Episode 320
September 13, 2023

Follow the Muse

How do you listen to the customer and make decisions about the customer without making decisions for the customer? How do we talk to customers better? And how, in the midst of storytelling as a brand, do we remember that our customers are human? Daniel Hoffman, Creative Director at Five Below, shares that sees his customer as a muse and how following the muse helps Five Below create new and better things in different channels. Of course, digital creation and digital creative direction today really depend a lot on creator partnerships. Given his background and time at other prestigious brands, Daniel has incredible insights to share. Listen now!

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How do you listen to the customer and make decisions about the customer without making decisions for the customer? How do we talk to customers better? And how, in the midst of storytelling as a brand, do we remember that our customers are human? Daniel Hoffman, Creative Director at Five Below, shares that sees his customer as a muse and how following the muse helps Five Below create new and better things in different channels. Of course, digital creation and digital creative direction today really depend a lot on creator partnerships. Given his background and time at other prestigious brands, Daniel has incredible insights to share. Listen now!

The Brand Conversation

  • {00:10:25} - “When you have a healthy conversation about what's not being done and look elsewhere to what could be done then that's when companies can really innovate and hopefully stick out in the crowd and maybe solve problems for your customers, too.” - Daniel
  • {00:15:06} - “When I was a young designer, my directors would say, "Here are your guardrails. Play within that space." And I try to do that for my team. That way I know what they're doing is on brand and also they get to express their voice. They get to try things out and learn and grow and make mistakes and learn from them and do new things.” - Daniel
  • {00:21:51} - “The benefit of having a growing team is that there's always a new voice with a new perspective and life experience, and that's one of the benefits of having a diverse team as well. If you don't have a diversity of life experience, then you're going to miss something on the marketing side because your customers are likely a diverse group.” - Daniel
  • {00:25:38} - “We started in the early 2000s. At that point, the audience was one thing, but now a lot of those customers, if we did our job right, are still with us, and that audience looks different today.” - Daniel
  • {00:26:36} - “The way that brand becomes apparent is through a long-term relationship and established repeated opportunities to develop trust. That just takes time.” - Phillip
  • {00:27:25} - “There's a popular term of "brand storytelling," and I really prefer "brand conversation" because that then implies that on the brand side, we're listening to the customer, we're in dialog with them.” - Daniel
  • {00:32:45} “Does {AI} impact our customer? And if it's a positive impact, it's worth exploration. As a manager, I have to think about job satisfaction with my team. Is {implenting AI} a satisfying day-to-day for them? So I need to consider that.” - Daniel

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Daniel: [00:00:00] I work for a fun brand. the whole point is to put a smile on someone's face. So it's just in general, the fact that the goal of my job is to make folks happy and bring some fun into their life is great.

