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business Editor's pick Retail sustainability technology

The greater need for transparency: 7 brands regaining consumer trust

Sustainability has been a major talking point for the fashion industry over the past couple of years. In this year’s State of Fashion report, radical transparency was highlighted as one of the major trends retailers should be implementing. But following rising concerns of greenwashing, from misleading PR-led campaigns to the increase of fake news, consumer trust is at an all-time low and brands are having to work harder to prove their authenticity in the matter.

The Gen Z generation is particularly pushing for this change, with 90% believing companies should take responsibility to address environmental and social issues. Meanwhile almost three-quarters of Millennials are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products, demonstrating how there is tangible value in transparent produce. In order to regain their consumers’ trust, brands must therefore be explicitly open with information regarding data protection and how sustainable their supply chains truly are.

Technology is playing a major role in helping promote transparency, from blockchain helping shed light on the supply chain, to holistic e-commerce interactions. Here, we highlight some of our favorite examples of brands disrupting the space by going that extra mile in regards to transparency:

Patagonia
Patagonia: The Footprint Chronicles

Patagonia is one of the pioneering brands when it comes to sustainability, fully disclosing its textile mills, factories and farms through its website. The ‘footprint chronicles’ is a visual map showing information about the supply chain including the numbers of workers, gender mix and items produced there. Patagonia was the first outdoor brand to be certified to the Advanced Global Traceable Down Standard for maintaining excellent animal welfare standards for birds. 

As a result of its ongoing efforts, Patagonia was identified as one of the leading brands on Fashion Revolution’s most recent Transparency Index, receiving a score of 64%. 

Nestle
Nestle trialing blockchain

Nestle is the first major food and beverage company to utilize the use of blockchain technology, allowing consumers to trace the origin of their food. The company is aiming to eventually reach full supply chain transparency, with this move shedding light on 95% of its annual sourcing of raw materials. 

Products will have a QR barcode that when scanned, provides consumers with Tier 1 information on product, such as harvest date, farm location, packing date, as well as information on how to prepare it. To determine the feasibility and viability of the technology, an initial pilot scheme testing the traceability of milk will be created first, with plans to expand into palm oil production.

Walmart
Walmart beef supply chain

As it stands, only 33% of consumers trust the food system. Following the Tesco horsemeat scandal in 2013, consumers have become increasingly skeptical of where their food has come from, particularly when it comes to meat produce. In the US, Walmart is addressing this by developing the first beef supply chain. The system, which took 2 years to develop, follows a previous blockchain pilot on lettuce and spinach, which aimed to reduce contamination rates, following an increase in vegetable-related illnesses.

H&M
H&M product transparency

In the UK, retailers are only required to disclose where the garment was made, but this year to increase its transparency, H&M made the decision to go one step further by sharing specific details about their individual suppliers. Consumers can now access information on the production country, supplier name, factory name, and even the number of employees in that factory. H&M is setting the bar in the industry by allowing consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing, helping them to shop responsibly. 

For H&M’s sister brand Arket, sustainability has been a primary consideration from its inception. Beyond showcasing suppliers, the brand also aims to design long-lasting garments, while informing its customers on how to care for them and prolong their lifespan.

Volition
Volition’s clean products

Volition is democratizing the beauty industry with products designed from crowdsourced ideas that are voted by the general public before making it into production. The brand uses scientific ingredients to deliver safe and effective products, from skincare to bath and body. Volition gives all of its products the ‘safe science’ seal of approval, catering to the 42% of consumers who feel they do not get enough information on ingredient safety. 

Following consumers request of non-toxic but highly effective products, Volition’s experts created a blacklist of harmful ingredients, giving consumers peace of mind about what they are putting onto their skin.

