The sound of silence

Sometimes, the absence of an experience is an experience in itself.

Using Grammy night as an attention-getter, SONOS has closed the doors of its flagship store in SoHo for the day in order to call attention to its stand on the repeal of net neutrality. Stark signs in its darkened windows proclaim "Music needs net neutrality," "We need music," and "Tell Congress to listen better," each with a call to action to visit

This is not the first time SONOS has put a stake in the ground for music-related causes. Last fall they launched the "Listen Better" initiative to provide grants to organizations fighting censorship, supporting music education in underserved communities, and ensuring new technologies and the internet foster a healthy, diverse sonic culture for artists and listeners.

Relevant... credible... incremental and organic... this is how a brand grows a culture.

Shift Into drive

In September 2017, Saudi Arabia finally lifted the ban prohibiting women from driving, which will go into effect in June of 2018. However, many Saudi women were hesitant to take the plunge, apprehensive about their male family members' - fathers, husbands, brothers - reactionary views on the subject.

Enter #shedrives, a genuinely heartwarming experience from the people at TBWA\RAAD and Nissan. The program features several Saudi women who were invited to participate in driving instruction courtesy of the automaker. Once seated in the car, the instructor arrived. The women were universally surprised to see that their instructor was their very own father, husband, or brother.

The women were competent and proud; the men were patient and every bit as proud. And Nissan can feel proud that they've made a contribution to the efforts of women across the globe.

Net Neutrality, fries, and a shake

Many brands over the years have taken a public stand on various public issues, be they political, humanitarian, or other. Think Dove, AT&T, Adobe, etc. And usually the causes they champion are worthwhile, and usually they're on-brand and relevant.

But sometimes, well, they're not.

Burger King recently created a stunt-like object that demonstrated the horrors of... net neutrality. And it was an effective, educational set piece. Customers were offered three choices when they ordered: Slow, at the regular price; Medium, for considerably more money; and Fast, for an egregious upcharge. Hungry customers were, naturally, outraged. They yelled, they cursed, they stomped away, they acted their little hearts out. In followup interviews, they claimed that the stunt opened up their eyes to the awful truths of the repeal of net neutrality.

We at Brandflakes wholeheartedly applaud brands that adopt a cause and use their dollars and their reach to make the world a better place. But meaningful experience demands authenticity and relevance. In this instance, well-meaning as it may be, the disconnect between the brand and the cause, well, just stands out as kind of... a whopper.

How far will Amazon go, go?

Amazon's long awaited checkout free shopping experience has finally opened its doors -- to long lines of folks who have a need to see it first. A more convenient convenience store, Amazon Go has no checkout lane because its "Just Walk Out Technology," automatically debits your account when you leave the store.

Investors seem to think it's a great idea, with Amazon's stock soaring the day after the store launch. But how 'bout everyone else? Some believe it'll compel people to spend more than they want to or should, since -- like with a credit card -- you don't feel your money leaving your hands. In this case, you don't even feel your credit card in your hand.

Amazon is convinced that this entirely new experience, with no lines, no checkout, no registers, represents the future of retail. And as we all know, it would be a mistake to bet against a company that seems to be disrupting the status quo with regularity -- and succeeding.

Banking made simple(r)

How has your banking experience been? For some, pretty good. For others, not too great. Well Chase is doing something about it by creating more customer friendly branches. These compact branches will be geared towards your everyday banking needs without the complexity that comes with a core branch. These needs include deposits, withdrawals and opening an account. Need more? Well on site tablets will connect customers with core branch faces via video chat. Additionally unique, Chase plans to include an "Advice Bar" where customers can seek financial guidance beyond in and out transactions.

The initial roll-out is expected in limited markets including New York and California. Time will tell if consumers are buying this unique banking branch approach.

Grip it...grip it good!

How do you sell a product we take for granted and view in terms of necessity as opposed to quality? You make it extremely fun and engaging for consumers to interact with. Continental Tyres leveraged their partnership with the Prudential RideLondon race to educate a targeted audience on the power of their ultimate grip functionality. This crowd, which included nearly 20k, are already passionate in the bike sporting world. That passion was kicked up a notch through interactive photos, virtual reality, unique bikes with sneakers as the wheel (yes, literally a bike wheel made up of sneakers fitted with Continental's grips) and even BMX-style shows.

For a product that is difficult to explain its benefits in mere words, this proved a successful way to keep quality top of mind.

Only VR can prevent wildfires?

