First Edible Mascot Delights Fans

The recent Pop-Tarts Bowl in Orlando, Florida, made history by showcasing the first edible mascot in the realm of sports. In a quirky move that captivated the internet, the Kansas State Wildcats triumphed over the NC State Wolfpack with a score of 28-19, culminating in the devouring of a colossal pastry emerging from a larger-than-life toaster.

As part of this creative marketing ploy, the victorious team celebrated by consuming the giant pastry, marking a distinctive trophy presentation that featured two actual Pop-Tarts nestled into slots atop a silver football.

Enthusiastic fans flooded various online platforms, including X (formerly Twitter), expressing their amusement through a plethora of memes.

Heidi Ray, senior director of brand marketing at Pop-Tarts (Kellanova), explained, “Campaigns that earn both coverage and conversation have a disproportionate business impact… We have been blown away by the reaction and engagement, which we are still analyzing. But, at this point, we are looking at success that rivals a major Super Bowl moment.”

Originally named the Blockbuster Bowl, the Pop-Tarts Bowl has a rich history, commencing in Miami back in 1990 and drawing over 74,000 fans. Presently hosted at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium, the event falls under the oversight of Florida Citrus Sports, a nonprofit organization managing regional events.

Various sponsors have graced the game over the years, including a multi-year deal with Florida Citrus Sports. The game underwent a rebranding as the Cheez-It Bowl for the past three seasons, featuring memorable celebrations such as dumping buckets of Cheez-Its on the winning coaches’ heads.

The Plight of the Unused Gift Card

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans were predicted to spend roughly $30 billion on gift cards during the 2023 Christmas season. While these cards to restaurants and retailers make great gifts, more than $10 billion worth will remain unused.

In 2010, a federal law mandated that a gift card cannot expire for at least five years from the purchase date. Certain states have even longer time requirements. And though cards don’t expire quickly, some will accrue fees if they are not used within a year, and cards from stores that go out of business will not be able to be redeemed. So using gift cards soon after receiving them is a good idea. To encourage immediate spending, retailers established National Use Your Gift Card Day, on the third Saturday of January.

What happens to the money on unspent gift cards depends on where you live. Retailers in 19 states are mandated to return the funds to consumers, and money that cannot be returned must be spent on initiatives that benefit the public. According to Misha Werschkul, executive director of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, finding the owners of unspent gift cards is challenging. Consumers can search for their name on MissingMoney.com to see if they are entitled to money from gift cards.

Companies do benefit from those who lost their gift cards or forget to redeem them. In 2022, Starbucks reported over $200 million in revenue in cards that were not cashed in. Consumers who think that using the cards as intended is far better than seeing the money returned to the public should be sure to participate in National Use Your Gift Card Day.

Anu Saad’s Vision: Leveraging Cancer Data to Save Lives

This article was originally published on January 17, 2014.
Based on the Forbes article from May 29, 2000 entitled: “The Gift of Data”

As CEO of a cancer testing startup, Anu Saad has leveraged her company’s vast trove of patient data to launch a lucrative new business in packaging and selling medical information.

In 1998, Saad provided critical usage insights to Genentech on its new breast cancer drug Herceptin by analyzing her startup’s database of 40,000 HER2 gene test results. This allowed Genentech to effectively target pre-launch marketing, contributing to Herceptin’s blockbuster sales of $300 million in 2000.

Under Saad’s leadership, the startup realized rich opportunities in monetizing its cancer databases. With over 565,000 patient profiles and processing 12% of US cancer screens annually, Saad has signed partnerships with two dozen pharmaceutical firms who pay handsomely for analysis of biomarkers, genetics, treatment outcomes and more. For example, Novartis paid the startup to analyze bone metastasis rates across different cancer types to inform clinical expansion opportunities for its breast cancer drug Zometa.

To expand the startup’s data capabilities, Saad recently acquired two firms – one for clinic data and tumor samples and another for 1.7 million cancer patient records. By pooling these resources with the startup’s internal databases, Saad has developed detailed profiles on over 100,000 patients to better inform treatment and drug development.

While the lion’s share of the startup’s $85 million revenue still comes from core cancer testing services, Saad has overseen over 50% growth in its information services business, already generating $8 million annually. However, Saad stresses that commercialization of data is firmly grounded in achieving the fundamental mission she set out for her company – leveraging medical insights to develop more effective diagnosis and treatments for cancer patients. It is this commitment by visionary leaders like Saad that enables life sciences firms to translate vast data resources into improved patient outcomes. Under Saad’s leadership, her startup has emerged as an information powerhouse that promises to catalyze major advances in cancer care.

Extra Protection for iPhone Users

iPhone users know that sensitive information such as credit card numbers and stored passwords are kept safe behind a passcode. But what if a thief discovers the code?

In an effort to increase security, Apple is currently beta testing a new feature which will serve as an extra layer of protection for sensitive data that is stored on the iPhone.

The Stolen Device Protection feature aims to safeguard iPhone users by requiring biometric authentication, such as face scan or fingerprint, before granting access to data or allowing modifications to information within the device. That way, if the passcode is compromised, the thief will still not be able to steal passwords or credit card information.

In fact, if the iPhone user wishes to perform sensitive actions such as adding or removing biometric scanning or changing a password, they will be asked to scan their face/fingerprint, and then they must wait for one hour before rescanning. Only after the waiting period will they be allowed to proceed with the edits.  

A spokesperson for Apple told CNN, “As threats to user devices continue to evolve, we work tirelessly to develop powerful new protections for our users and their data…In the rare cases where a thief can observe the user entering the passcode and then steal the device, Stolen Device Protection adds a sophisticated new layer of protection.”

The Stolen Device Protection feature will be available for all iPhone users in the near future as part of a software update.

Changes at the Self-Checkout

Retail giant Target is experimenting with a new self-checkout policy. In select stores, Target is now limiting self-checkout to customers purchasing 10 items or fewer, redirecting those with more items to full-service lanes manned by cashiers. This change is hoping to address concerns that cashier-less technology alienates customers. John Mulligan, Target’s Chief Operating Officer, emphasized the importance of customer relationships, noting, “Our guests tell us they enjoy interacting with our team.”

The change in the self-checkout system is aimed at understanding shoppers’ preferences and reducing wait times. Self-checkout lanes were designed to streamline processes and cut labor costs. But recently, Target has seen a 6% increase in customers utilizing full-service cashier lanes, since the self-checkout systems often breakdown and error out, causing them to be cumbersome and time consuming.

The impersonal and unreliable nature of self-scan machines has led many retailers, including Walmart, Costco, and Shoprite, to reevaluate their self-checkout strategies.

Additionally, research in the retail industry has revealed that self-checkout leads to higher losses due to theft and customer error. Target emphasized that while theft is an ongoing concern, it didn’t drive their new self-checkout policies.