The adjustable standing desk allows you to mix up your posture throughout the day, but top models cost as much as $1,600. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Clearly, it’s time to ditch the office chair, but standing desks can get pricey, especially the adjustable kind, which let you mix sitting and standing throughout the day.
On Kickstarter, StandDesk's basic model costs less than $400. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The company has raised more than 10 times its funding goal since April 2014. (Click Image To Enlarge)
StandDesk, a new standing desk model being launched on Kickstarter (where it has raised more than 10 times its target since April), is a cheaper solution. The basic model, which has a simple automated system to raise and lower the desk at the touch of a button, starts at less than $400. Not quite as cheap as a cardboard desk, but not $1,600 either.
The creators say the lower price comes from designing a custom motor that doesn’t have as much extra lifting power as other standing desks. It’s only designed to lift 225 pounds--enough to hoist your computer and desk gadgets, though maybe don’t put every textbook you own on it. It’s a clean, simple design with no frills, just a smooth tabletop and a small control panel. Considering that I spend my days curled over my desk in a bizarre yoga pose called, “becoming one with the laptop,” I’m on board.
The desk raises and lowers at the touch of a button. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Clearly, it’s time to ditch the office chair. (Click Image To Enlarge)
COMMENTARY: Steven Yu, the founder of StandDesk raised a total of $649,244 from 1,697 donors through Kickstarter. The goal was to raise $50,000, but StandDesk raised over 12 times that. Congrats to Steven Yu. The first batch of pre-orders from the Kickstarter campaign are scheduled for delivery sometime in September 2014.
According to the StandDesk website, you can still pre-order the StandDesk directly from them for $449.00 with FREE shipping. Delivery in the fourth quarter 2014. I assumed that these new pre-orders will be after the Kickstarter project donors receive theirs.
I like what Yu is doing. Let's just hope that he priced the StandDesk properly so they can generate a profit.
Actor Stephen Dorff's TV commercial for e-cigaratte brand Blu, acquired by Lorillard for a reputed $135 million in 2012, is typical of the new "rebel-without the consequences" cigarette smoker theme being used in TV commercials by e-cigarettes manufacturers.
Addiction (and cred) without the consequences
On Saturday night at a pink-lit bar in New York's Lower East Side, the musician Aaron David Ross took a moment away from DJing his own party to evangelize a bit.
Between vaporous pulls of a dual-coil atomizer, Ross said.
"Look, I'm like the vegetarian that won't leave you alone. Cigarettes are terrible for you."
Ross, who makes records under the name ADR and is one-half of the industrial duo Gatekeeper, held up his personal vaporizer. Cylindrical and silver, it looked much more like an expensive piece of jewelry than a replacement for "analog" or traditional cigarettes, a stark contrast to the tobacco-aping NJOYs whose recent advertising campaign has focused on their ability to "look, taste, and feel just like a real cigarette."
Musician Aaron David Ross took a moment away from DJing his own party to portray himself as an e-cig 'vape' or 'vaporist' evangelist. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Ross and his friends, some wearing chains and black fitted caps, exhaled more odorless smoke than seemed reasonable for a human lung to hold. They looked pretty cool, which is a feat — a friend of Ross', Mat Dryhurst, had earlier relayed that when he started vaping,
"My wife said she wouldn't have sex with me if I did this in public."
Ross turned back to his laptop, where he was playing an FKA Twigs track to celebrate his new mixtape, Cloud Chasing Vol. 1. It's ostensibly the "first collection of music for vapers, by vapers," and it was compiled by Ross and some of his e-cig enthusiast friends in honor of a symposium held at the art and technology center Rhizome this past weekend. By inviting a group of artists, academics, and enthusiasts to speak on the subject of the e-cigarette, Rhizome hoped to learn "what it means to ‘vape.'"
They couldn't have scheduled the panels for a better time: as recently as a few years ago, e-cigarette smoking was a relatively obscure habit. But with the industry still largely unregulated and projected to rake in a reported $1.5 billion in sales this year, the e-cig market has grown into a multi-tentacled beast. Just as the largely forum-based DIY "modding" scene gains serious traction, legislation is on the horizon for 2014. Meanwhile Big Tobacco, thanks to new lines of electronic products, has the opportunity to hawk its wares on television for the first time in 40 years. This is the Wild West of the Electronic Nicotine Delivery Device (ENDD), and it may not last very much longer in its current form.
Click Image To Enlarge
And so the panel, on which Ross and Dryhurst both spoke, was cheekily called "This is the ENDD." The event largely cast the e-cig debate's usual suspects — economic, health, and legislative issues — as the background to a number of cultural shifts. Which, because of the world we live in, largely came down to the way e-cigarettes have been marketed.
The e-cigarette industry has spent vast amounts of money and time making a once-dorky and counterintuitive idea — sucking on a metal device filled with nicotine juice and some of the same chemicals used in smoke machines — look desirable, fun, and edgy. This year at CES, Vapor Corp. hosted a party on the pool deck of the Marquee with plexiglass jacuzzis; as one of Rhizome's panelists pointed out, NJOY invited "influencers" to party with e-cigs in hand at the posh Jane Hotel last year, before New York City's former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, banned public indoor vaping.
Health researcher and panelist CAB Fredericks notes Blu has even taken the recent indoor e-cig bans in select states as ammunition for those marketing campaigns, encouraging Blu customers to "fight back" against the man.
If some large e-cig companies like NJOY and Blu have rested their cred largely on the dont-tread-on-me, rebel-without-the-consequences feeling of retro Marlboro and Lucky Strike ads, others like the Reynolds-owned Vuse have churned out marketing materials that make their e-cigs sound less like smokes and more like iPads, with TV spots obliquely announcing "dreams, opportunities, the promise of new things to come."
Reynolds Vuse e-cigarette packaging reminds one of and Apple iPhone or iPad with its high-tech, sleek look. (Click Image To Enlarge)
According to Orit Gat, an art critic and Rhizome contributor, the schism between e-cigs marketed like gadgets and those marketed like cigarettes may be because "we're in a particular moment" in the development of the e-cigarette; "We're still not sure what they are," she said during her presentation, "or what we're supposed to do with them."
Gat, having recently spent time in Provence, France, flipped through slides of two smalle-clopinettes, small storefronts in which locals were encouraged to try the latest in e-cig technology. A sign above the display read, in French, "technology meets elegance." White-walled and minimalist, with battery packs and slim e-cigs displayed on a wall behind glass, the shops looked more like Apple Stores than smoke shops.
Her next set of slides, however, showed The Henley Vaporium in Nolita, where available e-cig flavors were written on a chalkboard pinned to an exposed brick wall. There, "vaporists" help you "hack" your e-cigs — "Whatever that means," Gat quipped — in a shop that shares more DNA with an artisinal coffee house than a hyper-clean technology store. She said.
"The closer we get to e-cigs, the closer it is to a Whole Foods than an Apple Store."
ltria Group, which is the parent company to Philip Morris USA, introduced its first electronic cigarette -- MarkTen -- in August 2013.(AP Photo - Altria Group Inc.) (Click Image To Enlarge)
For Dryhurst, the idea of the e-cig as a lifestyle brand originates a bit closer to home. When he switched from regular cigarettes to e-cigs, he says he realized he'd have to go all the way to fully commit — he had to make his new device part of his "look." Dryhurst, a San Francisco-based artist, says something like the corporate Blu just wouldn't cut it — He says.
"Blu cigarettes are the Coca-Cola of this culture. They went out of fashion."
COMMENTARY: Electronic cigarettes or 'e-cigs' are battery-operated devices that deliver nicotine via inhaled vapour.
