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Marketing Briefing: ‘Safety Dance’: Why brand messaging is pivoting between caution and convenience in the face of the Delta variant



Marketing Briefing: ‘Safety Dance’: Why brand messaging is pivoting between caution and convenience in the face of the Delta variant

If you ask marketers and agency execs how the continued rise of the Delta variant is affecting marketing messages now, you’ll probably hear that there is a resigned focus on safety and solutions in the face of ongoing uncertainty as opposed to the ‘we’re in this together’ creative rife throughout the first chapters of the pandemic.

As one creative agency CCO put it, “we’re out of the ‘connected messaging’ fog now.” 

“We’ve got a phrase here that we’ve got to keep our head on a swivel to make sure we’re watching at all times for what’s happening with Covid, the variants and how guests are feeling at our restaurants,” said Denny’s CMO John Dillion. “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been focused on consumer needs of value, comfort, convenience and reassurance. Reassurance has really emerged [as a priority] to make sure guests know it’s safe to eat at Denny’s.” 

Denny’s isn’t the only brand leaning into safety messaging as the Delta variant has continued to rise. In December 2020, Alaska Airlines worked with Mekanism to create a lighthearted spot featuring the Men Without Hats tune “Safety Dance” to show how the airline was handling safety. That ad is making a comeback, according to Lisa Zakroff, managing director at Mekanism. 

“The video aimed to not just show how clean our planes were but to get people to trust that their fellow-fliers were following the rules,” said Zakroff. “The campaign was so successful — and because of continued COVID-19 concerns — we are now running the spot in new markets who have not seen it before.”

By working to reassure customers that planes or restaurants may be safe to be in, some brands are aiming to keep consumer concerns at bay. At the same time, other brands are touting convenience — i.e. using the retail app to order products for buy online/pick-up in person or free shipping — rather than safety to address consumer concerns without having to directly address the Delta variant. 

“Brands are not only using the safety message of being safe, but also the convenience element,” said Albert Moufarrij, CMO at digital agency MACH9. “It depends on the hierarchy of the messaging; some customers prefer convenience over safety.” 

Even so, some say that there are brands that would like to ignore the rise of the Delta variant altogether. “My sense is that there is ‘Delta variant denial,’” noted one agency exec, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It feels like business as usual with a lot of mandates out there. I think that as trips get canceled, airlines and hotels will ramp up [reassurance and safety] messaging.”

3 Questions With Cloud Paper’s head of partnerships Sarah Vincenti

How is Cloud Paper thinking about a return to the office?

When we were first looking at office options last year, we really wanted a “center of gravity” or a hub for creative thinking and collaboration, even as the world shifted to remote. Now that the team is fully vaccinated, and local businesses are opening back up, we get together when we can for in-person brainstorms and meetings a few times per week. We will continue to be remote friendly, but provide options for employees like a central hub in Seattle and co-working spaces for remote team members. We don’t have any hard and fast rules — we want employees to be as comfortable as they can be, and that might mean different things to each person.

How does remote work affect company culture?

Cloud Paper, a direct-to-consumer toilet paper brand, has always had an open and collaborative culture. We’ve adopted a hybrid model between remote work and in-office work, so although we might not be physically all in the office as much as before, we take advantage of our time together to work collaboratively. This open culture has manifested itself in many ways, from internal decision making to dialogue with our customers. We stay on top of who our customers are and what they need through support, surveying and talking directly to them. This helps us understand their drives and needs, which enables us to refine and evolve our brand marketing message. 

How has Cloud Paper managed remote work in terms of hiring talent, creative work, etc.?

