Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

German discount supermarket chain Aldi is about to start selling genuine art at supermarket prices. Last month, we brought you the Art *o* mat, a cool network of vintage cigarette machines turned art vending machines, offering artists a new retail and PR outlet, and consumers an easy way to get their hands on affordable ‘works of art’. Now, German discount supermarket chain Aldi is upping the ante by turning hundreds of its decidedly uneventful stores into art galleries. As of next month, German shoppers will be able to buy genuine art from seven German artists, at supermarket prices (EUR 10-15 / USD 12-18 per work of art), in no less than 1,450 Aldi outlets. The initial 100,000 prints will be signed and numbered by their creators. (Source: Is art the new It-commodity? More on personalised stamps, including a special yuletide version, just in time for Christmas. As reported in our June edition, Dutch consumers and businesses are already enjoying the convenience of creating and ordering personalised stamps online. The service, offered by TPG Post, has proved extremely successful: since the launch of the online service, more than 650,000 personalised stamps have been purchased, with 50% of all stamps dedicated to Dutch tikes The introduction of new services continues. Last month, the ‘ten most beautiful personalised stamps’ were issued (no, ours weren’t among them — shame on TPG!). Naturally, they’re for sale and will gain, in true GRAVANITY-style, a mass audience. TPG Post is also promoting a corporate service, and, just in time for the holiday season, personalised Christmas stamps. Clever. So what about the biggest postal market in the world, the same nation that pretty much invented customised marketing and advertising? What company wouldn’t like to have its own branded stamps, and what GRAVANITY obsessed American could turn down the opportunity to have his or her mug featured on real stamps? Well, good news: the President’s Commission on the US Postal Service has recommended that the USPS sell… personalised stamps!


For consumers and businesses, this is a cool, eye-catching promotional tool. Springwise would not be surprised to see a mini industry emerge in advising and assisting corporations and direct marketing firms in how to put this new advertising medium to best use. Expect some upheaval in the world of stamp collecting as well. (How on earth can you keep your collection up to date if every day sees the issuing of yet another 5,000 unique stamps…?) For postal companies around the world, this may mean juicy revenues in a market severely harassed by email and other digital dangers. Pimpjuice, Liquid Ice and Def Con 3: just three examples of rap stars entering the food & beverage market. We thought Rap Snacks, ‘the snacks with the rappers on them’ — in flavors like “Lil Romeo BAR-B-Quin With Honey” — were kind of frilly yet potentially profitable when we covered them in back in March of this year. Well, not only have they delivered on the promise (their projected sales for this year are USD 4-5 million), they seem to have inspired a host of rap stars getting into food ‘n drinks as well! Nelly is pimping his new energy drink (inspired by Red Bull’s success), aptly named pimpjuice, while fellow-rapper Ice-T has introduced Liquid Ice. They join rap tycoon Russell Simmons, who recently unveiled his Def Con 3 energy soda. So forget music celeb clothing lines (we dread the day semi-finalists on American Idols will start peddling their own branded skirts and pants), and focus instead on wicked beverages. The marketing and media channels to ‘pimp’ all of this are already in place: with hip-hop and R&B occupying most of the airplay Top 10 in the US and beyond, Springwise is sure we haven’t seen anything yet! P.S. Want one more? Cognac sales have been on the up ever since celebrity rappers declared the French stuff their preferred party drink. In 40/40, rapper Jay-Z’s Manhattan club, you’ll find a ‘Remy’ room (source WSJ), while Busta Rhymes scored big with his hit song ‘Pass the Courvoisier’. And Obie Trice’s debut, ‘Cheers’, prominently features a glass of cognac on the album’s cover. In fact, Hennessy, the biggest cognac brand in the US, with 53% of the market, says young Afro Americans account for 60% to 85% of its US sales, in what is now a USD 1 billion market. Cheers indeed. Last month, we highlighted German rental car company Maxhopp, which rents out Smart cars in Berlin and Hamburg for only 1 euro per day. The catch? Cars come plastered with ads, turning customers into billboards on wheels. Now, Austrian serial entrepreneur Niki Lauda, ex Formula one pilot, offers the same service in Vienna, Austria: Seems this new trend in automotive advertising is spreading geographically (Springwise expects Hungary and The Netherlands to be next), which means that entrepreneurs outside Germanic regions still have plenty of first-mover space! Step on it though, as Lauda already indicated he may expand to Spain if Laudamotion proves to be a success in Vienna. And what about the established car rental players? Could be a nice urban niche? Or a way to attract a younger clientèle? Hey, we’re just thinking out loud 😉 Just a quick example of smart, integrated online/offline thinking from one of Springwise’s favorite magazines, Business 2.0. Newsstand buyers will now find a code inside the magazine that grants them access to the subscription-only archives, the Web Guid, and expanded coverage of print stories. The code is valid until the next issue appears on sale at newsstands. Time Inc, who own Business 2.0, started introducing these access codes as part of a ‘restricted content’ strategy back in May. With more and more papers and magazines requiring some sort of registration or membership, Time Inc’s newsstand access code initiative will no doubt find followers around the world. While monetary motivations spawned this new business idea, the end result is actually about paying a bit more respect to newsstand