Removable cartridges contain glycerol or propylene glycol, flavouring, and varying amounts of nicotine (including 0mg). The nicotine solution is vaporized by an atomizer which is activated by 'drawing' on the device or pressing a button. 'Smoking' an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) mimics the act of smoking and is often referred to as 'vaping'.
Since their introduction into the market in 2004 by the Ruyan Group (later re-named Dragonite) in China, e-cigarettes have gained popularity worldwide. The e-cigarette market is rapidly growing and highly fragmented with over 100 different brands. Its estimated revenue at retail in the US in May 2012 was over $250 million and is expected to double by the end of 2012. Global e-cigarette revenues at the end of 2013 were estimated at $1.5 billion.
Product sophistication has also improved during this time, arguably augmenting nicotine delivery. 'Tank' systems have been introduced which contain a fluid-filled reservoir rather than a saturated foam (traditional non-tank cartridges). Users can mix their own 'liquid' choosing from a range of flavours and strengths to refill cartridges. Some e-cigarettes (e.g. the Super & Mini kits from TECC) are moving to 'cartomizers' in which the cartridge and atomizer are combined, allegedly resulting in a more efficient and tastier vape. Finally, since different voltages affect the vaping experience, variable voltage are a recent power control device that allow users to connect a range of atomizing devices and control the voltage that is applied to the atomizer.
Click Image To Enlarge
Courtesy of an article dated February 25, 2014 appearing in The Verge
A startup originally accelerated within Ideo, PillPack is an end-to-end pharmacy and delivery service for pharmaceuticals that is using design to vastly simplify the process of swallowing pills each day. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Take all of the pills in your medicine cabinet that you have to track--the prescription drugs you need to remember to take two or three times a day, the multivitamins and fish liver pills you're not sure make a difference--and imagine that instead of all coming in separate bottles, they came packaged together in a pre-assorted, chronological ticker tape of medicine. Instead of keeping track of which medicines you need to take at which time, you just tear off a square packet from the roll and swallow all the pills inside.
You don't have to worry about pillboxes, reminders, or refills; PillPack takes care of all that for you. (Click Images To Enlarge)
This is the idea behind PillPack, a new service out of Somerville, Massachusetts, that aims to be the Amazon Prime of prescription medication. PillPack is using design to vastly simplify the process of swallowing pills each day. You don't have to worry about pillboxes, reminders, or refills; PillPack takes care of all that for you. All you need to do is tear off the latest M&M Fun Size packet and swallow what's inside when it tells you to.
The system PillPack uses isn't new. Long-term care facilities have been getting medicine for their patients in easy-to-distribute, presorted rolls for years to make life easier for nurses who have to juggle the confusing motley of medications taken by dozens of patients multiple times per day.
All you need to do is tear off the latest M&M Fun Size packet and swallow what's inside when it tells you to. (Click Image To Enlarge)
A long-term care pharmacy in Concord, New Hampshire--got swarmed with requests by friends and neighbors, who caught wind of the rolls of medication he was making for local medical facilities and started clamoring for him to put together pill packs for them, too.
Once you've signed up, PillPack will assemble your medication, presorting the medicines into individually sealed packets lined up chronologically; any interim medication you need while your first PillPack is being assembled is mailed overnight. You get new PillPacks every two weeks. (Click Image To Enlarge)
What makes the PillPack system so well designed is how idiot-proof it is. Getting started on PillPack is as easy as transferring your existing subscriptions from your local pharmacy: according to PillPack, the process takes less than five minutes.Once you've signed up, PillPack will assemble your medication, presorting the medicines into individually sealed packets lined up chronologically; any interim medication you need while your first PillPack is being assembled is mailed overnight. You get new PillPacks every two weeks. When you get your first shipment, all you do is tear off the first packet and swallow the pills inside at the date and time printed on the front. New PillPacks are automatically sent to you when you need them; four weeks before your last scheduled refill of a prescription, PillPack's pharmacists will follow up with your doctor for a renewal.
When you get your first shipment, all you do is tear off the first packet and swallow the pills inside at the date and time printed on the front. New PillPacks are automatically sent to you when you need them; four weeks before your last scheduled refill of a prescription, PillPack's pharmacists will follow up with your doctor for a renewal. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Patienta should not have to worry about taking their meds as the date and time are printed on each packet. Each packet is clearly printed with the medications inside. A label on the dispenser has images of the pill, with the name and instructions, so it's easy to know exactly what you're taking.
For now, PillPack is focusing on getting medicine to as many people's doors as possible--they still need pharmacy licensing in 19 states--but there's a lot of possibility for leveraging the data they have on patients to improve the PillPack experience. A dedicated app, says Parker, is the obvious next step, but there's also lot of excitement at PillPack about how they could integrate their service with future wearables such as the iWatch or Google Glass, such as by alerting customers when they haven't taken their pills.
PillPack works with most major insurance plans, and costs $20 per month on top of existing co-pays. At that price, says Parker, the service makes most sense for patients who take more than five pills a month, but even if you just need help remembering the aspirin a day, PillPack can help you keep the doctor away.
COMMENTARY: I can definitely see how PillPack could become very popular among seniors. It is very difficult for them to track their medications, and often miss their medications because they have to take so many of them, and often several times a day. The ability to pack all medications into one pack and tell the patient the day and time to take those medications eliminates a lot of the worry. PillPack also takes care of refills, scheduling them 8 weeks ahead of time, so that they are authorized by the doctor and can be filled promptly so that the patient never runs out. PillPack claims that they work with all the major healthcare insurance companies and drugs covered by Medicate Plan D. It costs the patient a flat $20.00 per month plus the co-pay from their insurance company. This is a much better way to manage refills, and I can definitely see the day when PillPack becomes the Netflix of prescription drugs. A one-stop place to refill all prescriptions, and know with absolute confidence that you will not miss your medications when you need to take them. It's all good, and I see big things for this company.
The Kite Patch acts like an impenetrable force field to keep mosquitos from biting people. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Kite Patch is a little square sticker that emits a cloak of chemical compounds that block a mosquito's ability to sense humans. Image: ieCrowd
Mosquitos were born to bite us, and aside from lighting worthless tiki candles, haplessly swatting them away, or resorting to spraying toxic DEET all over ourselves, there’s really not a whole lot we can do about it. Imagine then, if you could be encapsulated in an anti-mosquito bubble simply by wearing a small square sticker. Not only would it save mosquito-magnets like myself some really uncomfortable moments, it could be a major game changer in the way we prevent mosquito-borne illnesses like Malaria, Dengue Fever, and West Nile Virus.
The Like Patch has one purpose: Make humans "invisible" to mosquitos (Click Image To Enlarge)
The good news is that a sticker like this is not some far away concept dreamed up by scientists in a lab–it’s actually a real thing that you’ll likely be able to find on the shelves of your local Walgreens sometime in the not-so-distant future.
The Kite Patch could be the solution to ending the spread of mosquito transmitted diseases like Malaria, Dengue Fever, West Nile Fever (Click Image To Enlarge)
Essentially, the Kite Patch is a little square sticker that emits a cloak of chemical compounds that blocks a mosquito’s ability to sense humans. According to its developers, users simply have to place the patch onto their clothes, and they become invisible to mosquitoes for up to 48 hours. This is big news for developing countries like Uganda, where residents have little beyond mosquito nets and toxic sprays to combat the illness-spreading insects.