Selfridges
Selfridges Buy Better Campaign

Department store Selfridges is doubling down on its Buying Better labels, which aim to aid consumers in their purchasing choices.  The labels highlight sustainable product attributes, such as vegan, forest-friendly or supporting communities. The labels are part of the retailer’s commitment to ensure that 50% of its products are better for people and the planet by 2022. Currently, over 3000 products across homeware, fashion and beauty feature the labels, helping guide consumers away from the disposable, fast fashion mindset.

Drunk Elephant
Drunk Elephants holistic products

Skincare brand Drunk Elephant may be new to the market, having launched in 2014, but it is already catching both the eye of consumers and major beauty conglomerates alike. Consumers have gone wild for its transparent, no-nonsense approach to skincare. The products are based on biocompatibility, and use clinically-effective natural ingredients. Each product listed on its website has a detailed breakdown of all the ingredients and their purposes, creating a holistic user-friendly experience. 72% of consumers want brands to explain the purpose of ingredients and Drunk Elephant is leading the with their holistic product breakdowns. 

As a result of this education-led approach, and its popularity with younger consumers, the brand has recently been acquired by Japanese giant Shiseido for $845million.

How are you thinking about sustainability? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Podcast product Retail

Dirty Lemon on feeding a constant need for newness

“We’re operating under the thesis that billion dollar brands will not exist in the future,” says Zak Normandin, founder and CEO of Iris Nova, the company behind wellness drink brand, Dirty Lemon, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

“I know Dirty Lemon isn’t going to be popular in a few years. And I want to already have three type of products in the pipeline that we’re launching right now, because consumers are very transient in their decisions to buy products,” he explains.

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Dirty Lemon launched in 2015 and quickly gained the type of cult following that only brands born online manage to achieve. It did so through a mixture of being at the right place, at the right time – in this case, right in the middle of the wellness boom – and carefully crafted branding that positioned it as a lifestyle offering, rather than just a product.

But Normandin, a CPG entrepreneur at heart, has much bigger plans than creating fleeting frenzy around a single product line. From inception, his Instagrammable bottles could only be bought online, with purchase being completed via text message. In 2018, it launched the Drug Store, an unmanned retail concept where customers could pick up a Dirty Lemon drink and simply walk out, texting to complete their purchase as they did so. This innovative retail model, alongside a stream of new product launches happening over the next few months, demonstrates Normandin’s ambitions to keep reacting to customer needs and behaviors before they move onto the next hot thing.

During this conversation, recorded at this year’s SXSW at the Current Global’s Innovation Mansion, Normandin also share with Liz Bacelar the new products launching under the Iris Nova family, what the retail experience is doing to inform future product development, and how Coca Cola is not only one of the brand’s biggest investors, but also its competitor.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 


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data Editor's pick Retail technology

From relevancy to regulation: Why SXSW 2019 was the year of the individual ?

There was undeniably a continued focus on culture at SXSW this year, as what was once the behemoth tech festival aligned itself with broader societal shifts as well as the consumer itself.

Author Brene Brown set the tone by opening the first day of the event with a discussion on empathy and the simple notion of belonging and connection in a digital age. Now, this as a concept isn’t new for SXSW – it was our top takeaway from 2018 off the back of rising concerns around the ethics of artificial intelligence. But this year, it wasn’t said in the context of how we should build technology to behave, but instead really on how we as individuals can live better lives.

On the simplest end of the scale, that of course meant experiences – evidenced by the brand activations that continued to pop up around the city of Austin. Offering opportunities for people to have a great time, isn’t going anywhere. But on top of that was everything from politicians fighting for what society deserves through to an increased focus on wellness.

Underpinning all of it? How we create greater than ever relevancy for individuals in a way that is both fair and meaningful.

Smart wellness
Current Global's co-founder and CEO Liz Bacelar and Calm founder Michael Acton Smith
Current Global’s co-founder and CEO Liz Bacelar and Calm founder Michael Acton Smith

It’s easy to say wellness was a trend at this year’s festival – its presence was felt more than ever, from the huge volume of cannabis-related programming (60 sessions to be precise) to the second year of the wellness expo, which featured everything from breathwork 101 to a conversation on Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. There were also activations including the Real Self House, which offered free consultations with medical doctors and complementary treatments such as lasers and injectables.

