Some changes, advances and adjustments are expected – they are clearly part of a long-term strategy playing out, or an obviously useful pivot that expands what a brand can do.
And then there are changes that no one could have foreseen, because “pivot” doesn’t quite cover it – in fact, “180-degree turn” doesn’t quite cover it. Sometimes the change is so different that it constitutes teleporting to entirely new ground.
This week featured a little of both.
Among the expected shifts:
The Packing Bots Are Coming to Amazon
After years of speculation about how and when Amazon would begin automating the labor at its warehouse, the world got a big peek at the shape of things to come with the announcement that packing bots will be making their debut at Amazon warehouses sprinkled throughout the U.S. (at first).
Citing two internal sources, Reuters reported this week that new machines called, CartonWraps, are already on the floor at two warehouses, and are headed for more soon. The machines can reportedly pack 600-700 boxes per hour, about five times faster than top human speed. The machines requires three workers: one to load it, one to stock it with boxes and glue and another to handle jams if and when they occur.
Designed by Italian firm CMC Srl, the machines cost about $1 million apiece, and save about 24 jobs per warehouse. Were the machines rolled out at 55 of Amazon’s warehouses in the U.S., they could reportedly replace 1,300 jobs. The machines would pay for themselves in about a year.
“We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across our network,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement. “We expect the efficiency savings will be reinvested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created.”
The goal, according to sources interviewed by Reuters, is not to cut existing jobs; rather, the plan is to allow the workforce to become leaner through attrition. Packing jobs turn over often, and Amazon simply would stop refilling empty jobs. Employees who stay with the company would reportedly be trained for other positions.
BoA Tokenizes the Apple Watch
The Apple Watch will be integrated into the Bank of America (BoA) corporate treasury platform, CashPro, as part of an effort to tokenize the wearable and allow access to the CashPro platform.
The integration, which BoA announced last week, will allow corporate users to obtain a one-time security token directly from their Apple Watch, negating the need to carry a physical token to log into the CashPro platform. The app must be installed in order for users to take advantage of the new feature.
“Many people still carry their physical token on a keychain along with other banking tokens, which are bulky,” said Tom Durkin, Bank of America Merrill Lynch head of GTC channels in global transaction banking services, in a statement. “Now, executives will no longer have to worry about forgetting to take their physical token when they are on the go, traveling for work or vacation. They’ll have everything they need on their iPhone and Apple Watch.”
Julie Harris, head of BoA’s global banking digital strategy, said the latest move comes as part of the bank’s continuing focus on digitization. “Mobility and everything it represents – convenience of doing banking anywhere, anytime – is a critical priority for our clients, and that means it’s a critical priority for us,” she said. “With the CashPro app now available on Apple Watch, we’re pleased to continue our innovative improvements on how and when clients can access tokens.”
Again, given the march of wearables, the Apple Watch and BoA’s digitization efforts, it’s a switch – but one that could have been foreseen for the last few months.
Taco Bell, on the other hand, is boldly going where it has never gone before.
The Tacocation: The Innovation the World Didn’t Know It Needed
There are many innovations once might have expected out of Taco Bell, the majority of which would probably have involved nacho cheese. But until this week, it is doubtful anyone ever sat in a Taco Bell and wondered to themselves whether their next luxury vacation could be more like the fast-food restaurant.
But then, Steve Jobs always believed that truly successful brands taught people to want things, instead of just giving them what they want.
It’s in that Jobsian spirit, we assume, that Taco Bell is opening The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort in Palm Springs, California for a limited time this summer.
The property’s amenities, from poolside cocktails to guest rooms to breakfast choices, will boast a “Taco Bell twist,” the quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain said in an announcement, which described the concept as a “tacoasis.”
“The Bell stands to be the biggest expression of the Taco Bell lifestyle to date. It will be fun, colorful, flavorful and filled with more than what our fans might expect. Also, just like some of our most sought-after food innovations, this hotel brings something entirely new for lucky fans to experience and enjoy,” Taco Bell’s Chief Global Brand Officer Marisa Thalberg said in the announcement.
The hotel will have a gift shop with exclusive apparel, as well as a Taco Bell-inspired on-site salon for fades, nail art and a braid bar. There will be cocktails – which we assume will add a lot to this experience, particularly because the brand promises to “deliver beloved, iconic flavors and introduce new menu surprises only available at the hotel.” Ever wanted to know what it would be like to drink an alcoholic chalupa? It seems the time is now to find out.
Reservations will reportedly open in June.
So, what did we learn this week? There are new ideas – and there are NEW ideas. New ideas get attention. NEW ideas get attention as well, but it’s only good attention about half the time.
Until next week, have fun planning your next tacocation.