Olfactor Laboratories developed non-toxic compounds that work against mosquitoes' long-range abilities to detect humans through CO2, as well as dampening the bug’s short-range ability to sense us from our basic human odors. Image courtesy of Olfactor Laboratories (Click Image To Enlarge)
That’s exactly where Kite’s creators, a collaborative team made up of innovation venture capital group ieCrowd and Olfactor Laboratories, intend to ship these off to as soon as they’re done blowing past their second goal on global crowdsourcing site Indiegogo. Launched just last month, the campaign surpassed its original goal of $75,000 in just four days and is now gunning for a new goal of $385,000 (currently at $336,000).
Though the Kite seems a little fantastical, it’s backed by some legitimate technology. Back in 2011, Dr. Anandasankar Ray, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside (and founder of Olfactor Labs), found that certain chemical compounds can inhibit the carbon dioxide receptors in mosquitoes. These smelly compounds, which act like a anti-mosquito force field, are able to disorient the bugs, whose main method of tracking down humans is through our exhalation of CO2.
A scientist testing the chemical compounds in the Kite Patch. Image courtesy of Olfactor Laboratories. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The findings were considered a breakthrough moment in the field, but the technology was far from ready to be applied to a consumer product mostly because the compounds were toxic and wouldn’t be able to pass through FDA and EPA approval. Grey Frandsen, Vice President at ieCrowd explains.
“It wasn’t ready to be placed into a product that could mean something globally.”
The hand on the left shows how mosquitos react to the Kite Patch not containing the mosquito repellant compounds, and the hand on the right shows that mosquitos are repelled as a result of the repellant compounds in the Kite Patch. (Click Image To Enlarges)
That’s where his company came in.
ieCrowd basically functions as the belt of an innovation assembly line, guiding an idea through the necessary steps so it can become a widely distributed, (hopefully) world-changing product. It begins with acquiring the intellectual property, like they did with Dr. Ray’s research. From there they provide all of the business infrastructure, marketing, and general support so subsidiary companies can focus exclusively on developing new technology. In the case of the Kite Patch, ieCrowd worked with a group of scientists at Olfactor Laboratories, a research facility in Riverside, Calif. that developed a new targeted library of chemical compounds based on Dr. Ray’s original research.
Olfactor’s non-toxic compounds work against mosquitoes’ long-range abilities to detect humans through CO2, as well as dampening the insect’s short-range ability to sense us from our basic human odors. These chemicals, which give off a “faint pleasant smell,” will be applied to a small sticker, which Frandsen notes is the cheapest, easiest, and most adaptable way to design a spatial insect repellant. The patches will then be shipped off to Uganda for field testing, which should begin before the end of the year. Frandsen says of ieCrowd’s method.
“Really, what we’re doing is creating a rapid scientific development process, a rapid prototyping process and then a very aggressive go to market strategy.”
The Kite Patch needed to be affordable, adaptable and easy to use, which is why it was designed as a square sticker. Image by ieCrowd. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The product has had a little help along the way, namely from the National Institutes of Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Frandsen says.
“The big names behind us have helped us advance the science. But those grants do not cover product development.”
All of the money raised from the Indiegogo campaign will be funneled into extensive field testing. Originally, the testing was going to provide 20,000 patches (around 1 million hours of coverage) to one district in Uganda. The extra money raised will double the number of Kite Patches shipped and expand the coverage to four million hours in three political districts in the country.
The idea is to refine the Kite as much as possible during the field testing and hone in on three main goals:
Analyze the adaptability of the patch.
Is it easy to apply and wear?
Does it work well both at morning and at night?
Does it fall off people’s clothing at after a certain point?
Test the effectiveness of the technology in harsh conditions found in places like Sub-Saharan Africa.Scientists have yet to determine exactly how far the sticker’s spatial radius extends and will be looking to see how it reacts to wind and extreme weather.
Begin field testing to evaluate how the sticker interacts with and can supplement current malaria prevention technology like bed nets.
“We’re looking at: What are any shortfalls specifically relating to the design that we can solve for that don’t come from testing it with 100 people in the Canadian Rockies or in Florida? So there’s this real life, real world use and evaluation of that.”
The Kite has reportedly performed well inside the highly-controlled confines of a lab, but Frandsen says the most vital evaluation will come from the Kite Patch’s time in Africa. He says of the extensive field testing.
“It’s a really unique way of doing product development. It’s a lot easier to deal in private-equity markets or investments and just finish it.”
But, he continues,
“This technology is too important to just funnel directly to the Walgreens. It needs to be part and parcel of people’s daily lives all over the world.”
COMMENTARY: The Kite Patch is a no-brainer that is destined to become a game changer. The Kite Patch is a product that screams for capital to speedup the research needed to test the patch's adaptability, efficacy and begin field testing. I say the faster the better. The Kite Patch is needed right now, especially in tropical countries of the world where mosquito-borne diseases like Malaria, kill millions of people each year.
Courtesy of an article dated August 16, 2013 appearing in Wired
RATHER THAN TACKLING SMALL PROBLEMS LIKE LAUNDRY, GLOW, CREATED BY GOOGLE AND PAYPAL VETERANS, AIMS TO HELP PARENTS DISCOVER THEIR FERTILITY WINDOW AND BECOME CREATORS THEMSELVES.
When Mike Huang and his wife were having difficulties conceiving a child, they didn't know where to turn. Infertility is an issue affecting roughly 1 in 8 couples according to the National Infertility Association, yet most of the programs that offered assistance were costly, often considered elective treatments. What's worse, the tools that track the techniques used to improve chances of conception--from tracking ovulation to assuming certain positions--were antiquated at best. Huang told Fast Company with an air of disbelief.
"I was writing all this stuff down on a piece of paper."
Glow asks users information about their menstrual, fertility and normal cycle start date, average period in days and average cycle length (Click Image To Enlarge
Glow then maps out the users menstrual, fertility and normal cycles in a calendar based on the data they entered (Click Image To Enlarge)
Glow displays a Thank You message which shows how many users have logged in and used the app (Click Image To Enlarge)
Huang, formerly of Slide and Google, knew this was a problem worth solving, and today, he launched his solution: Glow.Founded along with PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, Glow is an iPhone app designed to "crunch the data [that] better informs women of their fertility window." By tracking data from its users and community, and offering personalized recommendations and statistics, the founders of Glow believe they've built a smarter process for assisting women and couples attempting to conceive children. But perhaps more compelling than the company's app is its Glow First service, a novel, pay-it-forward-type alternative to traditional health care.
Glow also displays a screen showing how many individuals gave contributions to Glow and the totall amount given so far (Click Image To Enlarge)
Glow also displays the user activty during the month and prior months (Click Image To Enlarge)
Glow users can also update their profile data in a Daily Log screen (Click Image To Enlarge)
Glow useres can also update their menstrual, fertility and normal cycle periods on a separate sreen.jpg
First, the Glow app. When I sit down with Huang and Levchin over omelets and coffee, the two explained that "machine learning and data science" can better help people throughout the fertility process. The app itself is simple. As one begins the fertility process, Glow helps track your progress through a sharp user interface. You input your data manually into the service, and Glow offers guidance on the process.
Glow users can also update their profile data in a Daily Log screen (Click Image To Enlarge)
Glow maintains a Daily Plan the users can refer to for things they have to do to maintain their menstrual and fertility health (Click Image To Enlarge)
Glow screenshot of the Daily Plan (Click Image To Enlarge)
Levchin says the manual data entry isn't ideal, and promises that it will become more streamlined and perhaps automated in the future, as wearable devices that measure body temperature and other metrics become less expensive and more mainstream. (He also stresses the stringent privacy measures put in place, contending his background in the financial services space made the program more secure than protecting your credit card information.)