Our Innovation Mansion also heavily focused on wellness, with speakers including Calm founder Michael Acton Smith, Dirty Lemon, Recess and Under Armour all playing a role. Where these conversations proved particularly interesting, was in the way connectivity played a role. This wasn’t so much about wearables, nor about that “quantified self” trend from years gone past – rather it was around how technology is more passively enabling me to find out more about myself to then achieve better results.

One key example was in L’Oréal’s announcement of its partnership with microbial genomics company, uBiome, which the Current Global’s Liz Bacelar explored with Guive Balooch, VP of L’Oréal’s technology incubator, on the SXSW main stage. This is about deepening its research into the skin’s bacterial ecosystem in order to develop more personalized skincare solutions for individuals. The end goal is quite literally prescribing products based on exactly what the science of our own bodies tell us we need. “When it comes to skincare, people often audition product after product to determine what works for their unique skin. At L’Oréal, our goal is to advance scientific research and leverage new technologies to change this relationship, by allowing deeper levels of personalization.”

Meanwhile, futurist Amy Webb dedicated a good portion of her trends talk to biometrics, not just for identification scanning, but predicting behaviors. “These are systems that take all biodata and are constantly learning from it in some way, she explained, referencing Pivot Yoga’s connected yoga pants, which monitor poses and correct users’ form while syncing the data to an app. It’s the first time behavioral biometrics made it into her trend report, she noted. She related such a trend to “Persistent Recognition Systems”, which are algorithms that use our unique features, like bone structure, posture, or facial expressions to recognize not only who we are, but our frame of mind in real-time and make personalized suggestions as a result.

In doing so, consumers often end up giving out more information than they realize, Webb added. At Walmart, a smart shopping cart could measure your temperature, heart rate, and grip strength. If the cart senses you’re angry, it can send a representative to help you out. Walmart is reportedly using this data to create a baseline of biometric information about individual users to drive better customer service.

Personalization
Atlantic Pacific for Amazon Fashion

Optimizing data about individuals is the million dollar question for brands. We hear this at every trade show, conference, festival and exhibition we go to around the world. We hear it from every client. How do I better get to know my customer? And how do I then ensure relevancy for them in order to drive my conversions upwards?

SXSW was no different. Amazon Fashion’s CTO, Tony Bacos, said relevancy is his number one goal. “We’re focused on helping connect people to the products that we know are going to delight them. Not just in their individual taste and style but in their bodies,” he explained. By that he meant thinking about how to drive personalized discovery when the challenge is the huge scale of Amazon’s catalog, and then how to solve fit and sizing issues. With the latter he referenced machine learning in order to map sizing from one brand to the next as well as understand the role consumer preference and buying history play. Virtual try-on, where users can visualize themselves in items, will play a role for Amazon in the future, he hinted.

“No one has nailed these things in fashion yet – both the opportunity to create better and personalized experiences online and to solve the fit challenge,” he said. “That’s why it’s an exciting category.”

Kerry Liu, CEO of artificial intelligence software company, Rubikloud, agreed the future of retail really is about relevancy, and about using AI behind the scenes to facilitate it. In the words of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, it’s about using tech to “quietly but meaningfully improve core operations”, he said. But more than that, it’s about optimizing decision making, which increasingly humans alone cannot do.

Walmart CTO Jeremy King, said it’s about efficiency, which ultimately means giving humans the tools to make better use of their time. As Marie Gulin Merle, CMO of Calvin Klein, reminded everyone: “Fashion is an emotional business; you still need people to shake the hearts of the consumers.”

Data regulation
Dennis Crowley from Foursquare

With a focus on data, of course comes conversation around privacy and increasingly, regulation. When the programming suggestions were submitted to SXSW last summer for inclusion in this year’s content line-up, top of mind were two major subjects within this: the GDPR regulations in Europe, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal with Facebook. Cue such continued debate come March.

