Meet the most controversial brands

Good morning! Here’s what’s on our radar at the moment:

Meet the most controversial brands

A growing number of U.S. professional athletes have started kneeling during pre-game national anthems. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick originated the gesture as a protest against racial injustice; as #TakeAKnee has spread that message has been somewhat lost amidst the resulting recrimination. We’re not looking to re-litigate the whole megillah here; the point is, people are hopping mad, and the controversy has rapidly turned the National Football League into one of the most polarizing brands in the United States. We know this because a U.S. market research firm crunches that data every day, providing a kind of fever chart tracking the correlation between corporate branding and political outrage:

Every day, Morning Consult conducts large online surveys of about 5,000 adults in the United States, asking respondents their opinions about hundreds of brands and companies. Most of the time, ratings are consistent among people of different political parties. For example, Americans have favorable views of Oreos, Home Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond, regardless of who got their vote in 2016. […] But a tiny fraction of these companies are divisive, with politics shaping how Americans perceive them. The N.F.L. has moved near the top of this list in recent weeks.

Link: The New York Times

Why salvaging NAFTA requires a personal touch

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with U.S. President Donald Trump yesterday in an effort to shore up NAFTA renegotiations, which are looking mired in disagreement. Trump has said publicly he thinks the whole effort is doomed, but it’s unclear how much of that is his genuine belief and how much is Trumpian Art-of-the-Deal bluster. Part of the reason that it’s become so important to try to win over the President first-hand is that the U.S. delegation is still noticeably understaffed at the rank-and-file level:

The bond with Trump is especially important because the Americans may be short-staffed at lower levels. One source in Washington close to the negotiations says the United States Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, hasn’t filled all his delegate roles. Working groups would otherwise resolve issues themselves, then call in the chief negotiators if needed, then ministers, and the heads of state only in rare cases. But the source says, “There’s just not enough folks in there. Nitty gritty details are being kicked up the ladder.”

Link: Maclean’s

Say hello to the “speculum for the 21st century”

Gynecologists have been using the same basic tool to conduct women’s pelvic exams for more than 150 years: the duck-billed device known as the speculum. And while it still functions as intended—allowing physicians to inspect the cervix—patient comfort was never part of the original design specification. But now a group of designers at San Francisco agency Frog has unveiled what they call the “speculum for the 21st century.” It’s won the endorsement from the small number of patients who’ve tried it—but that’s not the market that the Frog team needs to convince. They’re not the first ones to take a crack at this problem, after all:

The trickiest part, it seems, is developing something that physicians will actually adopt. It’s not lost on the Frog designers that other prototypes have failed after physicians bristled at the idea of investing in something new, either financially (the cost of purchasing a new device) or mentally (the time it takes to learn how to use a new device). Gynecologists have been using the speculum for over a century, and so far, it’s worked. Why change now? “You could create the most beautiful, most unique, most user-friendly device, but if a doctor doesn’t want to learn how to use it, your patient’s never going to see it,” [designer Hailey] Stewart says.

Link: Wired

WATCH: Go see a Star War

Virtual Reality has always been overhyped, but much of that was due to its relatively small market size, and therefore a lack of big, bankable entertainment brands willing to make the investment in original content. That long drought may be ebbing, now that Disney has stepped into the fray with a live-action VR experience opening this winter at two of its theme parks. Using technology originally developed by a company called The Void, players strap on armor-like backpacks and visors and walk around in a real physical environment, but what they see through their headsets is the futuristic surroundings of the Star Warsfilms. With at-home VR setups still on the margins and (because they still need wired connections) offering limited mobility, this is probably the way most of us will experience this technology for the first time—the same way video arcades preceded the home video-game console boom of the ’80s.

Link: YouTube

Earnings reports today

Canadian publicly traded companies of note scheduled to report quarterly earnings today:

eCobalt Solutions (ECS), EXFO Inc. (EXF), Colabor Group (GCL), Mawson Resources (MAW), JeanCoutu Group (PJC.A), Velan Inc. (VLN)

Thanks for reading! Have a truly excellent day.