Each week, Padilla’s Insights + Strategy team stands at the intersection of people, culture and brands to bring you five stories that you can read in five minutes.

1. Welcome to the Taco Bell Hotel

The Bell: Taco Bell Hotel and Resort is a “pop-up hotel” slated to open in Palm Springs in August of 2019. Why should you care? Yes, its that Taco Bell, but you shouldn’t be that surprised according to Taco Bell Chief Brand Officer Marisa Thalberg. According to Thalberg, “We’re already in the hospitality business. This is a more immersive form of hospitality where people can really soak up the experience of the brand in a destination.” In a crowded fast food space, we’ve seen a lot of outrageous, cool, and impressive ideas from brands looking to stand out. This takes it to another level. As these brands seek to build long-term connections with their consumers, this is a fascinating way to create a novel experience for superfans and spark curiosity in the rest of us. [Travel and Leisure]

2. The next generation of reading education

Google has launched a new app, Rivet, designed to help kids struggling to read. Why should you care? This is such an interesting application of voice technology and speech processing. For example, new readers can read aloud and when they start to struggle, “the assistant will proactively jump in and offer support.” The support has been designed so that it mimics how a parent helps a child when they are reading aloud and encounter a word they don’t know. Certainly, there should be checks to ensure this doesn’t violate privacy for kids and limitations on screen time should apply, but its also important to appreciate the creative and positive application of this technology to facilitate learning such an important life skill. [Tech Crunch]

3. Getting PC on the PC

In June, Microsoft will be launching new features in Word where their AI tool will make linguistic recommendations to decode acronyms, estimate time to read a document, and identify “words or phrases that sound insensitive, and suggest corrections.” Why should you care? While this may sound like a “subjective and slippery” minefield, Microsoft has taken several steps to ensure they’ve done their due diligence by consulting with linguists and training the AI on Wikipedia (because it is so frequently updated). Even so, according to Fast Company, they haven’t settled on a list of suggested terms and users can turn off the features if they’d like. Overall, this will be an interesting experiment for Microsoft as well as a revealing exercise of the biases embedded in Wikipedia (and in ourselves). One thing is for certain, we’ve come a long way since the days of Clippy. [Fast Company]

4. Smiling at the standards

Gucci’s latest lipstick campaign seeks to breakdown beauty conventions requiring “perfect” teeth. Why should you care? As the year progresses, more brands are embracing what Glamour calls “alternative beauty.” While brands like Dove have been gently pushing the conversation for years, we are starting to see more brands unapologetically jump in. Ads like this, including the recent Nike ad where a model had underarm hair, are making a bold, in-your-face rejection of standard beauty conventions the focus of their ads and forcing people to reckon with their own preconceived notions. Most (and best) of all, these brands don’t care if it makes people uncomfortable. As beauty and diversity standards continue change rapidly, brands need to continue to challenge themselves and understand when they are playing it too safe for today’s world. [Glamour]

5. Network for trades

Lowe’s has launched a workforce development program called “Gen T” designed to provide training, connect trade professionals and help destigmatize trade work. Why should you care? As the needs of workforce change, culture can struggle to keep up. While well-paid trade jobs go unfilled across the country, the hard and soft support systems to create the right pipeline of workers is slowly being built. This is a great idea to bridge that gap while also addressing the needs of (and ensuring the future existence of) their primary customers, skilled trade workers. [PSFK]

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