Roger McNamee, early Facebook investor and one-time advisor to Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, spoke about the importance around regulation. “Users and society have not had a chance to debate whether companies should gather information and profit from people’s financial transactions, health data, or location,” he noted. An avid critic of Facebook today, he nonetheless understands the problem is endemic to a world where the most profitable business model is tracking people, using data to predict their behavior, and steering them toward the companies’ desired outcomes.

One company keeping a close eye on regulation is Foursquare, whose co-founder Dennis Crowley explained the company’s evolution from hyperlocal advertising to a business-to-business data play. “Now, Foursquare offers a base map of the world,” he said. But it refuses to sell data on individual customers in the process.

For Facebook, by comparison, the pressure around data privacy continues to heat up. Just before SXSW, Zuckerberg announced the platform will shift its focus away from public posts to encrypted, ephemeral communications on its trio of messaging apps. To McNamee, this supposed commitment to encryption and privacy reads like a stunt. “They’re not getting out of the tracking business. My problem with Facebook is not whether it’s end-to end-encrypted. It’s what are they doing with the tracking, what are they doing to invade my private spaces. I don’t want them buying my credit card history. I do not want them doing business with health and wellness apps to get all that data. I do not want them buying my location data from my cellular carrier.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren also took to the SXSW stage to address her tech regulatory proposal, announced the day before. This seeks to undo massive tech mergers that exist and introduce legislation that would prohibit marketplace owners from developing products for sale on their own platforms. “Amazon has a platform to sell you a coffee maker, but that company also sucks out an incredible amount of information about every buyer and seller. Then they can make a decision to go start a competing coffee making-selling outfit, and drive out of business everyone else in that space,” she said. McNamee revealed he’s now advising Warren as a presidential candidate for 2020, on her data regulation agenda.

For global brands, the role of data privacy is only going to continue apace. Regulation looks inevitable in the US, as it has been in Europe. The question is, how to balance that pressing consumer demand for personalization with the protection they equally expect.

Additional reporting by Larissa Gomes.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Comment Events Retail sustainability technology

Your guide to SXSW 2019 through 10 key themes

SXSW has shifted quite remarkably in the past 10 years – from a launchpad for new technologies, to a reflection of much broader connected culture. During the Interactive portion of the festival, there remains an underpinning of innovation, but so too is there everything from politics to gender on the agenda.

The audience accordingly has widened from those looking for the latest tech trends or emerging startups, to those aiming to understand how societal shifts and digital consumer behaviors are impacting their businesses.

For 2019, that looks set to continue. For those headed down to Austin from the brand world therefore – from marketers to retail executives – it pays to be one step ahead in what to expect. Here are 10 themes to look out for during this year’s festival and the main events to head to in order to see them…

Entrepreneurship

There’s always a theme around entrepreneurship that pops up during SXSW, but this year’s line up looks particularly engaging. Top of the bill is Howard Schultz, former Starbucks Chairman and CEO, who will be talking about growing a global brand with an eye on humanity as well as profits. Meanwhile, Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are taking to the stage for the first time since leaving their company, to talk about their entrepreneurial journey. Other highlights come from Esther Perel, who is applying her relationship therapy to workplace dynamics, and Brene Brown, who will explore showing up and speaking out.

Wellness

Wellness as a theme has been increasingly emerging at SXSW over the past few years, as digital health has evolved beyond fitness trackers, for instance, into mental health and mindfulness. That plays out in a few different ways this year, from the expo dedicated to wellness as a theme, to the house Lululemon has with programming focused on yoga and meditation, and a keynote from Gwyneth Paltrow talking all things Goop. Over at the Current Global’s Innovation Mansion, highlights lie in a keynote from meditation app Calm’s co-founder and co-CEO, Michael Acton Smith, alongside a guided meditation experience from the app in our pool house, and a game show dedicated to the wellness revolution.