Still, while it's a compelling product going after what Levchin says is a "$5 billion" infertility market. It's also not alone. There are a number of services like Kindara that offer analytics and advice to help aid in conception. But with a talented team and $6 million in funding from Founders Fund and Andreessen Horowitz, it's at least refreshing to see a startup focus on an actual problem--as opposed to the everyday annoyances that Silicon Valley companies are often targeting like laundry (see: Prim). And longer term, Huang and Levchin see opportunity to extend the data tracking experience for families, post-pregnancy.
But perhaps most interesting is Glow First, a non-profit fund that the founders say is a more modern, almost altruistic take on traditional health care insurance. It's designed to "offset the high cost of fertility treatments," if Glow's process does not work. The idea is that those attempting to conceive using the Glow app would pay $50 each month for 10 months into a pool. If attempts were unsuccessful by the end of that period, then participants would gain access to that pool of funds to assistant in further fertility treatment. For those who were successful, they'd essentially be donating their funds over that period for the greater good--in this case, those women or couples who were less fortunate in their attempts.
Levchin, who first unveiled the service several months ago at the D conference, has personally contributed $1 million to jump-start the Glow First fund.
COMMENTARY: Finally a healthcare app that really helps women deal with their very special needs pertaining to fertility and pregnancy. The fact that Glow co-founders Huang and Levchin are solving a very real problem in the marketplace, is a huge plus. The company is also a non-profit which requires users to make $50 monthly contributions for nine months to help them tackle the problem of fertility. All the money contributed goes into a "central money pool" that is in turn used to help those without the necessary funds, tackle the financial issues dealing with fertility. That's a huge social mission when one deals with the rising costs of healthcare and fertility. Glow did raise $6 million in VC funding from Andreesen Horowitz and Founders Fund, so this gives the company a lot of validity. This is not just another flash-in-pan app that plays games, but solves a human healthcare problem.
Courtesy of an article dated August 8, 2013 appearing in Fast Company
Hospitals are synonymous with cleanliness and now Loyola University Health System is the first academic medical center in Illinois to take disinfection to futuristic levels. Nicknamed "Ralph" by the housekeeping staff at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital and "little Joe" at Loyola University Medical Center, 3-foot upright cylindrical robots provide the finishing touches to room sanitation. A rotating telescopic head emits cidal ultraviolet (UV) rays for 15 minutes in closed, unoccupied rooms to systematically kill germs dead.
Sasha Madison R.N. Manager Infection Control with the Xenex machine at the Stanford Hospital and Clinics on Monday, April 29, 2013 (Click Image To Enlarge)
Jorge Parada, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA, medical director, Infection Control Program, Loyola University Health System says.
"Loyola is a world leader in infection control and now the addition of automated room disinfection reinforces our ongoing commitment to patient safety. Loyola is doing everything humanly possible to control disease and that includes robotics."
A Loyola University Health System UV ray robot extends its head to reveal an array of UV light lamps which kill germs in hospital rooms (Click Image To Enlarge)
According to studies, the disinfection robots eliminate Clostridium difficile (C. diff) in less than 4 minutes and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) in less than 2 minutes. Alex Tomich, DNP, RN, CIC, manager, infection prevention and control at Loyola says.
"The robots are used for further disinfection in the operating suites and patient rooms including isolation, burn and transplant. Loyola takes very seriously its responsibility to protect patients, visitors and our hospital staff from infections and we are early adopters of proven technology as well as best practices."
A Loyola University Health System UV ray robot with its head extended as it radiates UV rays to kill germs in hospital rooms (Click Image To Enlarge)
The hospital housekeeping staff cleans the rooms and then uses the robots for additional sterilization. The pulsed UV light destroys viruses, bacteria and bacterial spores without human contact or use of chemicals.
Hospital infections are linked to approximately 100,000 deaths each year and add as much as $30 billion a year in medical costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
COMMENTARY:The UV ray disinfectant robots are part of a new trend in high-tech cleaning that uses ultraviolet light to disinfect. In April 2013, Stanford Hospital began using the Xenox model developed by Loyola University Health Systems to kill microorganisms with pulses of UV light that irreparably damage cells.
Ultraviolet light is up to 20 times better at disinfecting than the usual cleaners like bleach and ammonia, according to the Texas company that makes the robots, Xenex, although janitors still scrub surfaces with chemicals before turning on the robots at Stanford.
Each robot costs about $80,000 and looks a little like R2D2, with a UV strobe light that rises when in use. Stanford is the first hospital in the Bay Area to employ the technology, using it to clean patient rooms after people with especially contagious or drug-resistant conditions have been discharged. At night, Frost and Dazzler disinfect operating rooms.
Because UV light can harm eyes and skin, hospital workers stay out of the rooms and behind closed doors when the strobe lights are flashing. The germ-zapping process takes between five and 15 minutes.
Sasha Madison, manager of infection prevention and control at Stanford Hospital, said she's monitoring the medical center's infection rates this year to determine how effective the disinfecting robots are, but results from other hospitals have been promising.
There are dozens of similar but less powerful UV disinfecting devices available to the public. Handheld wands, vacuums and air purifiers promise to disinfect cell phones, makeup brushes and cutting boards - plus kill bedbugs. Prices range from $30 to $300.
Madison said the UV technology is important for hospitals, where patients are "the sickest of the sick" and have weakened immune systems. However, she said the technology might not be necessary for most American homes, where most people's immune systems "are in pretty good shape."
MOTTO: "This is the GOD'S doing ; it's marvelous in our eyes"
Situated in an undisclosed location near Tzfat, northern Israel, is a government-approved medical marijuana plantation which was founded in 2004 by a retired biology teacher. Named Tikun Olam, the plantation has created a new cannabis strain which contains very low traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main constituent in cannabis responsible for making people feel "stoned". By virtually eliminating THC in the new strain, Tikun Olam can now offer the drug's medicinal benefits to those patients who wish to keep a clear head.
Tikun Olam began operations in 2004 on a small scale by a retired biology teacher (Click Image To Enlarge)
Tikun Olam is situated in a secret location somewhere near Tzfat in northern Israel (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Tikun Olam facility includes a 11,000 sq meter growing field, several greenhouses, a cloning facility and a harvesting facility (Click Image To Enlarge)
Marijuana contains over 60 constituents named cannabinoids and though THC is the most famous due to its psychoactive effects, another important constituent is cannabidiol (CBD).
CBD is believed by some researchers to offer anti-inflammatory benefits, thus offering the potential to relieve pain without making patients intoxicated, if the THC-to-CBD concentrations can be correctly balanced.
The new cannabis strain offers the drug's medicinal benefits to patients who do not wish to feel intoxicated (Click Image To Enlarge)
Some researchers believe CBD may produce anti-inflammatory effects in patients, resulting in the potential to relieve pain without making patients intoxicated (Click Image To Enlarge)
Some daily users of medical marijuana find it a hindrance to performing every day activities (Click Image To Enlarge)
The new strain of marijuana created at Tikun Olam does just that. Dubbed Avidekel, it contains less than one percent THC, compared to the company's most popular strain Erez, which contains 23 percent THC. Avidekel couples this with an increased concentration of CBD, said to be almost 16 percent. How real-world use of Avidekel compares to existing medical marijuana products designed to limit intoxication, such as the under the tongue spray Sativex, is still unclear.
Although many patients feel the intoxicating effects of THC to be a beneficial element of medical marijuana use, others find it a hindrance to performing every day activities and so welcome the opportunity to take the marijuana while maintaining sobriety.
One of the ten patients to make use of the Avidekel strain in the last six months, while speaking to Reuters said.
"It's a huge advantage. I can smoke during the day, function with a lot less pain and still be focused, work and drive. It is a great gift."
