Baileys ends fiction sponsorship, Starbucks tests virtual barista and Ocado reveals robotic hand prototype

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…some of the stories that have featured in the marketing industry news this week…

Women’s Prize for Fiction: Baileys end sponsorship

Drinks brand Baileys is to withdraw its sponsorship of the Women’s Prize for Fiction – a prize awarded annually to what judges consider the best novel of the year written in English by a female author.

The company has commented that it: “regretfully decided to make way for a new sponsor” in order to work on new global projects.

While Baileys will sponsor this year’s award, the prize will search for a new commercial partner from 2018.
Syl Saller, chief marketing officer at Diageo, which owns Baileys, said: “It has been an honour to champion the very best fiction written by women.”

She added the company would now look to increase its promotional activities “across both English and non-English speaking markets”.

“We look forward to making 2017 an exceptional year. Baileys will remain a staunch advocate for the prize,” Saller said.

The Women’s Prize for Fiction has been running since 1996 and was co-founded by author Kate Mosse. Orange sponsored the award for 17 years before Baileys took over in 2014. Previous winners include Zadie Smith, Ali Smith, Lionel Shriver and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Starbucks goes Siri-style and tests voice-activated virtual barista

Making it easier for customers to get their caffeine fix, Starbucks has unveiled a Siri-style personal assistant so users can order coffee via their iPhones or Amazon’s Alexa platform.

The voice-activated ‘barista’ features as part of the coffee chain’s existing iOS app. Customers order and pay before arriving at their store, telling the barista what they want without having to type.

“The Starbucks experience is built on the personal connection between our barista and customer, so everything we do in our digital ecosystem must reflect that sensibility,” said Gerri Martin-Flickinger, chief technology officer for Starbucks.

“These initial releases are easy to use providing a direct benefit to customers within their daily routine and we are confident that this is the right next step in creating convenient moments to complement our more immersive formats. We expect to learn a lot from these experiences and to evolve them over time.”

The voice-activated service is currently in beta testing and will be available to one thousand customers in the US initially, with plans for a continued phased rollout through summer 2017 and an Android version to follow.

Ocado reveals its robotic hand prototype

Online supermarket Ocado has revealed that it has been working with Disney and EU universities on a prototype that could one day change how its warehouses are operated.

With retailers, such as Amazon already looking to streamline their processes with automation, Ocado’s robotic hand joins the movement as the first major example of the supermarket utilising tech.

The unveiled device can handle fruit and veg, using a developed code to apply a grip that is both firm yet restrained.
BBC News reports that the bot is the sum of an EU project, a five-year collaboration between five European universities and Disney. It is named Soma (Soft Manipulation).

The company already has robots operating at its warehouse in Andover, Hampshire.

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