Michael Acton Smith, Calm
Michael Acton Smith, Calm
Sustainability

Sustainability follows neatly after wellness as we think about not just ourselves but our planet. On that note, there’s a lot for the fashion industry to stew over this SXSW, including a session featuring the H&M Group and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition; another from Finery founders Brooklyn Decker and Whitney Casey, and one from SAP on a more sustainable supply chain. There’s also Rent the Runway talking about the sharing economy, Walmart looking at sustainable beauty, and a keynote at our Innovation Mansion? with the head of global product innovation at Levi’s.

Experiential

When it comes to retail, experience remains the buzzword du jour, and there’s a lot to learn at SXSW related to such a theme. From the large-scale activations taking place across the city, to those discussing how to do such things well. Giant Spoon is the agency behind last year’s winning Westworld experience at SXSW, and they’ll be on stage discussing how they do it. Also worth seeing is a session dedicated to how to ensure engagement, delight and success through experiential retail above and beyond the overdone ball-pit and photo-worthy backdrops. We’ll also be heading to Calvin Klein’s talk on how to humanize your brand experience in the robot era.

International Women’s Day

Gender and equality isn’t a new topic to SXSW, but International Women’s Day takes place on the first day of the festival, which provides an appropriate opportunity for a celebration of women this year.  Cue lots of events and talks dedicated to the subject, including a full set of programming from Bumble, a panel featuring the women building brands we’ve always wanted, such as Rachel Blumenthal’s Rockets of Awesome, and a session on the rise of feminists with fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff. Also look out for actress Zoe Saldana’s keynote on changing the narrative for millennial and Gen Z audiences.

Melinda Gates on stage at SXSW 2018
Melinda Gates on stage at SXSW 2018
Retail Tech

What’s interesting about this year’s SXSW schedule is seeing talks by the likes of Magic Leap distinctly pointing their focus towards the retail audience. They’ll be talking about AR in the digital shopping experience, while Walmart, Amazon and Kohl’s are (separately) discussing the future of shopping via computer vision, machine learning and AI. Also not to miss is a session featuring the Current Global’s CTO, Scott Emmons, formerly head of the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab, diving into how retailers can leverage emerging technologies to thrive in a rapidly changing landscape.

Street Culture

If we’re talking culture today, there’s no escaping all things streetwear in terms of mass consumer spread. SXSW is reflecting that fact with various sessions dedicated to the topic. StockX’s Josh Luber has a keynote session talking about his online marketplace designed to work like the stock market. Meanwhile, I’ll be hosting a panel on stage with Levi’s, NTWORK and Johannes Leonardo – the agency that has worked with the likes of Alexander Wang and Adidas Originals – to discuss how streetwear turns hype into big revenue. That story will continue over at our Innovation Mansion with a business of streetwear-themed gameshow. One additional talk to try and get to is with Nike’s Tinker Hatfield, who’s known as a legend among sneakerheads.

The Nike PG 3 NASA on StockX
The Nike PG 3 NASA on StockX
Blockchain

With a new track dedicated to blockchain at SXSW this year, it’s almost cheating to add it as a key theme, but there’s no escaping the growing presence it’s had at the festival over the past few years. The most interesting sessions for 2019 include a keynote from Joseph Lubin, co-founder of the Ethereum blockchain and CEO of ConsenSys, the Winklevoss twins talking about the cryptocurrency revolution, and a session on radical transparency in the food supply chain. ConsenSys also has a house during the festival where blockchain trends happening across entertainment, fashion, media and more, will be discussed.

Privacy

If blockchain is a key topic, then setting the stage for that, has to be trust. The past couple of years at SXSW have been heavily navigated towards fake news, but after a year of big data protection busts, 2019 orientates itself towards tech ethics and privacy above all else. There’s a not-to-miss session from the founder of Foursquare on location privacy, a couple of deep dives on user privacy in a post Cambridge Analytica and GDPR world, and a look at trust in the era of data.

