Is ‘password’ really the best password you can think of?

In 2014, ‘123456’ overtook ‘password’ as the most commonly used password. And despite vigorous debate around personal information and online privacy, the most imaginative new entry into the world’s most used passwords in 2013 was ‘111111’. When breaking news on Monday brought viral bug Heartbleed to the world’s attention, the conversation was reignited once more. It’s another reminder that – menial as they sometimes seem – passwords are some of the most important secrets people keep in the modern world.

Heartbleed has been described as many things: from “the biggest security threat the internet has seen” to “a ‘holy shit’ moment”. It’s a flaw in the most widely-used online encryption protocol – the open-source project OpenSSL – which is responsible for ensuring information is protected against prying eyes.

With log in details the most at risk, Heartbleed has forced many to reconsider how secure their passwords really are. Aside from an inability to think up secure passwords, a third of people use the same password for every site. If people still take such a simple approach to their online security, should they be concerned about security leaks?

Even before the security bug, one study suggested that 80% of all online security incidents could be put down to weak passwords. “Because humans are so predictable, we’re also pretty lousy at protecting ourselves from the pitfalls of predictability,” explains psychologist John M. Grohol. “We tend to choose things like passwords based upon easily-memorized components — the word “password” or some combination of characters that a 4-year old would pick.”

In a post-NSA world, people are more paranoid about privacy than ever, and this human inability to develop truly secure passwords has opened the floor for alternatives. While PayPal is incorporating biometric payment confirmation, tech startup Nymi has introduced a bluetooth-enabled wristband which unlocks car doors and smartphones simply by reading the unique pulse of the owner’s heartbeat. Motorola’s even developing a ‘password pill’.

As the average Joe increasingly adopts hyper-secure smartphones and encrypted communications, perhaps the password issue is next in line – whether it means developing better codewords or scrapping them altogether. Either way, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that for those that really want to defend themselves, security starts at home.

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The glamour of domestic abuse

Prejudice, poverty and plastic surgery: Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani has never shied away from controversy when deciding on cover stories. The latest contentious cause? The April 2014 cover story – titled ‘Horror Movie’ – features well-dressed depictions of domestic violence. Perfectly made-up women swathed in Prada and Valentino cower from sinister, masculine silhouettes and wield bloody knives in the aftermath of assumed acts of self-defense. Like the subtext of the video for Eminem’s ‘Love the Way You Lie’, or late-’80s adverts depicting women in coffins, women stuffed into bins, women with bruises, has the image of abuse become a media trope?

"Violence towards women has never been so hard-hitting, so reminiscent of a horror show," explains Sozzani. “The intent is to raise awareness of a horror that must be condemned!” Taking inspiration from the heroines that populate Hitchcock-era cinema, attention has definitely been drawn – though whether it’s directed at the social issue or just the magazine is up for debate.

Outraged readers have taken to the internet to decry the spread for trivialising violence, and using it to sell products. “Domestic abuse is not in vogue, no matter how you style it,” tweeted But is there really such a thing as bad publicity? As journalist Michael Moynihan notes, “outrage isn’t about values, it’s about marketing.” Look no further than Miley Cyrus – all it took was twerking with a dwarf and publicly dissing Sinead O’Connor to get her a number one album and a music award.

The combination of anger or disgust – whether from Miley’s tongue-waggling or brands misrepresenting complex issues – mixed with the anonymity of online can trigger “fan outrage”, comments psychologist Dr. Ali Mattu. As more fans rally together around the subject, outrage spreads until someone makes an opposing point and opens a dialogue.

Of course, many argue that this dialogue is targeted at the magazine itself – that, like serial ‘shocktervisers’ American Apparel or Benetton, Vogue has found a way to exploit social issues to generate buzz. But isn’t it still an opportunity to talk about about domestic violence? Worldwide, women aged between 15 and 44 are more likely to die as a result of domestic abuse than cancer, war, malaria and traffic accidents combined. As journalist and former model Jenna Sauers notes, “fashion reflects the wider culture, and ours has a lot of work to do.”

