1) The Wing’s “Big Little Lies” partnership with HBO highlights the coworking business’ flywheel, but promotes HBO more than it builds The Wing’s brand.

WHAT HAPPENED: This partnership includes a four-piece, limited-edition collection sourced from the female-led brands Cuyana, Lizzie Fortunato and Outdoor Voices for sale on The Wing’s ecommerce site and at two coworking locations, as well as an events series that addresses women’s issues such as domestic violence and motherhood.

Why it matters

  • The Wing and “Big Little Lies” share a value system that suits their partnership. As it expands its soon-to-be 11 locations in the U.S. and London, The Wing’s entire premise has been to provide a sanctuary space for women and foster female empowerment. The company also partners with Time’s Up and a percentage of the “Big Little Lies” proceeds will be donated to the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Overall, it helps The Wing enact a flywheel between retail and events that create greater symbiosis within the business.
  • But while The Wing’s partnership with HBO is for a good cause, its effects are still limited to those who can pay for a coworking membership. When it comes to raising awareness about domestic violence—which does not discriminate based on geographic location or socioeconomic status—this barrier to entry is counterproductive. Other shows such as “Game of Thrones” have coupled their launches with product releases, which builds hype, but with the “Big Little Lies” partnership that kicks off with a panel discussion featuring the stars of the TV series, it looks much more like an HBO series launch than a platform for The Wing to spur cultural change. Using the series launch a pretext to volunteer with victims of domestic violence, for instance, would help activate greater awareness and energize Wing members to enact change in their communities, which matches the company’s mission to advance women in society.

2) IKEA is increasingly bringing its print catalog online with an interactive Pinterest magazine, even as more brands turn to publishing offline marketing materials.

WHAT HAPPENED: Despite its iconic (and long) print catalog, IKEA is increasingly transitioning online—this time with an interactive Pinterest catalog that allows the company to recommend products to users based on a questionnaire, facilitating conversion to its product pages.

Why it matters

  • While the company launched a digital version of its print catalog in 2012 with a complementary AR-enabled mobile app, Pinterest allows IKEA to unbundle its entire product assortment into Pins (images with descriptions—the main currency of Pinterest) that users can sort into boards (collages of Pins). Since it enabled this offering in August 2018, the company said that the questionnaire had a 4% completion rate and that 25,000 boards have been created.
  • Considering IKEA’s do-it-yourself ethos and Pinterest’s DIY community, the match makes sense, while allowing IKEA to exceed the typical definition of a catalog to allow for greater customer interaction. IKEA also helps monetize traffic on Pinterest—an uphill battle and increasing focus of social media site, which debuted Product Pins in October 2018 that allow companies to feature their entire product catalogs on the platform, as well as Promoted Pins—Pinterest’s only source of revenue.
  • However, IKEA’s move comes at a time when many brands, and particularly digitally-native ones, are investing in print, which can help with brand-building even if customers aren’t purchasing through the catalogs themselves. IKEA’s tome, which comprised 70% of the company’s marketing budget in 2018, is curated for each market and includes editorial features. The success of its transition online will be predicated on where its customers like spending time and how the company’s marketing expenses change. Despite Pinterest’s 291 million global monthly active users, magazines are arguably more accessible to a wider swathe of consumers than those using the social media site. At the same time, IKEA’s version of moving online is much more measured than H&M’s recent decision to shut down its print catalog completely, as you read in the Founder’s Filter.

3) FitBit Pay joins Apple Pay and Google Pay to test contactless payments on NYC public transportation, but it’s still playing catch up.

WHAT HAPPENED: FitBit is part of New York City’s MTA pilot for touch-and-go subway and bus payments—a service that will expand across all public transit by 2023 as MetroCards are phased out.

Why it matters

  • Three FitBit models with FitBit Pay can be used to tap into turnstiles on select NYC buses and subway lines during the pilot. FitBit Pay, which launched in 2017, allows users to connect up to six credit or debit cards from 300 banks to their wallet through the FitBit app. The company has already activated contactless payment in public transit across other cities, including Chicago, Singapore and Vancouver.
  • Aside from just being convenient, FitBits and Apple Watches typify on-the-go retail as wearable electronics. While Apple Pay won’t require NYC public transit commuters to open an app or unlock their phones to “swipe” into the subway or board a bus, wearing a device around one’s wrist means consumers won’t be juggling any devices. This gives FitBit added value and could incite customers to use their devices more often, though the company is still competing with the Apple Watch. Considering the 13.9 million FitBits purchased in 2018 compared to 21.9 million Apple Watches, FitBit likely needs to enable contactless payment if only to sustain the same level of relevance, but it won’t give FitBig a leg up.

4) Instagram will broaden its ad stream to allow brands to promote content directly from influencers’ accounts.

WHAT HAPPENED: These Instagram ads will operate like regular brand advertisements in the newsfeed and Stories, but include a “paid partnership” label.

Why it matters

  • Influencer marketing flooded the consumer space once companies realized how selling their products through an actual face and personality could amplify sales, brand-building and customer loyalty. With the new capability, brands will be able to promote influencer posts to Instagram users regardless of whether they follow that specific account. The change comes as Instagram evolves its advertising strategy—most recently, it enacted Instagram Checkout to allow in-app purchases.
  • While many consumer companies view influencer marketing as a more “organic” form of advertising, their own experience as businesses on Instagram remains the same. Brands still must compensate influencers for their work and pay Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, for the ad space. Taken together, this takes away from the “organic” nature of influencer marketing. Instagram claims that 68% of “regular users” are interested in content from “creators,” but will institutionalizing influencer posts take away from the autonomy consumers exercise on Instagram in following and interacting with influencers? Further, influencer posts may be more effective than explicitly corporate posts, but as part of Instagram’s ad platform, they will become increasingly normalized and more obvious advertisements, which could diminish what makes them valuable in the first place. Corporatizing the influencers that brands work with isn’t necessarily worth more than the natural flow of consumers to these influencers’ accounts.