Phillip: [00:01:32] Hello and welcome back to Future Commerce, the podcast at the intersection of culture and commerce. I'm Phillip. No Brian Today. No, don't touch that dial. I know, I know we tune in for Brian. You don't need to tell me anymore. No. Today we have an interview that I just could not believe who I was sitting across from and how it came together. It came together so quickly. The comms team at eTail in Boston just a couple of weeks ago put this together because they just thought it would make for an excellent high-impact interview. I sat down with Daniel Hoffman, the Creative Director at the amazing brand, Five Below, to talk about the role of art in creative direction at a brand like Five Below, which is the premium retailer in their category. Unfortunately, Brian just couldn't make it because he was literally sitting on a stage conducting a panel at the same time. This was the only time we could make it work with Daniel. But I could not believe when we sat down the language that he was using. In fact, he used the word "muses." And so I'm going to take this opportunity to extend an invite to you, our listeners, to come to Art Basel, Miami Beach. It's our third year this year activating at Art Basel. Last year, we launched Archetypes, our beautiful 240 page print book that you have been buying all year long, and it's an incredible media property hosted by our host, Kristen Vencel, about the role that brands play in our lives and how they take on these archetypes, these characters in our stories. While Daniel and I got to jam on some of that. But as we did, as we kind of got into it, he talked about how he sees his customer as a muse and how following the muse helps them to create new and better things in different channels. Of course, digital creation and digital creative direction today really depends a lot on short-form video and creator partnerships, and Daniel just has such incredible thoughts about that, especially given his thoughts and his background in his time at other prestigious brands. I'm not going to ruin it all here for you, but I had a total fanboy moment. It was awesome to sit down with Daniel. You'll have a fanboy moment, a fangirl moment, when you come to Art Basel Miami Beach when we launch Muses. That's right. Archetypes in 2022 was a turning point for Future Commerce. And I think Muses is going to be the thing that really blows us all away. Join us for three days in Miami for Muses at Art Basel Miami Beach. That's December 6th through 8th. And you can come to experience a little bit of everything that Future Commerce has to offer. We will have a gallery, an exhibition of curation of artists to inspire us. I believe the muses have changed from their classical definition. Yes, the pursuit of art and creation is important, but creative acts inspire us to create in response. That's what brands do every day. I believe that through wellness and through gaming, through immersion, through storytelling, and through perfectly creating manicured and immersive experiences, brands are our modern muses. So Muses is launching December 6th through 8th Miami Beach. Please, when we open our registration, you need to register right away because we have very limited space available. We are partnering with other businesses and we are going to take this up a notch. We're having panel talks. We're going to have a shoppable pop-up shop. We're going to have, of course, experiential art and evening parties. It'll be a three day affair, December 6th through 8th in Miami Beach. You'll be the first to know if you get on the newsletter. Subscribe over at FutureCommerce.com/Subscribe Now, without any further ado, let's go to my interview at Boston with Daniel Hoffman, the Creative Director at Five Below. We have done a lot of really interesting professional... We speak to a lot of executives and that's sort of our audience. We get some really interesting content from people that you wouldn't expect sometimes. So we bring in artists. The Head of Storytelling from Adidas is a man named José Cabaço who started as an artist. So he's an artist from Portugal, has an artist foundation in Portugal to lift up new artists who otherwise couldn't really make it in a scene there. He then went and worked with Nancy Spector at the Guggenheim as a curator there on her team for digital art. That is like when you're looking at a cultural brand like Adidas, to Adidas, storytelling is intrinsic with this idea of art. So with that as sort of a backdrop, what would you say is intrinsic to the storytelling for Five Below?

Daniel: [00:06:53] That's certainly influenced my perspective as well. My background is also in fine art. I went to undergrad and grad school studying ceramic sculpture and did the gallery scene and museums and that sort of thing. All the while I was doing motion graphics for the jumbo screens in Philly sports stadiums and video production kind of like became my path.

Phillip: [00:07:25] So it's a commercial avenue to the art, right? Or it enables the other side of you.

Daniel: [00:07:31] They inform each other. I'd say commercial art really kind of took the front seat. And I haven't made my fine art in quite a while at this point, just given the amount, and the demands of the job. But yeah, they certainly informed each other. And so to answer your question about my perspective, yeah, I find that when I'm given a brief or a problem that we need to solve in the company, something we need to communicate, my mind might turn to some weird prop that I made in my art school days or things like that because that was a big part of my background.

Phillip: [00:08:08] As much as I think we'd like to think that we have these clean compartments of the way that our influences outside of the work realm are influenced... For instance, I think some people are competitor obsessed, so you look at what your next closest competitor is doing, that becomes a playbook and then you sort of layer your brand on top of that because maybe you perceive that for some it might be, "Oh, Amazon created two day free shipping. We need to offer two day free shipping." How does your idea of this duality and this informed part of your fine arts background, how do you weave that in to sort of making the work more interesting? And how much does that influence maybe the competitor obsession that makes us all have to do additional things in business?

Daniel: [00:08:57] It's an interesting question. The competitor obsession for me is more about managing internal stakeholders. Especially in a larger company, there are a huge range of personalities and people and lenses that they see things through. That being one of them, there will be stakeholders have to deal with and I shouldn't say deal with. It sounds negative. We partner on things, but their lens might be what are the competitors doing? My lens is no one's innovating by looking at what's been done already.

Phillip: [00:09:39] Oh yeah.

Daniel: [00:09:43] There's a balance to be struck too, because what the competitors are doing informs what your customers expect. So if you want to kind of play in this space, both lenses matter, so there are certain things that become par for the course with customer expectations, and that's when the lens of what are your competitors doing is a valid one. So for us, for example, competitors were doing buy online pick up in store. We needed to play in that space. So this is something that the customer is kind of expect. So yeah, I think it's a valid lens. But when you have a healthy conversation about what's not being done and look elsewhere to what could be done then that's when companies can really innovate and hopefully stick out in the crowd and maybe solve problems for your customers, too.