The prevalence of remote work has allowed us to expand our teams in ways that we didn’t originally anticipate. We’ve adopted a hybrid model where our headquarters are based in Seattle, but now have remote sites. Six months ago, I was a remote contractor helping Cloud Paper build up their marketing org, and now I’m one of two full-time employees based outside of HQ. As we continue to grow, we’ll be on the lookout for diverse, driven talent in Seattle and beyond. — Kimeko McCoy

By the Numbers

The role of influencers has become an increasingly important piece of the marketer’s playbook. Countless brands ranging from the likes of Ace Hardware to WebEx have launched influencer marketing efforts with many of them prioritizing the TikTok in hopes to expand reach to Gen Z audiences. But while advertisers are busy peddling influencers, new research from tech company Bazaarvoice shows that shoppers don’t always trust large scale influencers, including celebrities like Kim Kardashian or social media stars like Addison Rae. Find more details from the report below:

  • 56% of survey respondents said everyday social media users are the type of influencer they followed the most, followed by celebrities (34%), subject matter experts (29%) and social media stars (25%).
  • When asked if they trust influencer content more now that advertising rules have been implemented across social media platforms, only 36% of consumers said yes.
  • 18% of consumers trust sponsored content, while just 9% of respondents believe social media stars share genuine content. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the Week

“I’d be lying to you if [I said we] think we have the answer just yet. Right now, we’re just trying to figure out what is actually working.”

— Diarrha N’Diaye, founder of clean beauty brand Ami Colé, on managing the impact of iOS 14 on paid social media advertising.

What We’ve Covered


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Delay season, Deathloop love, and Detroit-style pizza | GB Decides 214



Delay season, Deathloop love, and Detroit-style pizza | GB Decides 214


A new GamesBeat event is around the corner! Learn more about what comes next. 

The GamesBeat Decides podcast is back this week to destroy your stock portfolio. Editor Jeff Grubb discusses how you caused a slight dip in EA’s stock price this week, and fellow editor Mike Minotti gives himself an alibi to evade the long arm of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The crew talks about all of that and Battlefield 2042’s delay, which kicked off the whirlwind stock roller coaster in the first place.

Also, Mike and Jeff really like Deathloop. Jeff, meanwhile, really likes Detroit-style pizza.

Join us, won’t you?


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Instabase engineering head charts course for building modern biz apps



Instabase engineering head charts course for building modern biz apps

The Transform Technology Summits start October 13th with Low-Code/No Code: Enabling Enterprise Agility. Register now!

Instabase has been quietly building a platform that is designed to enable developers to build complex business applications based on pre-packaged discrete building blocks that can, for example, can break a document that has been scanned into a set of components that can be reused across multiple use cases.

VentureBeat caught up with Yee Jiun Song, recently appointed senior vice president of engineering, to gain a better understanding of how the building of traditional business applications is evolving in a way that enables developers to more flexibly create modern business applications that can run anywhere.

Previously, Song was the vice president of engineering at Facebook.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

VentureBeat: What exactly does Instabase do?

Yee Jiun Song: Instabase has been trying to build an operating system, and I think it’s a little hard to understand. It’s a little bit easier if we explain the problem that we’re trying to solve. If you wanted to build an application for the consumer, you typically build for iOS or Android, or if you’re trying to build a desktop app, you build for Windows or MacOS. But if you wanted to build an application to help businesses solve some problem, there’s no platform that allows you to do that. We aim to be the operating system that does that so the application developer can focus on the application and the business problem and not worry so much about the environment that the application would run in. On top of that, we provide a base operating system that provides a set of services and toolkits that allow developers to quickly compose applications together. Then we also provide a marketplace where developers can publish applications.

VentureBeat: That kind of sounds like a universal platform for applications.

Song: If you wanted to automate the software development process, you could hire a team of software engineers to build a custom solution. But this is expensive and it takes a while, and then the custom application needs to be maintained, and it would probably only work for a specific environment. Instabase enables our customers to build something very quickly by composing state-of-the-art modules together while writing very little or no code. They also don’t have to worry about any of the infrastructure systems around this. What Instabase does is abstract away all of those challenges. There’s a bunch of different technologies that have matured to the point where it’s possible to build something that works well enough for developers in a way that allows them to quickly compose applications.

VentureBeat: Does this replace the need for the operating system?

Song: You’re certainly not replacing Windows or Linux. The point here is we’d like customers to not have to think about Windows or Linux. If we have to talk about Linux and Windows, the point has kind of been missed. The pieces that Instabase has built are high-level abstractions. It’s not clear to me people really understand what’s required to build applications that are highly distributed across eight different platforms that they might need to employ at any given time. A lot of the customers that we talk to want to get a solution up and working as quickly as possible and not have to invest too heavily in the underlying technology. Examples of companies that are using [Instabase] include MetLife. One of the nice things about using something like Instabase is that the customers don’t have to keep up with the state of the art of the underlying technology.

