Posts Tagged business

Can emoji innovation progress society?

While text messaging has revolutionized interpersonal communication over the past two decades, it also reduces capacity to gauge nuance and subtlety, in the same way face-to-face interaction, telephonic or even long-form correspondence allows.


Facial expressions, tone and pitch assist our understanding and appreciation of meaning when conversing. Texting – while convenient – can remove that added layer of depth.

Enter the emoji: a picture text used to clarify intended meaning and substitute for expression and tone lost in technological contact.


To date, the universally utilized emoji has almost exclusively been the domain of private communications and social media platforms. Given this, use of them in alternative contexts, such as workplace emails, can be frowned upon or even actively disallowed.


But while we as a society may form opinions about those who use emojis, and the frequency and manner in which they use them (even though we do it too), they may bring benefit to business interests that go way beyond our personal engagement with such communication.


Businesses and marketing agencies know that, to effectively convince someone of the value of a particular product or service, the message conveyed must be comprehensible and conceptual.


Emoji is, whether we want it or not, a universally recognized language that all of us can understand and appreciate. And its potential for success in professional and even governmental contexts is all but untapped.


Market researchers across the board are now utilizing such methodology; Antedote, for one, recognizes the value of popular culture and colloquial vernacular to extrapolate genuine, authentic anthropological responses, which then provide more in-depth and accurate insights from surveyed subjects.


New York-based not for profit Partnership for Drug-Free Kids recently launched billboards which, to the untrained eye, appear to be gobbledygook but, to teens targeted by the ads, would convey crucial messages about drug use, smoking, drinking, body image, sex, bullying, among other issues.


Pain charts employ emoticons to deduce the degree to which patients suffer, allowing medical practitioners in hospitals and clinics to more effectively offer treatment.


Emojis can even serve as a base springboard for further insight: exposing subjects to a selection of emojis, and having them choose a handful, can help extract the innermost thoughts and feelings of individuals, allowing for greater direction with research.


The breadth of such images are expanding extensively to now account for a myriad sexual orientations, family units and gender identities, as well as – arguably crude – ethnic characteristics. Increased resonance through greater identification with emojis can only aid research processes.


Such expansion is also seeing images digress into the interactive sphere. Stickers and filters, being made popular by Snapchat and the newest iPhone, are further provoking engagement that speaks to our base emotions and instincts.


Emojis are already starting to be adopted in communication between colleagues and clients in the business world and, with the rise and increased use of platforms such as Slack, Asana and Trillo, one must ask: where else could this trend possibly go? Could technological jargon penetrate professional contexts and streamline communications as such?


Could, for example, emojis be used as a support mechanism for children with written and verbal speech difficulties, to help them better communicate?


Could governments utilize emojis to advocate economic policy developments, as a way to avoid institutional jargon that goes over the head of the average voter?


While some may browbeat about declining societal intellect via such campaigns, innovative businesses can, and already are, recognizing the usefulness of emojis in transcending communication barriers and engaging with an intended audience in ways previous efforts may have failed. If emojis can contribute to efforts addressing and raising awareness of sociocultural and political problems, domestically or abroad, would that be a bad thing?


Innovative practices are catching up – especially when dealing with millennials – and big business and government should ensure they are not too far behind.


Emoji is an inter-lingual digital language, and while its usefulness in tackling issues is still in infancy, its potential for innovative marketing and business success should not be ignored.


By Anne Lacey

Founding Partner

Innovating for a New Breed of Business Travellers – Part 2

In our previous blog post, we looked at three ways companies are innovating to capture the hearts and budgets of a new generation of business travelers. This week, we’ll take a look at two more ways the industry is getting a refresh in the last part of our 2 part blog series.

Image Credit: Hotel Chatter

Are you traveling for business or pleasure?

Well, why not make the best of both?

A business trip to Europe you say? Fantastic, let’s book some personal days to enjoy a Paris detour on the backend of that corporate trip.

You aren’t alone in combining some personal vacation with your business travel. In fact, 83% of travellers use time on business trips to explore the city they’re visiting, with nearly half adding personal travel days to their business trips, according to a report from Bridgestreet Global Hospitality. Great news for the travel industry!

