Why the sound of Ed Sheeran helps sell fries

Swedish researchers have found that specially selected songs played in a fast-food chain increased takings

It’s elevator music, 21st-century style: not Herb Alpert, piped tinnily into your local department store, but carefully curated playlists generated by algorithms and used by major restaurants, supermarkets and retailers all over the world to entice us to spend more cash. In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the Swedish Retail Institute – in collaboration with Spotify-backed startup Soundtrack Your Brand – found that specially selected songs increased customers’ spending by 9.1%.

Conducted at an unnamed American burger chain in Sweden, and analysing almost 2m purchases, the research compared the difference in sales when playing music chosen to match the brand with randomly selected popular songs. When playing bespoke playlists, sales of burgers went up by 8.6%, fries by 8.8% and desserts by a whopping 15.6%. The underlying message: if we like a tune, we’ll buy more chips.

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Technology company? Publisher? The lines can no longer be blurred | Emily Bell

Google, Facebook, et al are in reality media companies and must accept the responsibilities that go with it

Attention, like snow, comes in two varieties; the fun, beautiful kind, and the “wrong” kind, the kind that stops trains and freezes democracy. Recently the seemingly unstoppable digital behemoths of Google and Facebook have been at least temporarily derailed by the wrong kind of attention.

First we had Facebook being unmasked as the world’s largest repository for made-up stories and “fake news”, and now we have Google fighting a rearguard action over apparently putting advertising from respectable companies alongside deranged hate speech videos on YouTube. Advertisers, including the Guardian and the British government, have been withdrawing from Google’s digital ad exchange after discovering their ads alongside videos for, among other things, American white supremacists and violent extremists.

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Six of the best gadgets for cats: goodbye analogue mog, hello cyber hepcat

Forget clockwork mice. There’s a new range of gadgets for your cat to get its paws on, including ones to track it, feed it and even scoop up after it

Cats are relatively low-maintenance animals, though that won’t stop us from finding innovative ways to spend money on them. First they overran the internet; now they’ve come for the internet of things: the market is littered with toys, cameras, and camera-toys. Even some of the more basic items – food bowls, litter trays – apparently need a power supply now. But is this stuff really useful? Or are companies merely playing on the vulnerabilities of doting pet owners, such as myself? We tested a few gadgets with the reluctant help of my ageing cat, Toby.

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Donald Trump is just par for the course

The US president has clocked up at least 12 golfing holidays since his inauguration in January. No one should be surprised. But why golf?

The disorientating eternity that has been Donald Trump’s nascent presidency could be described as anything but par-for-course – and not only in terms of the Old Testament-grade lies and misdirection that characterise the White House’s communications. In 10 weeks, President Trump has taken no fewer than 12 golfing holidays to Mar-a-Lago, the Florida-based golfing resort he owns. Each round, according to an estimate from Politico, has cost US taxpayers in the region of $3m (£2.4m) in flights and security.

Deliciously, Trump, along with a chorus of Republicans, frequently criticised his predecessor for such playful excursions. In 2011, he tweeted: “@BarackObama played golf yesterday. Now he heads to a 10-day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. Nice work ethic.” In August 2014, Reince Priebus, Trump’s chief of staff, wrote: “Obama’s golf outings aren’t just bad optics, they’re foolish. And voters realise that.” Even Sean Spicer, Trump’s flailing press secretary, who suggested last week that just because Trump visits Mar-a-Lago doesn’t mean that he’s playing golf there (an Instagram photograph showing the president wearing golf cleats while supposedly in meetings says otherwise), once proffered an opinion on the game. “Wish I could be on the golf course but have to work,” he wrote, in 2012, before adding: “Must be nice to be President.”

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