VentureBeat: How hard is it to set this up?

Song: If I’m being honest, it sounds like it’s still a little harder than we’d like it to be. Usability is certainly something that we’re working on. We eventually want to get to the place where customers are able to stitch applications together on their own without too much help on our part. We’re also trying to reduce the amount of code that customers need to write in order to put an application together. But a lot of that is still a work in progress.

VentureBeat: What will the biggest hurdle be going forward?

Song: As with any rapidly growing company, I think one of the big challenges that we have is growing our own teams. We’re going through hyper-growth at the moment, One of the reasons Instabase brought me on board is to help grow and scale our teams. On the product side, one of the things that we want is to make sure that we are able to provide our customers with a product that is very stable. We need to build a product that scales and is reliable.

VentureBeat: Why leave Facebook to do this?

Song: That’s a great question. I’ve had a wild and phenomenal ride at Facebook; it’s been a ridiculous amount of fun. But I feel like there is a great team there. I’m not sure that they need me anymore, so I’m looking for something new and challenging. This is a very different domain. It’s the right kind of combination of a wildly ambitious goal. That is exciting to me. In some sense, this is starting over.


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Best power banks: The top portable chargers for your phone



Best power banks: The top portable chargers for your phone


Don’t leave home without one.

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Anyone who uses a smartphone knows the importance of carrying a backup battery pack. But try searching for one on Amazon, say, and you’re likely to feel overwhelmed by the vast number of options. Besides the various charging specs, ports, and even cables you have to consider, there are a ton of competing brands. How are you supposed to know which ones actually live up to their promise?  

We’ve done the legwork for you, evaluating a wide range of power banks from different manufacturers, costing different prices, and some offering unique features. Our testing is extensive, too, subjecting the packs to real-world usage (read about our testing process in detail below). Our picks below reflect a range of needs. (You might also be interested in our our roundup of USB car chargers if you spend a lot of time in transit.)

Updated 9/17/2021 to include our review of the RAVPower Portable Power Station 252.7Wh Power House—a compact off-grid power source that’s perfect for weekend getaways. Given its sub-$200 price and better-than-average efficiency, it’s our new pick for best portable power stationScroll to the bottom of this article for links to all of our power bank reviews.

Best overall power bank

Building on the success of the Powerstation Plus XL (our previous pick for best overall power bank), Mophie’s Powerstation XXL matches its predecessor in efficiency, achieving 92.51 percent of its stated maximum current, plus it’s stylish, portable, and affordable at $69.95. It’s a no-brainer recommendation if you’re in the market for a dependable power source on-the-go. (Read our full review of the Mophie Powerstation XXL.)

Best budget power bank

The combination wall charger and portable power bank format makes the Powercore Fusion 5000 exceedingly convenient. The bank itself can be recharged via either method—power outlet or MicroUSB port. It’s limited to two USB-A ports for device charging, but that doesn’t dimish its great handiness-to-cost ratio. (Read our full review of the Anker Powercore Fusion 5000.)

Most portable power bank

Small enough to fit into a coat pocket or the side pocket on a backpack, the Tronsmart Presto is an obvious companion when you’re on-the-go. It’s a 10,000mAh (37Wh) pack, with two USB-A ports, one with QC3.0 for fast charging. (Read our full review of the Tronsmart Presto PVT10.) 

Best power bank for road warriors

If you spend a lot of time on the road and value device preparedness, the Sherpa 100AC makes a trusty, if pricey, companion. Yes, at $299.95, you’re looking at a big investment. But that buys you two USB-C ports capable of fast-charging speeds, two standard USB ports, a Qi wireless charging pad, a standard U.S. 110V outlet, a full complement of cables, and a nifty status display and buttons for controlling various functions of the pack. The pack itself can be charged in just a couple hours. (Read our full review of the Sherpa 100AC Portable Power Bank.)