Built with ‘Bleisure’ in mind

“Bleisure” is the growing global trend in the travel industry as the worlds of business traveling and leisure traveling blur.

How is the hospitality industry leveraging this trend?

Hyatt Centric has done a great job serving as a basecamp to their guests’ city excursions. They have defined a clear target audience: Wish-Listers, who want to experience a destination’s iconic activities. In response, Hyatt Centric lobbies feature areas defined as “The Corner” with books and magazines that provide insight into the local destination.

virgin hotel petsImage Credit:

Many hotels are also recognizing that guests enjoy travelling with their pets, to bring a piece of comfort and home on their trips. Enter programs like Kimpton Hotel’s Very Important Pets and W Hotels’ Pets Are Welcome (P.A.W), offering plush pet-bed loaners in your guest room, food, water bowls and mats, and a concierge list of nearby pet-friendly restaurants, parks, groomers and pet boutiques. The recently opened Virgin Hotels also has pet-friendly rooms, complete with a dog statue outside the door to watch over you.

Common Clubs Innovation SpaceImage Credit:

The Bleisure movement is also reshaping how we design communal spaces. Hotels are providing a new type of multifunctional space for teams to work, socialize, or just people watch. Virgin Hotels’ Commons Club is a dynamic hybrid of bar/lounge, laid-back study and restaurant with a private members club vibe, featuring a 24-hour library, social hour, and restaurant all in one.

Breather Travel
Image Credit: Breather

If you’re looking for a new type of meeting space outside of a hotel, Breather is an Airbnb-like app that lets you book a non-typical, home-like space to work, meet or relax by the hour, or for the day. It is available in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Ottawa, and Montreal, with more markets to come.

Convenience maximus pre and post trip

Business travel is taxing, so services that reduce travel stress are more than welcomed. Although hotels have made a good start to up their game to match guests’ demanding expectations for convenience, offering services such as mobile check ins and keyless doors on their trip, other companies outside the hotel industry are providing truly breakthrough solutions to proactively reduce travel frustrations pre and post-trip.

00dufl-5Image Credit: Business Insider

DUFL Virtual closet is revolutionizing the way we prepare for travel by removing the pain of packing, checking in, and lugging around suitcases. For $9.99/month and $99 per round trip, you don’t have to pack anything at all. Your clothes will be shipped to your hotel, then cleaned and stored in DUFL’s virtual closet, ready to be used on your next trip.

The team at Antedote are also using apps to simplify our travel logistics. Egencia (the business arm of Expedia) is an online travel booking platform which can follow customized travel policies to manage travel costs, and has flexible options like day-of-arrival hotel cancellations. Expensify is an app for easy expenses, which lets you pull expense records directly from your credit card account, and photo log your receipts in real time, so you don’t end up with a huge stack of receipts in your wallet when you come back from your business trip.

The fact that a slew of new technology and service companies are popping up to cater to the needs of travelers that typical hospitality providers have not yet catered to before is a wake up call for the hospitality industry to take on a more future-focused and proactive approach to innovation. Rather than focusing on the typical touchpoints every hotel and travel brand is already thinking about, how can we leverage the larger cultural and macro trends at play, which are changing the role of travel in consumers’ lives, and identify new touchpoints to connect with consumers? Through pushing the boundaries of what the industry is ‘expected’ to provide, we can think of new ways to win consumers, fixing problems and creating delight where they didn’t realize they needed new solutions for.

A sweet scoop on innovation

Innovative ice cream - Smitten

As a child, I wasn’t allowed to eat ice cream until I was six because I had a history of asthma, and ice cream was on the no-no food list. I am convinced this had a direct impact on my now slightly obsessive relationship with ice cream. When I moved to SF last year, I was overjoyed to find that it was not only me, but the whole city who embraced gourmet ice cream with open arms.

One of the most buzzed about ice cream spots in town is Smitten. I remember the first time I was there, I stood outside the outdoor shed-like store in Hayes Valley, with the incredibly long queue of eager customers looking on with delight as the ice cream counter emitted whimsical puffs of nitrogen vapor as their orders were prepared fresh before their eyes.