Recreational use of cannabis is prohibited under Israeli law, however the drug is currently used medically to treat roughly 9,000 people suffering from illnesses such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.
The promotional video below sheds more light on the Tikun Olam plantation.
About Tikun Olam
Tikun Olam is the first and foremost supplier of medical Cannabis in Israel and the flag bearer for the medical use of Cannabis in Israel.
Since the day of its founding the company has stood for dedicated quality care for its patients while developing professional standards for growing medical grade Cannabis.
In the field of production – emphasis is put on special methods which focus on increasing production of the active ingredient (mainly THC and CBD) so that medical grade plants may be grown.
The medical Cannabis is produced in a careful and sterile way, beginning with the stages of planting, harvesting, processing and until it reaches the patient.
In the field of treatment – the company has developed a unique treatment method (on a global scale) which views treatment with medical Cannabis as a central part of a caring, compassionate and humane treatment for its patients who are coping with a terrible disease, whether chronic or terminal.
Tikun Olam has vast accumulated experience (perhaps the most extensive in the world) in personal instruction of patients in safe and effective use of medical Cannabis.
Over the years Tikkun Olam has initiated and maintained cooperation and working relations with doctors, scientists, department heads,nursing facilities and other medical institutes in Israel and abroad.
The company continuously strives to increase awareness among the patients, doctors and the general public.
The company’s facilities (growing and processing) are located in the northern part of the country and are secured according to the highest standards.
In 2007 the Ministry of Health gave license to the Cohen family to grow approximately 50 plants for patients who were given permits for the use of medical Cannabis, all on a voluntary basis.
Half of their home in [unclear] became a greenhouse for the growing and processing the medication and simultaneously the system for treatment and dispensing began to form.
The treatment with Cannabis gained momentum, both because of the high quality of the treatment and immediate feedback from patients and because of the media campaign which the Foundation and the patients embarked on.
During this time (in September 2009) Channel 2 aired the documentary film “Grass by doctor’s orders” directed by Tzach Klein and hosted by television presenter and journalist Avri Gilad.
In 2010, by decision of the Ministry of Health and after five deliberations at the Knesset’s Labor Welfare and Heath Committee, a monthly cost of 360 NIS per patient was set. (Today the price is 370 NIS).
In light of this decision Tikkun Olam Ltd. has opened the first store in Israel for the sale and distribution of medical Cannabis and its products to those possessing legal permits.
The store was opened at 138 Ibn Gabirol St. in Tel Aviv, and to this day it is the only store of its kind in Israel.
In 2012 the company was granted a standards association mark, the first of its kind, ISO 9001 in the field of growing, production, sale and distribution of medical Cannabis and instructing patients.
Tikun Olam's moto is: "This is the GOD'S doing ; it's marvelous in our eyes"
What is Medical Marijuana
Cannabis is a plant with unique medical properties, and refers to the parts of the plant which are used in medicine.
The medical grade is determined by several factors:
Manner of organic growing.
Maintaining a high concentration of active ingredients.
Hybridizing while performing continuous laboratory examinations.
Matching and designating various strains to various diseases together with the patient.
Until the 1930’s medications which contained extracts of the plant were part of the world’s pharmacopeia, only in 1937 was medical use of Cannabis in the United States halted.
In Europe, medical use of Cannabis products continued until the early 1970’s.
The plant contains more than 462 substances, from which more than 100 cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenoids have been identified.
Most famous among the cannabinoids is the THC, which was first identified and isolated in 1964 at the Weisman Institute by Professors Yehiel Gaoni and Rephael Mechoulam, who received the Israel Prize for his research of Cannabis.
Different strains of Cannabis contain different concentrations and ratios of the active ingredients.
How Marijuana Affects The Brain
Click Image To Enlarge
Diseases and Medical Conditions Benefiting From Cannibus
Tikun Olam is focused on the unique methods to increase production of the active ingredients, and especially THC - CBD in order to grow standard medicinal plants.
Medicinal cannabis is produced in a very careful and sterile, from the stage of planting, harvesting and processing until it reaches the patient.
The company's researchers have created the following medicinal cannibus strains:
Indica Strains - This cannibus class consists of four different strains.
EREZ - This Strain is composed of 70% Indica 30% Sativa, responds to a wide range of symptoms and illnesses. This species was developed by Tikun Olam, in its early years, and is named after the first patient.
ERAN ALMOG - This Strainis composed of 80% Indica 20% Sativa.
DORIT - This Strainis is composed of 70% Indica 30% Sativa. This Strainis was named in the name of Dorit Cohen, the mother of "Tikun Olam".
GOG y MAGOG - This Strain is is composed of 70% Indica 30% Sativa.
LITTLE DEVIL - This Strain is is composed of 70% Indica 30% Sativa.
JASMIN - This Strain is is composed of 70% Indica 30% Sativa.
OR - This Strainis is composed of 70% Indica 30% Sativa.
Sativa Strains - This cannibus class consists of three different strains.
ALASKA - This Strainis is composed of 70% sativa 30% Indica.
MINDATE - This Strainis contains 12% of CBD and 12% THC, and is composed primarily of Sativa.
AL-NA - This Strain is is composed of 70% sativa 30% Indica.
CBD Strains - This cannibus class consists of two different strains.
AVIDEKEL - This Sativa Strain contains 16% CBD without any THC.
RAFAEL - This Sativa Strain contains 18% CBD and 1% THC.
Tikun Olam is focused on the unique methods to increase production of the active ingredients, and especially THC - CBD in order to grow standard medicinal plants.
An array of Tikun Olam products (Click Image To Enlarge)
Medicinal cannabis is produced in a very careful and sterile, from the stage of planting, harvesting and processing until it reaches the patient.
Smoking Substitutes - Consumption of medical cannabis in the gut (or through the mucous membranes of the mouth) is much slower and changing from one person that change also depends on the "state" of the stomach during use (full / empty, etc..), Therefore, it is more difficult to control the dosage and without the need many careful attempts to obtain effective, and thus consumption, is recommended for patients not want to smoke or can not physically do it (mental difficulties, if any, to be overcome in training).
Cannabis Oil Drops - Medical cannabis extract based on olive oil.
Cannabis Powder - Medical cannabis flowers ground and filtered.
Capsules - Capsules filled with medical cannabis flowers ground and filtered.
Powder oil - Medical cannabis oil available in 1/2/3 grams which contains about 30% THC.
Delicacies - Cannabis Consumption hrough the gut (or through the mucous membranes of the mouth) is much slower and varies from one person to another, also depends on the "state" of the stomach during use (full / empty, etc..).
Chocolate Praline - Fine dairy chocolate made with medical cannabis butter and containing about 40 mg/g THC.
Pastries - Based on medical cannabis butter and available in several sizes and dosages.
Tahini Cookies - Organic tahini based on medical cannabis butter and containing 13.5 mg / g THC.
Special Products - Cannabis Consumption hrough the gut (or through the mucous membranes of the mouth) is much slower and varies from one person to another, also depends on the "state" of the stomach during use (full / empty, etc..)).
Toffee - Toffee sweets based on medical cannabis extract and containing 2mg/g THC.
Gum - Sweet and sour gum filled with medical cannabis extract and containing 2 mg/g THC.
Honey - Fine honey based on medical cannabispowder and containing 10.3 mg/g THC.
Sugar - Brown and white sugar based on medical cannabis powder and containing 7.1 mg/g THC.
Ointment - Based on herbal ointment medical cannabis for external use and containing about 0.4% THC.