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Wu-Tang bring the pain to ‘fake’ fans

Somewhere in the depths of Marrakech, a single disc holds the next album release from cult hip-hop collective the Wu-Tang Clan. Enclosed in an extravagant case – intricately engraved silver and nickel crafted by British-Moroccan artist Yahya – the album makes a statement about what it means to be a music fan in the digital age.

And let’s face it – even the music itself has been devalued. While the Pirate Bay evolves and adapts against every block that’s placed on it, Spotify users make artists just $0.007 for every track played. Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is the Wu-Tang Clan’s response to this. Like the case it resides in, the album is intended to be truly one-of-a-kind, and will eventually be put on sale for a seven-figure sum. “We’re making a single-sale collector’s item,” says RZA. “This is like somebody having the sceptre of an Egyptian king.”

The reception to this decision has been mixed, with an incensed group of fans already in the process of crowdfunding cash to buy the album and prevent any “rich asshats” getting hold of it. But ultimately, it’s a statement about how music is consumed in comparison to other more physical art forms. “The idea that music is art has been something we advocated for years,” explains RZA. “Yet it doesn’t receive the same treatment.” The album will even “tour” galleries and museums, where dedicated fans can pay up to $50 to “view” it.

Yet Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is more than just a unique way for the group to turn a profit: it’s a way for them to forge deeper relationships with their most committed fans. In the age of the internet, fandom is easy: a Facebook ‘Like’, Google search and playback of a couple of YouTube videos. “[Identity] can be begged, borrowed or stolen,” explains youth consultant Ruby Pseudo. “Simply ‘Liking’ something is not always enough.”

Once Upon a Time in Shaolin isn’t one for these internet-based pseudo-fans. Only those prepared to track the album’s progress, turn up to a museum and pay the required fee earn true credibility. People harbour an inherent desire to communicate who they are, and by weeding out ‘fake’ fans, the Wu-Tang Clan give their most dedicated listeners social currency with which to do this. That is, of course, unless someone leaks it…

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Is flight MH370 the last mystery of the digital age?


Was flight MH370 hijacked by terrorists? Did the pilot kill himself? Or was the whole plane swallowed by a black hole? When Malaysia Airlines reported that they’d lost contact with the Boeing 777 – which departed Kuala Lumpur on March 7th – it didn’t take long for the internet to respond. Uninformed speculation fuelled wild accusations and conspiracy theories, which unfolded in the following days like an erratically-written TV show.

A pilot came forward with the more believable theory of an electrical fire, backed up by a number of situational factors. But the disbelief that an entire plane could simply go ‘off radar’ buffered a frenzied media storm. Psychologists point out that people are inclined to see ambiguous events as the product of someone’s intentions rather than as accidental. And in a technological world, where everything is measurable and transparent, the prospect of a whole plane disappearing along with 239 passengers is unfathomable. As journalist Scott Mayerowitz aptly notes, “there aren’t supposed to be any mysteries in the digital age.


With so many sources adding their voice to the narrative – from the population of Reddit to Courtney Love – establishing the truth is harder than ever. The World Economic Forum has flagged up this phenomenon as “a global risk of massive digital misinformation which could wreak havoc in the real world.” And there are real victims: consider Sunil Tripathi, the 22-year-old who was falsely accused of orchestrating the Boston bombings by millions of online spectators.” False information is particularly pervasive on social media,” agrees Walter Quattrociocchi of Northeastern University in Boston. “It fosters a sort of collective credulity.

As the story of flight MH370 continues to unfold before us, fresh speculation won’t be far behind. But it’s worth noting that the amount of shares a theory has won’t always align with how plausible it is. The truth has become a proverbial needle amid a haystack of shrewd, satirical and misinformed voices, but a healthy information diet can make all the difference between understanding and ignorance.

Supermarket chic: is Chanel laughing at the working class?

When Chanel created a fully-stocked supermarket for the Fall 2014 Paris show, it was Instagram catnip for the smartphone-wielding fashion pack. Chanel eggs! Chanel coffee! Rihanna in a shopping trolley! Meanwhile, in Milan, Jeremy Scott’s collection for Moschino had drawn attention, too. Models wearing designer interpretations of McDonald’s uniforms scurried down the runway balancing fast food trays carrying red leather handbags – appliqued with some familiar-looking golden arches. M for ‘Moschino’. 