Innovative Smitten Ice Cream Store in Hayes

I later learned the inspiring story behind Smitten’s success, one that warms my own heart.  Before Robyn Sue Fisher founded Smitten, she was known as the “ice cream girl” during her time at Stanford Business School.  After graduation, she applied to two jobs: IDEO and the FBI. When IDEO rejected her, she had the choice of either working for the FBI, or making her ice cream dream a reality. Smitten now serves 17,000 happy customers a month.

You would think that ice cream is a relatively simple business to start and run, but Robyn was determined to perfect ice cream through experimenting, iterating, and piloting her ideas quickly.

As she describes her journey, she identified two consumer needs that weren’t being addressed by ice cream makers on the market:

1) Natural and fresh ice cream. The distribution chain ice cream makes it very difficult to keep the products fresh.

2) A true ‘creaminess’ that prior to Smitten, was not on the market yet.

Robyn got “nerdy” about the science of ice cream, and dedicated herself to creating the perfectly smooth consistency of her dream ice cream. This “nerdiness” led to a series of experiments with liquid nitrogen to minimize the size of ice crystals in the ice cream. Starting with a liquid nitrogen machine in her backyard, she then spent the next 2 years in a basement with an engineer partner to keep iterating and perfecting the technology, and then testing the flavors by selling ice cream on streets across San Francisco for 9 months.

When the queues for Smitten ice cream seemed to go on and on, she opened her first store in Hayes Valley out of a repurposed warehouse container, which has now become a much beloved ice cream icon in the city.

So what does Robyn’s Smitten story teach us about innovation?

1. Try quickly, fail quickly, learn, and try again
Many companies get stuck at the innovation process because of fear – fear that the idea is not perfect to launch before you give it a chance to live on. When you try to perfect an idea before you put it in front of consumers, you will have invested too much, too soon, for it to fail. The key to successful innovation is to create small-scale experiments which minimize risk and can be piloted quickly, get real time feedback, then improve and try again, as what Robyn did when she sold batches on the streets of San Francisco. This iterative process actually accelerates innovation success as you build on live feedback and push the idea through.

2. Know your consumers, and deliver beyond their current needs
One of the keys to Smitten’s success was the insistence on breaking from current products in the market. Instead of creating another product that’s incrementally new, Robyn insisted on a whole new approach to ice cream – pushing the science, and offering consumers a completely fresh experience to see their ice cream being created before their own eyes, using only the highest quality ingredients.

3. Lean on passion to push through when the going gets tough
Innovation is a long and difficult journey. For Robyn, it wasn’t until year four before she had any sort of business success, and if it wasn’t for her personal passion for ice cream, Smitten might not be what it is today. For innovation to succeed, there needs to be passion behind the project to push and champion it through when you are met with naysayers and stage gate hurdles. Going after the ideas your team has personal passion for can make the difference between a good idea on a piece of paper, and a real innovation that gets launched.

Smitten’s story is truly inspiring for the innovator in all of us. We look forward to interacting with adventurous innovations sooner, and companies approaching innovation with a truly experimental and iterative mindset.

To learn about antedote’s new platform, Idea Accelerator, that allows you to explore and iterate concepts, packaging designs and communications with consumers globally and in real time, please click below:

Learn more

Image credit: Wired’s The Blue Bottle of Ice Cream
Image credit: flickr user drbrett (cc)
Image credit: flickr user rotron (cc)

From the Antedote Library: Top 6 Books for Innovators


To help us to jump forward into the New Year, we like to reflect on the huge contributions made by those who have come before us to advance humanity.

Here are the top 6 Books for the Innovator and Entrepreneur in your life from the Antedote Library:

The Innovators by Walter Isaacson
Learn about the amazing innovators who sparked the digital revolution beginning in the 1840s.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Learn how we form and break habits.

How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson
A history of innovation over centuries.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
Paypal cofounder presents a new way to think about innovation.

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg
Google’s big wigs’ multilayered guidebook.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things
VC firm Andreessen Horowitz co-founder addresses the most difficult aspects on building a business.