Courtesy of an article dated July 6, 2012 appearing in GizMag
Blu eCigs spokesman Stephen Dorff (Click Image To Enlarge)
The first time you saw an electronic cigarette you may have thought it was a joke or a marketing ploy, the second time you may have felt it was becoming a fad, the third time you may have barely noticed at all. The fact is that non-burning, electronic nicotine delivery systems are worthy of some attention. Don’t believe that? Consider whyLorillard (third largest tobacco company) bought Blu Ecigs for $135 million.
Blu Ecigs brought in about $30 million revenue in 2011 and Blu Ecigs is sold in more than 13,000 retail outlets, including Walgreens and Sheetz.
Blu Ecigs by virtue of being acquired by Lorillard, now has the financial resources to aggressively market its brand of Blu electronic cigattes. Here's their TV commerial, "Rise From The Ashes," starring actor turned-eCig spokesman Stephen Dorff:
The electronic cigarette market as a whole, generates between $250 million to $500 million estimated annually—a small portion of the $100 billion US tobacco market. Still, A government survey found that 2.7% of U.S. adults had tried e-cigarettes by 2010, up from 0.6% a year earlier. Those rises in exposure for a niche product are the kind of statistics that potential trends are made of.
Meet White Cloud
This growth in interest is exactly what White Cloud Electronic Cigarettes are banking on. The Florida-based company started up in 2008, after company founders Michael Murray and Danielle & Matthew Steingraber were inspired by viewing e-cigarettes at a Las Vegas trade show.
White Cloud Cirpus 3X electronic cigarettes (Click Image To Enlarge)
Searching for a new business startup endeavor following a short-lived career in private collegiate funding services, the trio dove into the niche industry, acting as distributors for an established company before traveling to China to establish their own factory and set the foundation for their own company—White Cloud.
What sets e-cigarettes apart from other non-traditional nicotine delivery systems is that it has a high conversion rate, meaning that ‘smokers’ are less likely to return to regular cigarettes—a trend not enjoyed by other non-burning nicotine outlets like patches, Matthew Steingraber said. This could be because e-cigarettes look similar to cigarettes, feel the same in the hand and can be social (think cigarette breaks or grabbing a smoke outside while at a bar with friends). Because it’s non-burning, e-cigarettes don’t carry the same health risks as regular cigarettes, Steingraber said. Though nicotine is still not healthy, there’s no smoke, no ash and no tar.
“People smoke for nicotine but they die from the tar,” said Steingraber. All three company founders enjoy their own products, he said.
How Does White Cloud Compete?
Steingraber insists that what sets his company apart from the rest is a) longer product battery life, b) higher levels of nicotine than competitors, and c) An array of attractive flavors. The company won’t release revenue figures but said it has enjoyed 77% revenue growth year over year. The company is looking to franchising as a means of growth, shooting to establish itself in the more high-end e-cigarette space.
Growth of the Market
As for the future of White Cloud, the company is open to the idea of taking on minority investment as a means of speeding up growth—a concept they hadn’t considered prior to coming to the conclusion that the e-cigarette industry will make leaps in the coming year or so, on the back of a handful of new players and investment and development of products by big tobacco companies like Lorillard.
There are dozens of electronic cigarette producers, but at the moment the big competitors in the U.S. e-cigarette market include V2 Cigs, bluCigs, NJOY, 21st Century, Xhale02 and Green Smoke. Reynolds American Inc. has released e-cigarettes under the Vuse and Zonnic brands as well. In the coming year or so the market is likely to see a lot of new players as well as a lot of acquisition of established competitors, Steingraber said.
And why shouldn’t big tobacco embrace electronic cigarettes? If they do not, the niche brought to US shores from established markets in China could further harm an American tobacco market that has seen a steady reduction in consumption over the past 20 years.
How long can we really look at e-cigarettes as a niche? The product has shown an increase in exposure and adoption, the tobacco company has acknowledged them as a threat to business and, hey, the product already has celebrity endorsers like Robert Pattinson and Uma Thurman. This is definitely a battery-operated, addiction-based market to watch.
COMMENTARY: The diversification move by Lorillard, the third-largest U.S. tobacco company by sales, into battery-powered e-cigarettes—which turn heated nicotine-laced liquid into a vapor mist—coincides with aggressive moves by its larger rivals.Altria Group(Philip Morris), V2 Cigs,NJOY (King brand), 21st Century, Ehale 02, White Cloud (Cirpus 3X brand), XEO, and Reynolds American Inc. (Vuse and Zonnic brands) have been pushing more-established smokeless tobacco products, including snuff and snus, as cigarette volumes fall.
When Lorillard acquired privately-owned Charlotte, N.C.-based Blu Ecigs, the company had about $30 million in revenue in 2011 and was sold in more than 13,000 retail outlets, including Walgreens and Sheetz. It competes with dozens of other start-up brands, including NJOY, 21st Century and Xhale02, that are sold in stores and online.
Things are heating up in the electronic cigarettes market. In December 5, 2012, Bloomberg reported that Altria Group was interested in acquiring NJOY, a strategic response to Lorillard's acquisition of Blu eCigs.
Lorillard's strategic shift comes as the Food and Drug Administration weighs a possible crackdown on menthol-flavored cigarettes, which represent about 90% of Lorillard's revenue, owner of the popular Newport brand. The FDA already has banned all other cigarette flavors. It also plans to regulate e-cigarettes, saying they may pose health risks.
Size of E-Cigarette Market
E-cigarettes are still a tiny fraction of the $100 billion U.S. tobacco market. But the niche industry has grown rapidly since arriving from China five years ago. It now accounts for between $250 million and $500 million in annual sales, according to industry estimates. Bonnie Herzog, an analyst at Wells Fargo & Co., estimates that the market for e-cigs may rise to $1 billion in the next three years from $300 million in 2012.
Herzog told Bloomberg by telephone from New York.
“It is truly a wakeup call for Big Tobacco. If manufacturers can create something that tastes, looks, feels and smokes like a traditional cigarette with substantially less risk or harm, more consumers are going to try them and retailers are going to give them more shelf space.”
Lorillard says e-cigarette sales have been doubling every year and is betting the product will grow more quickly than other smokeless alternatives because they more closely mimic traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes look similar to traditional cigarettes and users—often called "vapers"—also inhale nicotine.
Lorillard Chairman and Chief Executive Murray Kessler in an earnings conference call with investors in July 2012 said.
"I like it because you get all of the benefits of not having combustion, but on the other hand you are maintaining the behavior that cigarette smokers enjoyed."
Lorillard's sales slipped 0.6% to $1.53 billion and net income fell 10% to $223 million in the first quarter from the same period in 2011, heightening investor concerns about the tobacco industry's growth prospects.
Reynolds American, the No. 2 tobacco player and maker of Camel cigarettes, said Tuesday its first-quarter sales fell 2.9% to $1.93 billion and net income shrank 29% to $270 million. Altria, maker of Marlboro cigarettes and the industry leader, reports results Thursday.
Lorillard, which has been grabbing cigarette market share from its larger rivals in recent years, blamed the first-quarter sales decline on inventory fluctuations. The company said its domestic retail cigarette share rose 0.4 percentage point to an all-time high of 14.5% as its menthol share grew 1.0 point to 40.0%. Mr. Kessler reiterated Wednesday that he is "optimistic" the FDA won't slap big restrictions on menthol cigarettes.
Lorillard is trying to play catch up with its two larger rivals on the smokeless front after sticking resolutely to cigarettes for decades. Reynolds reported $158 million in first-quarter revenue at its American Snuff unit, led by its Grizzly and Kodiak moist-snuff brands. It also markets spit-free tobacco pouches called snus and oval-shaped lozenges called orbs.