With bushfires known as a major problem in Australia's warm climate (as well as other locations around the world), VicEmergency seeks to create awareness in a unique way. VicEmergency developed a virtual reality (VR) experience for locals to experience the devastation they could cause. They are put to the test by interactively responding to prompts on what precautions they should take at particular moments when alerted of the impending danger.

In light of the recent gaffe concerning Hawaii, this may be worthwhile example of how VR can aid in disaster preparations in a highly engaging way. This makes me wonder what educational role VR can play in other emergency based industries like health & personal wellness.

Boxing Workout Without The Sweaty Gym or Pain

In what could be the next wave of athletes seeking to bring fans into their world via technology, Boxer Floyd Mayweather has debuted a VR fitness game at CES. What is most interesting is how the experiences of similar simulated games are enhanced and possibly validated through the involvement of those with that particular expertise.

What could this mean for the future of VR and marketing in sports? Imagine the NFL putting fans in the POV of quarterback Russell Wilson to recreate that infamous Super Bowl XLIX pick. That would surely hype up a long overdue grudge-match in the future.

The initial rollout of this VR experience will be in Mayweather's self-named boxing gyms, with a home version coming later this year. Boxing, throwing a football, pitching a baseball or dancing on your living room floor will never replace stepping outside, but it'll surely be entertaining to see how it takes off!

Transit Shoes

If you are an urban dweller looking for a seamless way to navigate the city from walking the streets to strap-hanging, Adidas has pioneered the shoe for you. Adidas Originals partnered with Berlin's public transportation system (BVG) to pioneer a better urban experience.  The sneakers serve as a free transit pass and those wearing the shoes will have free BVG access for a year.  Staying on theme, the shoes are designed to match the BVG's exclusive seat pattern.

This limited-edition shoe is only available in Berlin, but as brands work to integrate themselves organically into consumer's lifestyles, this may be a great run at what's to come...


Serving a hyper-focused message at exactly the right time to exactly the right consumer can be a challenge. IKEA addresses this challenge by facilitating a self-selecting interaction between their crib promotion and expectant mothers. How...well?  That's where it gets a little personal. IKEA created an interactive print ad that also serves as a pregnancy test (yes, the application of urine on the ad is necessary). If your test result is positive, bring the ad into your local IKEA and receive a discount on a crib.

Although this approach to promotion delivery may seem a little messy, we applaud IKEA's innovative approach.  For IKEA to be a relevant part of an expectant mother's experience could create a positive relationship the brand.  That said, could this backfire?  IKEA is making a claim to a customer experience and when it is positive, that should bode well for the brand.  But, would want-to-be expectant moms avoid IKEA as they do the diaper aisle?  Time will tell.  Sadly, this activation is limited to Sweden, so we will monitor from afar.

At minimum, this pregnancy test is more rabbit friendly than other methods.

Inspiring Commitment...Hardcore

Have you committed to a healthier lifestyle in the new year? What does commitment really mean to you? In an effort to illustrate and inspire commitment in the midst of resolution season, Equinox created seven products that are "inspired by the passions and persistence of some of the most committed people and organizations on earth." 

From a fragrance infused with the DNA of pioneering running great, Kathrine Switzer, to Stonewall Stilettos, which use the remnants of the Stonewall Inn in honor of LGBTQA rights activists, to a camo jacket with materials donated by wounded veterans, the campaign manifests the experience of commitment in a tangible, powerful and gritty activation.  

Although this context of culturally profound efforts is humbling, it may provide us with the perspective we need to reflect on, and motivation to stick with, our commitments. Sure, it makes lacing up your Asics’s and hitting the treadmill feel a little less heroic, but it's a start and helps make it feel achievable. 

Driving? Help Keeping Your Eyes on the Road.

Admit it, do you use your phone while driving? Well, 8 out of 10 drivers do. Not surprisingly, drivers are 300% more likely to be in an accident when using their phone, making the roads less safe for all of us.

Audi addresses this issue head-on by developing a free code for website scripts that can be added to any website, blocking a site's access if the user is in a moving vehicle, until the user confirms they are not driving. Simple enough. Sure, the driver can lie, but at minimum, the driver will get real-time reinforcement that they are putting their safety, and all those on the road, at risk.

Through this activation, Audi embraces what safe driving means today. By directly addressing an epidemic behavior that impedes safe driving, Audi is elevating the driving experience beyond the design and performance of their cars, and looking out for all drivers, not just Audi drivers. Thanks Audi. 

Now your brand news diet is chockfull of tasty tales of Customer Experiences (CX). Served-fresh every morning for your daily recommended dose of marketing inspirations. Never sugar coated. May contain nuts. Archives | Look back at these past bites