Looking to the future

Rounding out our themes is the required nod to the future that SXSW has always brought. Malcolm Gladwell is in town to discuss self-driving cars, Publicis is going to explore invention in the age of creativity and the Current Global’s CEO, Liz Bacelar, will dive into the future of beauty with L’Oréal. We’re also looking forward to the Serpentine Galleries’ Hans Ulrich Obrist exploring the possibilities that AI presents for the creation of new art forms, and for those still in town by Wednesday, Bruce Sterling’s always enlightening annual closing remarks.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Podcast Retail

MedMen on overcoming the barriers of selling cannabis

Cannabis consumers are not as black and white as medicinal versus recreational, says MedMen CMO, David Dancer, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent Global.

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This cannabis retailer is currently valued at over $1.5bn. Its challenge however is to design an experience that removes the anxiety of consuming cannabis that the majority of casual users still carry, as well as appease local authorities hungry to ensure strict legislations.

The consumer piece can be easily facilitated by knowledgeable store associates, who Dancer refers to as sommeliers and who play a huge role in demystifying the experience, from branding to education. “We want to make sure that people feel comfortable and can ask the questions they need answers to,” he explains. It also helps that curiosity around consumption is at an all-time high, largely thanks to the wellness movement.

But the bigger challenge for the retailer is dealing with legislations even stricter than those reserved to selling alcohol and tobacco. Although there may be an intentional Apple-like design sensibility and minimalism to MedMen’s 17 stores nationwide, much of it has to do with regulations: many products have to be displayed under locked casing – hence the beautiful display tables – while it is not allowed to have any signage or marketing on its windows. It is also restricted on locations due to zoning, such as near schools, and instead chooses areas that are friendly and feel safe, including LA’s Santa Monica Boulevard and New York’s Fifth Avenue.

The MedMen experience then becomes a clever ballet of branding and communications, combined with a retail experience that aims to allow customers to discover and try at their own pace, or to meet their own individual needs.

As the US audience begins to become more at ease with cannabis becoming a common part of their everyday lives – from smoking to CBD-infused cocktails and spa treatments – the retailer continues to navigate challenges by listening intently to what its customers and staff have to say. During this conversation, recorded with Liz Bacelar at this year’s NRF Big Show in New York, Dancer also shares the retailer’s heavy investment on the education piece, which includes a published magazine, and how the ever-evolving, and hyper-local, legislations pushes it towards constant innovation.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by The Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Editor's pick

Beboe on creating a luxury cannabis brand

“In fashion, I sold things to people that they didn’t need. You don’t need a beautiful bustier dress from Dolce & Gabbana, you want it, so it is about a want-based marketing,” says Clement Kwan, co-founder of luxury cannabis brand Beboe, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

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“In marijuana what we realized was everything was about the product. How high can you get? At what price? So we flipped the script,” Kwan, who is a former executive at YOOX and Dolce & Gabbana, notes.  

Beboe launched in 2017 at a time when cannabis consumption was riding high. Off the back of the growing wellness trend, consumers have become increasingly educated on the physical and mental benefits of the plant, and a series of new products and retail models have entered the market to respond to the demand. The plant has now been legalized for medicinal use in 33 US states, and for recreational use in 10. The country now accounts for 90% of the global legal marijuana trade, valued at $8.5bn.

Beboe
Beboe

For Kwan and his business partner, tattoo artist Scott Campbell, the ambition was to create the first luxury global cannabis brand, so its product design and marketing approach played a key role in helping destigmatize the plant and attract a more influential clientele.

By creating a desirable product that acted as a conversation starter, consumers would naturally become brand advocates, he explains. The approach has so far made Beboe stand out from the crowd, and earn the nickname of the “Hermès of cannabis”, as coined by the New York Times.

