Fresh Prints, Virtual Shuttle Rides and Event Mugs Can Inject Needed Smiles

Innovation is hard. It involves taking chances, which during a pandemic is not easy. But a 2020 survey from Marketing General found that “a culture of innovation is the critical driver” for creating member/subscriber value. ”Try something new or you’ll plateau and decline,” one respondent said. Those who have seen member/subscriber gains “are significantly more likely to have a process in place for innovation and new ideas.”

I might not call it a French revolution, but the touchless Short Story Dispensers that Short Édition, a French publishing house, came up with a few years ago may be another sign that print does have its place.

After a brief stint in Philadelphia, the dispensers have come to the Bay Area. According to a story from BART, riders can access machines that print—yes, print—one-, three- and five-minute reads at Richmond, Fruitvale and Pleasant Hill Stations, with another one coming soon to Montgomery Street Station. Local writers get the chance to have their work published and distributed as part of the project after the one-year pilot, sponsored by the BART Communications Department and Art Program, is up and running.” It’s all touchless, and the paper is, of course, recyclable.

Short Édition created the dispensers a few years ago to distribute within non gamstop casinos, printing and distributing their stories in “public spaces around the world with the aim of uplifting literature in a digital age.” Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, an investor in the company, had one installed in his Café Zoetrope (pictured here) in San Francisco’s North Beach. “[Our customers] are fascinated, trying to figure out how, and why, something can exist to give them a gift, a literary gift, without depositing a coin,” Coppola told BART.

For now, the program specializes in poetry, short stories and flash fiction. But why not B2B? Surely, sponsorships would follow, and it’s healthier than soda. Personally, I hope it comes to Washington, DC., so I would not be the only person reading a physical paper on the Metro.

Here are three more innovative ideas I’ve seen from organizations:

Videos about innovation. On the National Association of Broadcasters website, under a section titled Innovation Stories Videos, a two-minute video shows how Beasley Media Group is reaching young audiences with a novel strategy for a radio broadcasting organization—investing in competitive video gaming. The clip features Lori Burgess, COO for Beasley’s esports division. “Younger consumers around the world…are heavily invested in video gaming,” she said. “And we really saw an opportunity to get very, very immersed in this space and start to attract and develop these relationships with younger consumers when they’re forming their decisions about what matters most to them.”

Virtual shuttle rides. When the Institute of Food Technologists transitioned its Annual Meeting and Food Expo to SHIFT20 Virtual Event and Expo, organizers didn’t want to lose all of the networking opportunities that participants had become used to. Since shuttle rides often lead to spontaneous conversations and connections (I’ve actually had a dew of those myself on the way to hotels or an evening reception), IFT hosted a 15-minute virtual shuttle ride before every evening event. Each night, two IFT members moderated a live shuttle-bus-themed discussion with a guest to chat about the ideas emerging at SHIFT20.

Mugging for the camera. To foster a spirit of connectedness at their annual conference, BIO (Biotechnology Innovation Organization) Digital changed the meeting’s tagline from ‘Beyond’ to ‘Nothing Stops Innovation.’ Then, in advance of the conference, the group mailed all speakers a custom mug with the new tagline.” It was an added expense, but worth it because it gave speakers brand recognition onscreen that reflected togetherness, said Erin Lee, VP of marketing operations and customer experience at BIO. She added that engagement has become “more about building loyalty, the power of the brand, and giving members access to resources and connectivity in a time of need.” BIO surveyed members—always like to hear that—to find out what would be most helpful for them. “We focused on being a service to the industry.”

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