesses where environment plays a key role (like sleeping disorders). This begs the question, when do these mood tracking and/or manipulation applications, currently being tested by Google and others, stop being advertising or decor and become medicinal? Companies who want people to buy in, especially after all of the privacy and data concerns over the past couple of years, will take transparency in articulating the use and all intended uses seriously. [Fast Company]

5. Marie Kondo your digital life

Popular Science released a “30-day digital deep-clean newsletter” to help their readers gain control of their digital lives. Why should you care? With spring starting and the popularity of Marie Kondo soaring, it makes sense that the spotlight on cleaning up of your physical living space would migrate to a digital space. Additionally, we know people are looking to reclaim time lost online and find balance between analog and digital experiences. We think this is brilliant. Kudos to Popular Science for taking this insight and giving the people what they want: expertise on regaining control in a digital space that has felt very out of control this past year presented in manageable steps across a period of time that feels just right. (Because this is by email, they also now have a list of leads for their content.) And yes, tech giants with privacy issues (you know who you are), should be kicking themselves for not thinking of this first because this would have been a great step at regaining consumer trust. [Popular Science]

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