During the conversation, Kwan tells TheCurrent’s Liz Bacelar how he is applying his learnings from fashion into creating a desirable wellness and lifestyle brand, why education is the industry’s biggest challenge, and what’s next for Beboe’s growing portfolio.

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Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.


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Editor's pick Retail technology

Exploring Google’s experiential London pop-up: the Curiosity Rooms

Google's The Curiosity Rooms
Google’s Curiosity Rooms

Google has opened a month-long pop-up on London’s Regent Street, called the Curiosity Rooms, which offers a balance between connected moments and digital detoxing over a cup of tea.

The space is dedicated to encouraging visitor curiosity, a theme the tech company has embraced with the launch of its new Google Pixel 3 phone.

The result is a plethora of workshops, talks and experiences that have welcomed crowds of people since it opened last week, with most of the events planned sold out for the month.

The biggest lines when I visited focused around the “All-In Auto Wash” room – where groups can take selfies with the new Pixel phone, framed by pink carwash wipers – and the invite-only activation in the basement with pop band, Little Mix.

In between the mania, however, is a little haven of quiet in the form of The Pixedilly Café, a pink and blue 60s designed space. Here, guests are invited to experience one of the new features of the Pixel 3 phone, which invites a more mindful approach to digital communications.

The simple idea is that when you turn the phone over, all notifications, messages, calls and any other digital noise is turned off. Only when you are ready to get back to the real world, can you see all missed communications, simply by turning it back over.

To celebrate this sense of digital freedom, Google wants you to relax and enjoy in the most English-way possible – with a cup of tea. You don’t just get any old tea selection though, but instead the perfect one for you, based on a tasting menu that asks you four questions, all connected to how you would spend your perfect (digital) day-off.

The tongue-in-cheek asks include what type of weather you are, “warm and sunny” or “dark-and-stormy”, in order to concoct your custom brew. I ended up with the “Perfect Wind Down Cuppa”, a hot and spicy fruit tea mix.

Google's Curiosity Rooms
Google’s Curiosity Rooms

The pop-up space is otherwise spread over three floors in total with a multitude of further areas dedicated to different experiences.

There’s also the Google Maker’s Studio, which sees space rented by local London vendors, including flower-delivery company called Patch, and a small designer hosting workshops every week to teach children how to make clothes. There‘s also another space for creative talks, a coffee bar and a children’s play area with a giant “Not Pink” slide that allows those of all ages to travel down to the ground-floor again.

Meanwhile, the changing roster of events, with different talks, workshops and live podcast recordings, all tie in with the themes of health, mindfulness and millennial mind-sets.

A notable kick-off to the store space saw writer and activist Scarlett Curtis recording a live version of her Feminists Don’t Wear Pink podcast. Visitors have also been privy to a one-of-a-kind dining experience with food writer Grace Dent; a talk by entrepreneurial creative Sharmadean Reid, the co-founder of WAH nails and founder of beauty platform Beautystack, on how to use everyday technology to reach your goals; and further live podcast recordings with Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes and their weekly The High Low show.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Podcast

Supergoop! on the clean beauty revolution

Liz Bacelar and Supergoop!'s Amanda Baldwin
Liz Bacelar and Supergoop!’s Amanda Baldwin

“The clean beauty revolution is the next big thing that’s going to hit this industry,” says Amanda Baldwin, president of suncare brand, Supergoop!, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar, she explains that from day one, Supergoop has maintained a singular focus: convincing people to wear sunscreen every day by making it with the cleanest ingredients possible. After 11 years in business, the company is at the forefront of a huge shift in the industry.

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Founder Holly Thaggard, created Supergoop after her friend was diagnosed with skin cancer, making it her mission to develop products that would convince people to wear SPF every day.

But this purpose is more than just the core of the products, Baldwin says, it’s also the main reason people want to work there. “We just surveyed to ask what’s making people excited about being our employees and the number one reason was the mission of the company.”