High fashion has a history of borrowing from those least able to afford it: from Vivienne Westwood models accessorising with dirty sleeping bags, to John Galliano’s appreciation of rough sleepers. “These people are like impresarios,” said Galliano, of the homeless hoards along the Seine in Paris. “Their coats worn over their shoulders, and their hats worn at a certain angle. It’s fantastic.” But there’s something pointed about two major fashion houses bringing out such deliberate consumer culture pastiches so close together. 

Fashion has been used as a distinction between classes for centuries, but it was in the 1800s that sociologist Georg Simmel first articulated it: a rapid invention and abandonment of styles used to mark the haves from the have nots. And this fashion hierarchy remained largely intact until the internet came along and gleefully democratised everything in sight. Globalised street style is the new authority, accessible to everyone. You still need money for quality, but wits and a decent broadband connection are all that’s required to be on the cutting edge. 

So how do you differentiate luxury when everyone’s a fashion maven? Creating a McDonald’s uniform that would take an employee 120 hours on the job to pay for is a start – especially when the bag alone would set you back $1,265. Luxury is wearing a uniform for amusement, rather than necessity, finding novelty in supermarket shelves. This is satire as branding, and it’s working: Jeremy Scott’s collection is flying off the shelves. But the masses have a way of reclaiming the good stuff for themselves, and knock-offs of the fries phone case abound online. Moschino price: $85. eBay price: $1.99


Twenty-something teens: Shoshanna, Girls and the ‘frenemy’ phenomenon

Studies show that twenty-somethings are more stressed and over-worked – and in turn, depressed and anxious about the future – than any other generation. As such, it’s not uncommon to find that people in their twenties don’t always treat each other that well. “Women that dominate culture today are pretty unfriendly,” says Sarah Jessica Parker in agreement, during a recent interview with Vanity Fair. “I like to remember that the women in Sex and the City were nice to each other.”

Her comments have spurred many to vocalise parallels between Carrie’s original NYC foursome, and the urbanites that populate Lena Dunham’s Girls. As a case in point, a recent episode sees resident wallflower Shoshanna shed her timid demeanour and lash out at her friends, delivering low blows about their mental health issues, stints in rehab and subsequent whiny self-absorption.

girls may look like adults, but their behaviour echoes schoolyard behaviour. Author Jeffrey Arnett would describe this as “emerging adulthood” – an extended period of “frequent change and exploration” that has emerged between teenaged and adult years due to demographic shifts. Rife with backhanded compliments, rumour-mongering and random bouts of exclusion, development experts say the turbulent friendships so common amongst teens are ‘rehearsals’ for adult intimacy, loyalty, and commitment. When we grow up and settle down, we begin to cut out the ‘frenemies’.

Except now, that’s not the case. With the rehearsal for adulthood extended, it seems these ‘toxic’ friendships are coming along for the ride. But while “emerging adults” can be cruel like teenagers, they’re often sophisticated like adults, too. They’re better at maintaining friendships for longer, and four in five feel that the support of their friends is integral to eventual success. Ultimately, the the inoffensive ‘sweetness’ depicted in shows like Sex and the City is no longer top priority: friendship is defined by loyalty, resilience and an understanding that no one’s that nice all the time.


Intimate strangers: how Ellen Degeneres got three million retweets

It was the most retweeted tweet ever. Breaking off from her presenting duties, Oscars host Ellen Degeneres descended into the audience for the ultimate selfie, gathering together a gang of A-listers and handing Bradley Cooper her Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Slightly blurred and a little off-centre, but undeniably high-spirited, it’s now been retweeted over 3 million times. But speculation has since arisen about the authenticity of the gesture. Was this supposedly ‘spontaneous’ moment in fact a slick piece of product placement by a major Oscar sponsor?

Not according to Samsung, who claim the selfie was “a great surprise”. Awkward, when Wall Street Journal claims Samsung paid to have their product integrated into the show. Elsewhere, internet users were quick to pick up on the fact that while Ellen’s on-stage selfies carried a ‘Twitter for Android’ tag, while her regular backstage tweets were ‘Twitter for iPhone’.