Best USB-C power bank with Power Delivery 

Sporting the sort of sleek yet rugged exterior you’d expect from Otterbox, the Fast Charge 20,000mAh is both handsome and utilitarian. Its USB-C port with Power Delivery can be used to charge other devices or the pack itself. Both it and the USB-A port are capable of 18W output. The pack’s 92.55 percent efficiency is among the best of the USB-C battery packs we’ve tested. (Read our full review of the Otterbox Fast Charge 20,000mAh.)

Best portable power station

There are times when a mere power bank isn’t enough—the circumstances call for a power station. Say you’re spending the weekend off the grid. Or you want to be prepared for a future emergency. The RAVPower Portable Power Station 252.7Wh Power House will get the job done. With a capacity near 252.7Wh, a nice complement of ports, a built-in flashlight, and an included carrying case, this highly portable power station makes a great travel companion for road trips. (Read our full review of the RAVPower Portable Power Station 252.7Wh.)

How we test

Determining whether a power bank lives up to a company’s promise entails more than simply connecting it to a phone and charging. Testing battery packs is done over weeks, not days, and requires extra equipment in order to ensure the batteries work as expected.

1. Upon receiving each battery pack, it’s fully charged, using indicator lights as a means to track charge level.

As we use the DROK load tester to drain the pack of power, we are able to test against a battery’s stated maximum current, and verify that proper shutdown mechanisms are in place should something go wrong during a charging session (such as a device drawing over the maximum amps).

By using the AVHzY USB Power Meter, we are able to monitor volts and amps, total power throughput, and total amount of time to deplete a battery from full to empty. The meter can create an Excel spreadsheet of the entire process for future reference. 

3. Next, we recharged the battery, this time using the AVHzY to track it and chart the amount of time it takes to reach full charge. 

The AVHzY meter solves a shortcoming we had with our previous method with the PortaPow. Previously we had to use a GoPro camera to track each battery through its charge cycle, as the PortaPow monitor would continue to collect data after the battery was fully charged (trickle charging is normal, and unfortunately interferes with our testing). 

If a battery was capable of charging through USB-C, we use that instead of Micro-USB.

4. The AVHzY also has a feature built in that checks a charging port for all of its supported charging standards. We are able to run that test and get an instant readout to confirm support for QC 3.0, for example, without needing to have compatible phones or devices on hand. 

Power source and cables

All of our tests were conducted using the same wall adapter and, when possible, USB-C or Micro-USB cable. This was done to eliminate any discrepancies with wall adapters and cable throughput.

What to look for in a portable power bank

Without fancy testing equipment, you never truly know if you’re getting what you paid for with a battery pack. Vendors, especially in Amazon listings, like to throw around a lot of terms and certifications.

Here are a few tips to help you make a decision:

  • For those with a compatible device, make sure the battery pack is Quick Charge 2.0, 3.0, or PD certified. Depending on your smartphone, this can make a big difference in performance. If you own a QC 2.0 device, however, ask yourself if paying extra for a QC 3.0 capable pack is worth it.
  • Don’t put 100 percent confidence in a company’s claims of a pack being able to charge, say, a Galaxy S8 or iPhone X six times over. Battery capacity and efficiency varies based on a number of factors. Read this Macworld report on USB-C packs to learn more about batteries and capacity.
  • Look at the specs of the battery, and ensure that its input isn’t limited to slow charging such as 5V/1A. The faster the input, the faster your battery pack rechargers, the faster you’re ready to hit the road.

All of our power bank reviews

Click on the links below to read the full reviews of all the products we tested for this roundup. We will continue to review and update this article as we test more battery packs.

You may also be considering simply buying Amazon’s AmazonBasic charger, as a way of saving money. In this case, be advised: Amazon has voluntarily recalled several models because of potential overheating. Amazon has received 53 reports of the affected models—B00LRK8EVO, B00LRK8HJ8, B00LRK8I7O, B00LRK8IV0, B00LRK8JDC or B00ZQ4JQAA—overheating, and in one case causing chemical burns. You can find more information at the Consumer Products Safety Commission, as well as Amazon’s own recall site

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

  • RAVPower 26800mAh Portable Charger

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