What in the World — Week of September 20

Harley-Davidson introduces electric bike
It once lived high on the Hog, but Harley-Davidson has seen its fortunes sag in recent years as consumers turned away from its big, noisy, gas-powered motorcycles. Now the iconic American motorcycle maker is looking at new ways to get its motor running, most recently with a line of vintage-inspired electric bicycles called the “S1 Mosh/Tribune.” The name is an homage to the Serial Number One, the nickname given to the company’s first motorcycle in 1903. Harley-Davidson will sell only 650 of the bikes, which cost US$5,999, split between Europe and the U.S. “[It’s] an indication that the company is leaning into its motorcycle roots by relying on exclusive one-offs and limited runs as it tries to build a brand identity in what it turning out to be an incredibly crowded and competitive space,” says The Verge.

Anti-tobacco group takes on vaping with ‘Depression Stick’
U.S. anti-tobacco group Truth Initiative is promoting a fake vaping product called the Depression Stick as part of an awareness campaign aimed at demonstrating what it says is a link between nicotine use and anxiety/depression. Created by agency Mojo Supermarket, ads in the “We’re messing with your heads” campaign feature a marketing executive character presenting the Depression Stick—which comes in flavours including Disappoint-mint and Citrus Sadness—to actual convenience store workers, ad execs and influencers, claiming that it gives users depression. Their surprised reaction is captured via hidden cameras. The agency wanted to “send a new message to teens who don’t like to be preached to in ads,” reported The Wall Street Journal. The campaign also includes a billboard in Times Square, as well as a fake storefront in New York, and a social ad blitz.

Facebook responds to WSJ
Facebook responded on Saturday to last week’s series of stinging articles in The Wall Street Journal claiming the social platform is knowingly causing widespread social harm. Based on internal Facebook documents, WSJ claimed Facebook knew it was being used to spread vaccine misinformation, amplify content that makes people angry, and that Instagram has been making teen girls feel bad about themselves. In a post to FB’s own blog, Facebook’s VP of global affairs Nick Clegg said it is right to hold the company to account, but said “these stories have contained deliberate mischaracterizations of what we are trying to do, and conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees.” Facebook is working to address some of the “difficult issues” raised by the WSJ report, he said, but denied that it ignores the findings of its own research, and said the connection between social media and wellbeing needs more study. “The truth is that research into the impact social media has on people is still relatively nascent and evolving, and social media itself is changing rapidly.”

Ola Electric manufactures progress
A lot of businesses say they want to support women in the community and promote equality in their workforce, but Indian electric mobility business Ola is setting a new benchmark with its newly opened “Futurefactory.” The location is projected to produce 10 million electric scooters a year (about 15% of worldwide production) by 2022 , and it will do so with an all-women workforce (along with 3,000 robots). “Enabling women with economic opportunities improves not just their lives but that of their families and indeed the whole community,” said Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal in a blog post. Women currently only make up about 12% of the manufacturing workforce in India, he wrote. “For India to be the world’s manufacturing hub, we must prioritize upskilling and generating employment for our women workforce…  Ola Futurefactory is one step towards our vision of the world’s future—a world with clean mobility, a carbon-negative footprint, and an inclusive workforce.”

OkCupid adds ‘pro-choice’ badge to profiles
Brands have been largely quiet on Texas’s new abortion law, but OKCupid is enabling users to indicate their support of abortion rights by displaying a “pro-choice” badge on their profile. Chief marketing officer Melissa Hobley told The New York Times that the online dating service introduced the feature in response to the recent passage of Senate Bill 8, which essentially makes abortion illegal in Texas (which is home to OkCupid’s parent company, Match Group). OkCupid will donate $1 to Planned Parenthood for every profile that adds the badge. OkCupid has previously allowed users to show their support for a variety of social/political issues, with badges including “Black Lives Matter,” “Voter” and “I’m Vaccinated.” According to the Times, the number of U.S. users adding “pro-choice” to their dating profile increased 18% between September of 2020 and September of this year.



David Brown