But does anyone truly care either way? Polished images of the ceremony and its stars were beamed to televisions and computers worldwide instantly, but only selfies could provide that insider viewpoint onlookers were clamouring for: a peek through the back window, paid for or not.

Smartphones have created the illusion of direct contact between celebrity and fan – opening up a seductive new space that sits between the glossy distance of television and the complexity of ‘real world’ interaction. “The relationship [between celebrities and fans] is based on an illusion of intimacy,” writes Richard Schickel in Intimate Strangers: The Culture of Celebrity. “It’s the creation of an ever-tightening, ever more finely spun media mesh.” 

Even Ellen, a Twitter giant whose easy authenticity is her stock in trade, plays around in the murky waters of mediated ‘reality’ to keep her fans feeling close. Take the cluster of backstage tweets she posted using ‘Adobe Social’. The most likely reason? Her assistants were storing them up in advance and scheduling them to go live at just the right time.

Diet Coke bring a dose of Natural Mindset to the city of London this morning… 

The Amazings retires!

A lovely idea that drew attention to the loss of ‘passed on wisdom’ between generations comes to an end. The problem? "It seems obvious to say, but not every elder is a teacher, and nor is every teacher an elder."

Predictions for 2014

As the haze of the festive period slowly evaporates, it’s time to rub those bleary eyes, step away from the leftovers and look forward to the next twelve months.

What can we expect in 2014, then? Will we pay attention? Who’s looking to escape? When will we settle down? And why is it all work, work, work?

At Canvas8, we’ve dusted off the crystal ball, scratched our heads and poked and prodded our expert network to highlight the attitudes and behaviours that we think will shape our world over the next 365 days…

#1 Can I have your attention, please?
The growth of platforms like Snapchat and Vine suggest our attention spans are decreasing. Constant rolling news and video streams, pictures that disappear in a heartbeat. Blink and it’s gone.

But the success of complex, lengthy TV shows like Breaking Bad, or novels like The Luminaries, show that we can still dedicate huge chunks of our time to something. With more choice than ever, we’re simply being more selective. If someone isn’t engaging with your content, it’s not because they don’t have time – it’s because they don’t want to.

This year, brands will need to understand our patterns of attention and deliver content in a format and length that fits the platform, as well as the genre.

#2 The great escape
We’ve begun to realise that owning more stuff doesn’t make us happier; in some cases, it just gets in the way. Experiences are becoming the predominant economic offering. We’ll see people spending the majority of their time, money and effort pursuing tangible, engaging and immersive experiences that enrich their lives.

Far more than products, experiences generate memories that we revisit and remember. They’re also enhanced when we share them – and, in doing so, offer brands an opportunity to cement their place in people’s hearts and minds.

#3 The new connoisseur
Our identity is no longer constructed by
what we consume – now, it’s how we consume that matters. Passion, not privilege, is the new gateway to becoming a connoisseur.

Whether it’s coffee or chocolate, pizza or pencils, there’s an ever-growing range of blogs, brands and publications discussing these topics, defining leading authorities on anything and everything. Whether or not people actually are connoisseurs is irrelevant – it’s their perception of themselves as such that really matters.

#4 Commitment-phobia
Turning 21 used to be the gateway to growing up, but the deadline is being pushed back as traditional milestones of adulthood like a stable job or homeownership are set aside, or considered unachievable. Millennials aren’t prepared to settle, and don’t want to restrict future opportunities with the decisions they make now.

Tinder’s success illustrates the shift from long-term relationship to ‘hookup’ – and the ‘keep playing’ option encourages people to keep looking. T-Mobile’s Uncarrier plan lets subscribers switch or upgrade whenever a better deal comes along.

Ownership is over. Get flexible, or get lost. You have been warned.

#5 Personalised perfection
Customised products and services are no longer a desire – they are an expectation.

Craft culture, 3D printing and the ‘third industrial revolution’ are all a part of this mindset – but it goes much further. Coca-Cola Chief Technology Officer Guy Wolleart says we’ll soon see drinks that are tailored to our genetic makeup. Motorola’s new Project Ara offers phones that are fully customisable and open to third party development.