Phillip: [00:10:43] That's where I think if we were being really generous, I wouldn't say okay, maybe competitor obsession can be framed as this like negative thing. It's negative energy in the life cycle of a business to let others dictate your path. But there's also modernity. We live in a modern time where customers do have expectations of you.

Daniel: [00:11:07] For sure.

Phillip: [00:11:07] And to get to the next thing that customers expect, you have to have the discipline and the team and the process to deliver on the current expectation.

Daniel: [00:11:17] Absolutely.

Phillip: [00:11:18] And then relevancy comes into play. It's like, are you even relevant anymore if you're not doing X, Y or Z? Let's talk about that a little bit because I perceive the brand, my kids perceive the brand... They love Five below. They beg to go to Five Below.

Daniel: [00:11:33] Mine too.

Phillip: [00:11:33] They want to spend their free money at Five Below. And as a parent, I want them to do that because they love to go there. I'm also encouraging them to look at all of their options. They're obsessed with Pokemon. So I think there's a world where I see you're beginning... The merchandising strategy, the license, and partnership strategy at Five Below is unparalleled in the space. So I perceive your brand to be very premium in its category. Is that the story you want and that you're communicating? And is that the right story for someone like me to be parroting back? And what would you have liked us to say and feel as a shopper?

Daniel: [00:12:18] I think that's spot on. That warms my heart to hear that that you feel that way. One of the challenges of a discount brand is how do you communicate that. Yes, it's a low cost, but it's good stuff. It's good quality stuff. Not only is it good quality from a brand you haven't heard of, but we also have the brands that you've heard of and that's good quality too. So that has been a challenge to communicate to the customers that low cost and high quality can live together.

Phillip: [00:12:52] Let's talk a little bit then about like, what does your role look like? Digital Creative Director at Five Below. What does your role look like? Tell us a little bit about your background.

Daniel: [00:13:03] Sure. The answer to that question is different every six months, so we can try it again in the future. And I might have another...

Phillip: [00:13:10] Is that because new channels pop up all the time?

Daniel: [00:13:12] New channels, and the growth of our company too has kind of put different demands on me and my role over the years. So when I first started, we were launching a new eCommerce website and that was the entire year one for me. Then my attention shifted over to our organic and paid social media, ramping up our video production capabilities. Today there is a team now that manages that website and the UI and UX. I oversee a team that does the creative for our digital channels. So the creative that hits our website and app paid and organic social media and email. So kind of managing that. Last year my whole life was After Effects and this year a lot of my life is Excel. So yeah.

Phillip: [00:14:05] {laughter} I think the tools definitely speak to the seniority of the role. I'm always impressed with people that have an art background who find their way into managing large teams and sort of live vicariously through the creation of those teams. Let's talk a little bit about that and how you're helping your team. How do you creative direct because I think that that is an overlooked skill set. But probably the most important in developing a brand with a capital B.

Daniel: [00:14:40] Yeah. I'd say as a director, what I'm grateful for is having had good directors throughout my career that I can look to them. And I'm still in touch with my very first creative director from my first agency, really great guy, super talented, and I learned an awful lot from him. So emulating what they do. And what I found that that they did was when I was a young designer, they said, "Here are your guardrails and play within that space." And I try to do that for my team. That way I know what they're doing is on brand and also they get to express their voice. They get to try things out and learn and grow and make mistakes and learn from them and do new things. So that's one just kind of giving them a place that they can play and be artists. The other thing is really making sure that growth is part of their, if not day-to-day, at least on a monthly basis. At the very least, having tools for training. If there's a software they want to learn, making sure that I'm kind of clearing the way to get that in-house so they can learn it and play with it and make more content for us. So kind of facilitating an awful lot. Out of grad school, I taught college for a bit and I'm the child of two teachers. And so my parents would assign me to help grade papers as I was growing up. So I definitely have that sort of educator mindset as I was growing up. And that's helped an awful lot as I moved from being a designer into a director. Leaning on that experience has helped an awful lot.

Phillip: [00:16:38] In the team. You're managing deliverables, right? Does it start with a brief?

Daniel: [00:17:42] It starts with a brief. Yeah. Yeah, That's a complicated question.

Phillip: [00:17:47] I didn't prep you for it because I want to talk about AI, but I don't want to talk about AI in the traditional sense of generative or creative stuff, but more about there's like inner connective tissue that we overlook and process. Briefs could be this low effort thing that gets interpreted by whomever holds it in their own way. Maybe that's a space where we can see a lot of innovation in the business to give people a voice and power to contribute to something like a brief so that it's more concrete and has a vision that everybody can contribute to. But yeah, so that's the lateral way into having the conversation. Does it start with the brief, I guess is one way to start the conversation.