buyers! So if you’re in publishing, or if you market products that shuttle between offline and online, pay attention Staff and students at Princeton, Harvard and MIT are embracing car-sharing venture Zip Cars. Zip Cars, the commercial membership-based car sharing venue, which we covered in our February issue, has signed a deal with Princeton University. As of September, Princeton staff and student members can use any of the initial four campus cars at a discounted price, as part of a campus-wide initiative to reduce vehicular traffic and to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment. Harvard and MIT students now also use the company’s services at discounted rates. Zipcars in Boston Not only does Springwise believe in the commercial car sharing concept as a great way to make money and spare the environment, but focusing on universities and students is definitely a smart example of audience segmentation. Europe to follow? How about a nice JV between Zip Car and Maxhopp or Laudamotion? Indiana University is offering its students a very current course. The subject? Reality tv. Sooner or later, every social or business phenomenon becomes the subject of its own academic course. A while ago, we reported that Southern Methodist University’s was adding dedicated gaming classes to its roster. Now the same is happening for one of our era’s other great inventions: Reality TV. Indiana University is offering its students “The (Sur)Real World of Reality TV”. The course covers historical, legal, ethical, psychological, sociological and economic perspectives. If you’re in education, then following trends and dedicating classes to them will not only help you attract ‘in the know’ students, it will also get you good PR! Remember our Small is Sundara article? Or our piece on Mexican Banco Azteca selling small loans in retail stores? Well, with more of the world gaining in purchasing power, however modest it sometimes may be, innovative micro-selling methods continue to reap the benefits. From mini-sachets of Unilever shampoo to micro-loans from a big financial institution. Our sister-publication TRENDWATCHING.COM has dubbed this promising trend SACHET MARKETING (and will report on it in the January edition). Below are three very cool and insightful new business concepts, from Bangladesh, India, and The Philippines. GrameenPhone, Bangladesh’s leading cell phone operator, is offering a special low-priced package to so-called ‘phone ladies’ in small villages, where fixed telephone lines are non-existent. The phone ladies share their cell phones with other villagers at a few taka a call, raking in monthly earnings that could top USD 170: a serious income in a nation where the average annual per capita income is USD 368. Internet access over wireless phones is next. (Source: Reuters.) (more…) London is indisputably one of the world’s hotbeds for marketing and advertising innovations. Within a few weeks, we found not one but two truly interesting new ways for brands to get the word out about their goods and services. First: The widest billboard in the world, owned by Coca Cola. The 100 feet wide billboard, which replaced the old Coke sign in London’s Piccadilly Circus, has built-in cameras, heat-sensors and a weather station to allow it to interact with its environment, as well as with Londoners passing by. Which means it will display rain drops when it’s rainy, or make the billboard to ripple as if being blown by the wind if the London weather gets all, well, London-like. The sign even recognizes people waving at it. Future plans for the billboard include the ability to respond to text messages from mobile devices. (Source: Yes, this will remind many non-entrepreneurs of Minority Report, but hey, it’s a USD 19 billion outdoor advertising market out there! Second: The world’s best cab drivers can be found in London: they’re knowledgeable, courteous, and never short on topics of conversation. The latter has taken on a completely new meaning, thanks to London-based Taxi Media, the taxi advertising company with a fleet of around 10,000 taxis across the UK. Triggered by news that Spearmint Rhino Clubs was advertising with a competitor, and had invited participating cab drivers to visit the clubs in the name of research (Spearmint Rhino offers ‘gentlemen’ some of the more mature pleasures in life), Taxi Media introduced their ‘Brand Ambassadors’ program. Brand Ambassadors not only drive a branded vehicle, but will also tell their passengers about their advertiser’s service or product. The program was launched by flying a few dozen cabbies to Australia, on national carrier Qantas, to enable them to enthuse about the land down-under when driving their Qantas-branded cabs back in the UK. Other campaigns have included Clinique’s three step skin care product (yes, scores of drivers got a facial), and trips to South Africa on behalf of ‘South African Tourism’ (source: Clearly part of the growing Whisper Marketing trend, Taxi Media may have hit a mini-goldmine, and Springwise doesn’t see any serious obstacles to expanding this concept worldwide. Now if they can get cab drivers to hand out samples as well… Bikes for Africa, a hands-on, non-profit business, recently launched an ambitious program to establish a bicycle refurbishing industry that will contribute both to poverty eradication and sustainable development. As a start, 1000 bicycles are now ready to be shipped to youngsters in the city of Johannesburg. Newly established shops in that city will refurbish and sell the bikes, creating jobs and encouraging the use of environmentally friendly transport. The organisation’s goal is to collect 100,000 bicycles in Europe and the US every year over a five-year period (Source: Bikes for Africa is a so called ‘Type 2’ United Nations initiative, which means the UN will register the project, but there will be no ‘type 1’ style involvement from world leaders. Sounds like a great opportunity for companies to help out, with Japanese bicycle parts manufacturer Shimano taking the lead.