People are looking to customise how and when they want things, according to the specific needs they have at any given time. Canvas8 thought leader Joe Pine has been talking about mass customisation for nearly 20 years – it’s time to catch up.

#6 Predictive assistants
The next stage of branded utility is already here – Google Now. Intelligent, predictive assistants will revolutionise the way we interact with brands and services plugged into big data and the web.

And though the mention of big data inevitably raises questions about privacy, the solution to our concerns is actually clear to see – usefulness. People will happily exchange their data if they receive an improved or more relevant service in return.

#7 From fringe to fridge
Halal, gluten-free, kosher and vegan food have typically been dietary requirements – but they’re now becoming positive choices that many are making to pursue ethical, healthy and sustainable lifestyles.

Companies like Hampton Creek Foods are striving to balance economics with ethics by applying high tech processes to natural plant proteins in Silicon Valley labs. Even Jay Z and Beyonce are getting in on the act, having announced they’ll be going “plant based” as part of a challenge for the rapper’s 44th birthday.

Expect to see more fringe foods filling fridges this year.

#8 Work is the new religion
Do you work to live, or do you live to work? Jobs, particularly for the young, are scarce – and we’re doing more than ever to get one, and hold on to it.

From unpaid internships to 50-hour weeks, work has become the new religion. Having a strong work ethic is increasingly valued and respected, and working hard is becoming the preferred lifestyle choice.

#9 Useful
What do brands have to do today to be part of young people’s lives tomorrow? The surprising – yet simple – answer is to “be useful every day”. Busy lives need solutions that are simple, practical and make things better.

Amazon Lockers, banking apps, Click-and-Collect, KLM’s Must See Map or McDonald’s GoMcDo app – it’s all about offering convenience and developing solutions that fit in with our lives, rather than asking us to change the way we behave.

#10 The new meaning of life
As American radio personality Dennis Prager observed, “God isn’t doing well.” We’ve become disenchanted with traditional institutions – and instead, we’re looking elsewhere for guidance and support.

Director of Havas Media Labs Umair Haque believes “the next global economy isn’t just about stuff, it’s about human lives.” From The Sunday Assembly to TED, a growing network of radically inclusive congregations is coming together to celebrate “the one life we know we have” – and to find a better path for the future. They represent a global shift in our preferences for brands whose values chime with a sense of conscientiousness, potential and well-being.

Knowing it and doing it: Connoisseurship and craft

Liberty’s on Bond Street are partnering with Etsy and celebrating ‘knowing and doing’ through a series of innovative in store craft classes. Ranging from cross stitch button badges to origami greetings cards they’re encouraging people to learn from experts. 

We discussed the increasingly popular trend of connoisseurship in a recent report with examples ranging from the speakeasy The Whistling Shop through to B&Q.

"Le parfum est mort, vive le parfum!"


Image credit: Adam Luszniak
Interior architects: Shed

The motto of French perfumery Etat Libre d’Orange, which roughly translates as, “Perfume is dead, long live perfume!” is something of a call to arms for a growing perfume counter-culture, which is pushing back against the mass-produced nature of the mainstream perfume industry. Citing their founding year as “Year Zero of perfumery,” the fiesty nature of the brand is reflected in everything from the vibrant and debauched aesthetic, to dark and dirty in-store ambience; a tip of the hat to erotica as it’s popularised for the masses.  

The scents themselves are bursting with character, and invite customers to musk themselves with a new identity: female sci-fi fanatics should spritz on a little Jasmin & Cigarette, which takes inspiration from Bladerunner's Rachael, while those who want a whiff of anarchy should try Malaise of the 1970s, originally blended for infamous UK punk act The Sex Pistols. In choosing a scent, customers are welcomed to use the products as building blocks when constructing their own identities, thus providing the ultimate in immersive storytelling. 

Committed to producing the highest quality products, Etat Libre d’Orange work with some of the world’s most respected perfumers and the best available ingredients to create a premium brand. Yet through bold storytelling and a flirtatious edge, the perfumery maintains a balance on the fine line between luxury and snobbery.

Enough already!