Altria generated $1.63 billion in revenue from smokeless tobacco last year on the back of its Copenhagen and Skoal snuff brands, which it obtained after acquiring UST Inc. in a 2009 diversification push. Mr. Kessler headed UST before becoming CEO at Lorillard in September 2010.
Altria and Reynolds declined to comment on whether they plan to enter the e-cigarette market.
How E-Cigarettes Work
This video produced by ESmokeInPeace.com explains how E-Cigarettes work:
The following infographic created by Visual.ly provides a detailed explanation of how electronic cigarettes work, their benefits, price comparison versus regular cigarettes, durability versus regular cigarettes and other facts and statistics about smoking and smokers.
Click Image To Enlarge
Prices for e-cigarettes vary greatly but can cost half as much as traditional cigarettes, which are heavily taxed. They can use batteries or USB chargers and come in several flavors; Blu Ecig makes cherry and piña colada varieties, among others.
Anti-E-Cigarette Advocacy Groups
An advocacy group associated with the American Cancer Society is asking the FDA to re-examine the safety of electronic cigarettes and whether they can actually help people quit.
Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), said in a statement.
"E-cigarettes have not been scientifically shown to be effective tobacco cessation tools, yet some distributors are marketing them either directly or indirectly for that purpose."
Hansen pointed to an ad from Arizona-based NJOY, which ran during the Oscars. He said.
"E-cigarettes are often manufactured to resemble traditional cigarettes, and are available in fruit and candy flavors that are appealing to youth. The familiar appearance and enticing flavors could actually encourage kids to try traditional cigarettes, rather than avoid them."
FDA Regulation of E-Cigarettes
In 2012 the FDA said that it plans to regulate e-cigarettes after warning in 2009 that the product may pose health risks after detecting carcinogens and toxic chemicals. Lawmakers in a growing number of states want to extend smoking bans in public areas to include e-cigarettes, tax them the same as cigarettes and ban their sale on the Internet.
But some health experts say e-cigarettes help wean nicotine addicts off more harmful traditional cigarettes, which release most of their toxins through combustion and are linked to an estimated 443,000 deaths a year in the U.S. They also say e-cigarettes eliminate the dangers of second-hand smoke.
Courtesy of an article dated October 24, 2012 appearing in Forbesand article dated April 25, 2012 appearing in The Wall Street Journal , an article date December 5, 2012 appearing in Bloomberg, an article dated March 3, 2013 appearing in PC Magazine and an infographic appearing in Visual.ly
The weight loss industry is just huge, with the annual revenue of the US weight loss industrysome $61 billion. That means lots of businesses are cashing in on obesity, as 108 million people are on diets in the US alone at any point in time.
How lucrative is this business? Just look at how much celebrities are paid to endorse major weight loss programs. The fee is as high as $3 million, ABC News reports.
One of the companies doing exceptionally well in the industry is Weight Watchers, a weight management system that has become a veritable way of life for millions of people across the globe—from the US and China to Europe and New Zealand. It's a case study of how savvy marketing can propel a company to the forefront of its industry.
Weight Watchers is clearly the dominant company among weight-loss centers and programs, banking north of $1.2 billion each year. It is at least three times larger than its primary competitors, Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig. Weight Watchers has some 8 million website visitors per month and 1.72 million paid online subscribers.
Below are Weight Watchers' Income Statements for the years December 31, 2009 through December 31, 2012:
Click Image To Enlarge
So what are the company's marketing secrets? Let's take a look at six savvy principles Weight Watchers has implemented to solidify its position at the top of the weight-loss stack.
1. Give them what they want, not what they need
We are driven by our desires. We buy expensive fast cars because we crave the "success" image associated with them, not because they are a sensible mode of transportation. We want iPhones because they are a status symbol, not because of the crystal clear voice reception. Same with Jimmy Choos, and Louis Vuitton bags. Sales of such products are all driven by wants.
Weight-loss products are no different. We may know that the key to losing weight is to cut out junk food and eat more vegetables. But that's not what we want. We want to be able to eat our donuts and drink our Frappuccinos. And, smartly, Weight Watchers lets us do that.
According to the Weight Watchers PointsPlus system, members have a daily PointsPlus total based on their gender, weight, and activity level, as well as a weekly PointsPlus allowance that allows for fluctuations in daily eating. For example, if you go out to a restaurant for dinner and surpass your daily PointsPlus allowance, you can dip into your weekly reserve without worry, so long as you don't surpass your weekly allowance as well.
That's a brilliant move on Weight Watchers' part. Essentially, the company is telling members,
"Go ahead and eat that donut or drink that Frappuccino. As long as you're within your PointsPlus limits, you'll lose weight."
Weight Watchers has figured out the ultimate feeling that dieters long for and has enabled it. What do dieters want? They want to feel good. They want to avoid pain. They want to enjoy the food they like. In short, dieters don't want to feel deprived. And that's what Weight Watchers communicates to its target audience through the voice of celebrity singer and spokesperson Jennifer Hudson, who dropped over 80 pounds:
Jennifer Hudson: "I feel so comfortable in my jeans…it makes me love myself that much more…loving and free to eat what I love…loving and free to live my life"
3. Let them join for free
A "Join for Free" campaign is always friendly to prospective customers. Weight Watchers lets people attend a free meeting near them. If after the meeting they decide to sign up, they are allowed to receive educational materials. As market analyst Tony Rossel explains, this "opt in" strategy can result in up to a 30% conversion rate.
Consumers react well to this type of strategy because they feel no pressure; and once they see the educational materials and products at a meeting, they want them.
That contrasts with "force free" trials, in which people who didn't request something are given a free trial and then asked to pay after a certain period of time, or "negative option force free" trials, in which customers are asked for credit card information before they get the trial, and then must proactively cancel.
Both of those methods can leave a bad taste in the mouths of consumers since they are more pressure-filled.
4. Make the solution look complicated
Weight Watchers makes eating look complicated. Rather than relying on regular-old calorie-counting for foods, Weight Watchers now uses the PointsPlus system.
It used to rely on calories for its points totals. The problem was that fruits and junk food would be given the same amount of points if they had the same amount of calories (and you know which one is better for you to eat). The current PointsPlus program is much more complicated, and based on a sophisticated mathematical formula.
The company relied on its "nutrition specialists" to develop a system that takes into account how foods are broken down in the body. It all sounds too complicated for any layperson to figure out, so people feel they have to go to Weight Watchers, since the company has the inside scoop on weight loss.
In reality, the PointsPlus system is based on basic food and nutrition science. It's nothing new. Yet, serving a solution that sounds complicated, and more like a "discovery" rather than an old principle, makes customers feel they have to buy. It is a brilliant marketing strategy.
5. Create exclusive products
In addition to just promoting the PointsPlus system—the solution to being overweight—Weight Watchers offers exclusive products to facilitate the implementation of its solution. Those products make it easier for people to follow the program. For example, it sells PointsPlus calculators. It also makes available snack bars, yogurts, ice creams, and other foods that have the PointsPlus value right on the box.
Weight Watchers Smart Ones Classic Meals (Click Image To Enlarge)
Weight Watchers Smart Ones Smart Beginnings (Click Image To Enlarge)
Weight Watchers Smart Ones Smart Anytime (Click Image To Enlarge)
Weight Watchers Smart Ones Smart Creations (Click Image To Enlarge)
Weight Watchers Smart Ones Satisfying Selections (Click Image To Enlarge)
Weight Watchers Smart Ones Smart Delights (Click Image To Enlarge)
Moreover, it sells food scales that tell consumers the PointsPlus value of their food rather than the weight. People snap up these products because they make the Weight Watchers (complicated) system simple to follow, since they won't have to do any calculations or look up values on their own.