According to Baldwin, working in a company as mission-driven as Supergoop makes every decision easier for the team. “When you’re faced with some decision, it comes down to: does this help people wear SPF every single day? If the reason is yes, we should do it, if the answer is no, we don’t.”

Supergoop!
Supergoop!

Supergoop’s staff is cognizant of its deep sense of responsibility, especially at a time when more people are becoming aware of the ingredients in the products they consume. This is the edge of what Baldwin’s call the clean revolution. “Once you start reading labels, you can never go back. And I think that consumers should be able to trust brands to have done their research and to have done their work.”

In this episode, Baldwin also talks about how food trends can tell us what to expect from the beauty industry, the importance of learning from other people in order to create a successful company, and how to commit to being clean and cruelty-free without compromising the process.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Podcast

How Equinox services the luxury wellness consumer

Liz Bacelar and Vimla Gupta

The mass appeal of ‘wellness as a lifestyle’ may be something trending with consumers today, but it’s a mindset that’s been central to Equinox since its inception in 1991, says Vimla Gupta, CMO of the premium fitness brand, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Equinox has paved the way by offering consumers support and service beyond typical gym classes by understanding how their fitness behaviors have always been a pivotal part of their lifestyles. In doing so it’s become not just a ‘gym’ brand, but an entire lifestyle group that will even open its own hotel in New York in 2019.

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Its success comes from the fact it quickly understood that with the rise of the internet, consumers were going above and beyond normal exercise behavior to better understand their needs and goals. “What we seek to do as a brand is intrinsically understand our consumer and what her needs are; what drives her,” says Gupta. “And what we are seeing is the consumer has a PHD in everything; unlimited access to information.”

Modern gym-goers, Gupta says, are information-obsessed and think of every step of the journey, from understanding their nutrition and dietary needs, to researching the efficacy of the latest workout and even what sportswear they wear. This pushes brands like Equinox to become the vehicles to satisfy their learning needs and provide them with an experience that will correspond to their high performance expectations.

At the heart of Equinox’s interaction with its clients is the need to keep innovating by introducing services and technologies that help maximize the potential in their consumers lives, she adds. Technology in this case acts as an engagement and recommendation tool through leveraging individual data, such as the recent launch of a digital coach – or a bot – to its 10-year-old mobile app, which learns from a user’s activities and helps them stay on track.

During this conversation with Liz Bacelar, founder of TheCurrent, Gupta also divulges more on what tech means for the Equinox gym experience, how the company is evolving from fitness to lifestyle and retail, and its upcoming plans to keep enabling clients to live their best lives.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Campaigns

ASICS unveils blackout running track to highlight the importance of mental strength

The ASICS Blackout Track
The ASICS Blackout Track

ASICS has unveiled the Blackout Track, a sports track in east London aiming to help runners win the ‘mental race’ by freeing them from any distractions.

The 150-meter course is set in complete darkness and features no technology, no music, no finish line and none of the other comforts associated with training for a marathon, thus forcing the runner to focus on synchronizing the mind and body. The initiative supports the launch of the Gel Kayano™ 25 shoe.

“ASICS was founded on the belief that a sound body fuels a sound mind, so this campaign goes right to the heart of who we are as a brand,” said ASICS’s global CMO Paul Miles. “Our promise is to bring our founder’s vision to life in the modern-age – where negative distractions of the mind can prevent us from reaching our potential and going the distance.”

During the launch campaign, the track will also host a series of events to demonstrate the idea that in running it’s not the strongest physique that goes the long distance, but the strongest mind. Events include a 10K ‘mental marathon’ and a scientific experiment that shows the importance of mental strength for physical fitness.

“By exposing how easily the mind can be influenced, the campaign is designed to remind athletes of any ability about the importance of training both the mind and body, to reach their goals in sport and life,” said Fiona Berwick, strategic planner in ASICS’ global marketing team.

The track initiative was inspired by a technique practiced by long distance runners such as the Japanese, in which they run in loops for one or two miles without any technology.