Last week I needed to buy a new laptop. I went to Amazon and typed ‘laptop’ only to be confronted with 6,731,991 results. I took a deep breath and began my research. Thirty-seven reviews later, I eventually settled for a sleek chrome machine. Then I started to question the price. After countless comparison sites and boring my wife to the brink of divorce, I bit the bullet. I bought it. But it didn’t stop there. In the days that followed, my hesitations would reappear. Had I really got a good deal? Was this top spec? Wait – is that a new model? There was always the 14 day cooling off period…

If you’ve experienced this kind of purchasing paranoia you’re not alone. It’s got a name; psychologist Barry Schwartz calls it ‘the paradox of choice’.

EDF Energy recently commissioned Canvas8 to investigate this first world problem and understand the impact that it is likely to have in 2013 and beyond.

Previously, a lack of information and, almost more importantly, the inability to act on it created a culture of reliance in Britain; a do-it-for-me approach grounded in ignorance. From holidays to television sets, our purchasing decisions were limited by what we knew as consumers - very little - and the choices we had - very few. The closest we came to ‘smart advice’ was Teletext. Put simply, we just didn’t know.

Now we know. We have access to more knowledge than we can possibly act upon. With only 3% of Britons claiming not to shop around, Britain is a nation of researchers hell-bent on making the perfect decision. We’re more likely to rely on ourselves to find a good deal than partners, family and friends combined, according to the YouGov survey compiled in conjunction with this report.

Empowered by information and choice, we can now spend more time booking holidays than getting there – jumping between TripAdvisor, Expedia and Google. Even potential partners can be researched online before a date.

Are we any happier for it? Three quarters of us feel pressured to find a good deal and more than three million Britons spend more than 24 hours researching each major purchasing decision and 95% of smartphone owners research products on the go.

Fear of making the wrong choice - it can be paralysing. We hesitate more, we waste time, and this leaves us with a question: are we neglecting the things that really matter?

Technology affords us choice and information - but rather like a Rubik’s Cube, it’s enjoyable for those who can figure it out and infuriating for those who can’t.

At Canvas8 we’ve seen a new trend emerging – one that’s based on refinement of knowledge and simplicity. Central to this are what we’re terming Navigator Brands: businesses that help us save time, whilst keeping us in the loop. They make our lives less stressful. Working quietly in the background, they free us up to get on with what really matters. They don’t need to be seen or heard, but they do need to be transparent – and flexible enough to allow us to switch back into ‘manual’ and take control whenever we require.

With this comes a very real commercial opportunity. From food to film, utilities to music, innovators are leading the way. They’re creating products, experiences and services that work on our behalf and give us the confidence to make smart decisions.

Whilst established players hesitate, the fleet-footed are responding. Streaming service Netflix’s ‘recommendation engine’ makes picking a film easy. Members detail their tastes, and every time they watch a film the engine updates their choices. It’s now responsible for 75% of their customers’ viewing choices. In the services industry Goodman Restaurants’ triumphantly simple Burger Lobster offers a menu of just three items. Whilst in the energy market EDF Energy’s transparent Blue+Price Promise actively tells you if you can get your energy cheaper elsewhere and they don’t penalise you for switching. Navigator Brands make decision-making easier.

Expect to see a raft of new businesses banging the simplicity drum – that is, as long as their boards are not paralysed by indecision.

About the author

Nick Morris is the founder and Strategy Director of the Behavioural Insights Practice, Canvas8

Samsung Wakes Up With 99 Problems

Samsung’s $25 million gamble starts today. Launching Jay-Z’s new album exclusively to those who own its top of the range handsets is undoubtedly a great example of giving consumers a status boost. Only if the technology fails, it’s all a little bit embarrassing. It’s not just 99 Problems Samsung has woken up with, it’s 4,392 - the number of customers who’ve given the app a one star review:

"Wtf. Can’t get past the first screen. The day the album is out…"
- Marc Harrison 

"Thanks a lot for my "free" album hahaha can’t even get passed the main screen. Is it that hard to actually give us what we want? Samsung has so much money and can’t even get a stupid app to work!"
- Michael Christenson

"The app doesn’t work when the it gets to the reason everyone downloaded for Samsung I lost a lot of respect for you guys I’m getting an iPhone now. Never trusting Samsung again"
- Kirubel Tesema


The rise of cloud communication

The rise of cloud communication