6. Actively court a new audience
Some 90% of dieters are women, as are 90% of Weight Watchers clients. However, the company has noticed growing interest among men to lose weight and so is capitalizing on that interest.
But Weight Watchers isn't pushing its bread and butter—center-based meetings—to men. Instead, it's promoting its online tools and mobile-based apps. Because men generally try to diet on their own, such as joining a health club, or controlling their food intake, Weight Watchers is anticipating that they will be more drawn to these tools than the meetings.
Weight Watchers Mobile app (Click Image To Enlarge)
To better target the men's market, Weight Watchers airs commercials during the NBA playoffs. Obviously, the male audience is worth the $1 million per minute advertisement cost.
NBA Player Charles Barkley is a spokesman for Weight Watchers, Before and After pictures (Click Image To Enlarge)
Overall, Weight Watchers has risen to the top of the weight-loss industry because it has been so smart in the marketing of its products. Other companies in this market—and even in other industries—can learn a valuable lesson from the granddaddy of weight loss programs by following these six marketing principles:
Give your customers what they want, not what they need.
Market the feelings, not the product.
Let them join for free.
Make the solution look complicated.
Create exclusive products.
Actively court a new audience.
Weight Watchers Company Overview and Performance
Weight Watchers' smart use of televison commercials with famous celebrities with weight problems (Charles Barkley, Jessica Simpson, Jenny McCarthy, Jennifer Hudson and others) who benefited from Weight Watcher's weight-loss program, give the company instant creditability with its customers.
The high awareness and credibility of the Weight Watchers brand among all types of weight-conscious consumers—women and men, consumers online and offline, the support-inclined and the self-help-inclined—provide the company with a significant competitive advantage and growth opportunity. As the number of overweight and obese people worldwide grows, the company believes its global presence and brand awareness uniquely positions it to capture an increasing share of the global weight management market through its core meetings business and its WeightWatchers.com business.
In the 50 years since its founding, Weight Watchers has built its meetings business by helping millions of people around the world lose weight through sensible and sustainable food plans, exercise, behavior modification and group support. Each week, 1.5 million active members attend over 40,000 Weight Watchers meetings around the world, which are run by more than 10,000 leaders—each of whom has lost weight using its program.
The company is constantly improving its scientifically-based weight management approaches, and they are one of only a few commercial weight management programs whose efficacy has been clinically proven. Its strong brand, together with the effectiveness of its plans, loyal customer base and unparalleled network and infrastructure, enable them to attract new and returning members efficiently. Its customer acquisition costs are relatively low due to both word of mouth referrals and its efficient mass marketing programs.
Weight Watchers' has also demonstrated that it has strong management. It's packaged weight-loss meals have generated $1.8 billion in gross revenues and a gross profit margin of 59.27% for the year ending December 31, 2012. Incidentally, gross profit margins have increased consistently since the year ending 2009 when they were 52.0%. Total meeting fees for year ending 2012 were $934.9 million (51.2% of total gross revenues), a decrease of $55.4 million, or 5.6%, from $990.3 million in the prior year. Marketing expenses for year ending 2012 were $343.5 million, an increase of $51.2 million, or 17.5%, from the year ending 2011. After deducting total operating expenses, the company generated a pre-tax profit of $416.96 million in the past year -- an impressive 22.82% IBT.
Weight Watchers' operates both company-owned and franchised meeting centers. It's producs are distributed through a number of channels from independent sellers to major consumer retailers and supermarket chains.
In the year ending 2012, consumers spent $5 billion on Weight Watchers branded products and services, including meetings conducted by the company and its franchisees, Internet subscription products sold by WeightWatchers.com, products sold at meetings, licensed products sold in retail channels and magazine subscriptions and other publications.
How Weight Watchers Uses Social Media
Did you know that the first social media platform Weight Watchers used was MySpace in 2008? It then launched Facebook and Twitter in 2009. Today the company has both an internal team and an agency that provides social media support. SocialTimes recently caught up with Lee Hurley, vice president of social media at Weight Watchers to discuss the company’s social media goals, strategies, the platforms it uses, and the analytics program it’s thinking about building. Here are excerpts of the conversation:
How important is social media in terms of the mission of Weight Watchers?
It is actually a crucial part of it. We were pretty much a born social brand, a community from the start. So, the ultimate goal of the company is to really help people to adopt and sustain a healthy way of living for life…. So, [before] that largely happened offline when you saw somebody when you were offline and you were like, hey, you look amazing, what did you do? That’s where the Weight Watchers discussion started, and now with people posting photos and sharing their success, a large portion of that actually happens online. Moving to digital is a really important part of the mix.
What are Weight Watchers’ social media goals and strategies?
One big one is extending our service strategy to social. So, that’s timely brand-to-consumer engagement, which is providing ongoing support and motivation. Through Twitter, Facebook, even on our website, we get questions every day. The other one is really continuing to innovate on increasing social sharing by allowing people to share what they’re learning, doing and loving on the program. We create pretty much exclusive content in social, whether it’s tips, quotes, success stories, recipes.
On our Facebook page, even though we put out a ton of content – we post usually three times a day. There are thousands of people posting all the time, connecting with each other, answering each other’s questions.
Have there been any specific social media campaigns or types of content that are more popular that you’ve seen more engagement from?
For the “I’m Only Human and I Did it Project,” which we only launched in December, we’re getting a lot of positive responses for that. This is real people sharing their stories of struggles before Weight Watchers and what their life was like, and then the success they have found at Weight Watchers, on YouTube. We have had over 2 million views of those videos.
Weight Watchers has over 1.2 million fans on Facebook and nearly 200,000 on Twitter (Click Image To Visit Facebook)
We had a social media campaign calledLose-A-Palooza, which had gotten tons of engagement and very large reach.
We have a program called Lose for Good, and we have done that for the past five years in the fall. As members and subscribers lose weight, Weight Watchers donates up to $1 million to Action Against Hunger and Share Our Strength. Lose-A-Palooza was a one-day social media event to help bring awareness and engagement with that program. For that day, every single engagement we were donating $1. That was widely successful, and I think largely because it was tapping into things that people ordinarily do. We have done live chats with [fitness and health expert] Jennifer Cohen. We were streaming exercises on our Facebook page, and then we did a live chat with her after, which got a lot of engagement.
What tools do you use to measure social media campaigns?
For monitoring and publishing, we have NetBase and Spredfast. We track a lot of our links through Atlas. We look at a lot of tracking that way because that goes all the way to conversion. We are constantly looking at tools to help with efficiency and effectiveness in terms of publishing and hooking into develop a true social CRM model.
I think ultimately we are looking to build an analytics program that would actually tell us, our people who engage with us on social, are they losing more weight, are they more successful? Everything that we’re doing on Twitter and Pinterest and Facebook – even with all the tools that we currently have today – aren’t going to give us that pass-along and word-of-mouth amplification. So, we are looking at different ways of helping us get to the true answers of ROI broadly.
You mentioned Pinterest – Weight Watchers is also on Pinterest, right?
Yes. We have a presence on Pinterest. Recipes I think are the No. 1 thing. Food is very important. We also have inspiration boards and such, but recipes are the most popular.
Is Weight Watchers looking at any other social media platforms?
We have a presence on Tumblr. Last year, we had a contest – 365 Reasons to Believe – and they are all archived on Tumblr. For us, it’s not just about what are the new platforms, but, how do we have a meaningful presence? With Instagram, it’s how might we do a campaign leveraging ambassadors and influencers there versus just having a Weight Watchers Instagram page, because that may not make the most sense.