Daniel: [00:18:30] And the reason why it's a really good question and the reason why I said it was complicated is because in-house right now, we're kind of sorting all that out. The short answer is at the moment, yes. The long answer is on the creative side, you've got this team full of really talented, creative thinkers. On the strategy side, you've got the same thing, but they each have different lenses that they're approaching a problem from. So you totally lose out on the benefit of another voice to elevate whatever project you're working on. If the brief comes from one team and is executed by another. So what we're working on in-house right now is. Revamping our process a bit so that the briefs start with just a brainstorming session, and the brief is almost like codifying what that conversation was. Because in our production meetings, we might get a whole pile of briefs and there's not time in that meeting to really dig into it. So what we're trying to do is... And also timeline-wise, you can't do this for every single project. So we're trying to identify levels of initiative and which ones we might want to do this for, especially the higher stakes projects where we want to get all the creative thinkers in the room from the strategy side, from the creative side, and without necessarily job title hierarchy, just get everyone in to brainstorm and then what comes out of it is an agreed upon brief. So in our production meetings, when we do get the brief, there's really no questions. We already talked about it. The lowest stakes projects that are kind of like keep the gears turning for your marketing engine don't always require that conversation. So we're trying to identify the best times to spend that time and the best times to bring all those voices in. So that's why it was complicated. So yes, sometimes it just starts with a brief, sometimes it starts with a conversation and then the brief comes after.

Phillip: [00:20:33] Well, yeah, because it should be collaborative. Nobody likes to work in the top down organization. Especially if it's a creative role and you're directing creative teams, you want to feel like you have some say. Also, I think having people who have varied perspectives from their different backgrounds may be able to contribute new ideas. For instance, you have a background in shoppable TV. So you come from Curate?

Daniel: [00:21:04] Yep. Yeah. Curate Retail Group. I was specifically on the QVC side. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:21:08] And I mean, there's certainly been a lot of banter in our industry about the coming day where everyone would watch live streams and shop from live streams all day long. That hasn't happened yet. But it is... It does happen in some cultures. So what happens is what we're realizing is that maybe like there isn't a universal truth for how people want to transact. There isn't a universal truth for how people want to encounter every brand. So finding your perspective blended with other perspectives may come to some place that Five Below couldn't have arrived on its own.

Daniel: [00:21:49] Absolutely. Yeah. And the benefit of having a growing team is that there's always a new voice with a new perspective and life experience. And honestly, I know that we weren't specifically talking about this topic, but that's one of the benefits of having a diverse team as well. Getting those voices in the room, if you don't have a diversity of life experience, then you're going to miss something on the marketing side because your customers are likely a diverse group, so you're not going to talk to them effectively or solve their problems or fit into to their lives, your product won't fit into their lives effectively if the folks in your company don't reflect that in any way.

Phillip: [00:22:33] There's something we talk a lot about at Future Commerce. We have a content property called Archetypes and brand archetypes is a thing that strategists have used for years to design and to come up with a framework that helps you make decisions about voice and tone. So the classical Jungian archetypes, you have The Ruler, The Jester, The Magician, The Lover, The Innocent... And there are ways to look at this. But our big idea is that all brands have to become all archetypes because all of humanity ideally would be your total addressable market one day if you're big enough. How do you think about the customer that walks into a Five Below or comes onto the digital properties and how do you make sure that diversity of their experience is service through the digital properties that are under your control?

Daniel: [00:23:28] It's a great question. There are a lot of ways that I would answer that question. From the way that we cast our models to be in our video ads, to the way the final designs come together. Back when I oversaw the UI UX that came into play too.

Phillip: [00:23:51] From an accessibility perspective?

Daniel: [00:23:52] Accessibility. We went through a whole ADA compliance effort, but also even shopability. We were really doing some brainstorming about who is coming onto our website. Is it what we call our muse, which is sort of...

Phillip: [00:24:10] You call it your muse?

Daniel: [00:24:10] Yeah. So it's like kind of our teen/tween audience.

Phillip: [00:24:13] Okay.

Daniel: [00:24:13] But the shoppers are probably the mom, right? So on the website, we want them to if it was a predominantly female audience, if they're coming onto the site, we want them to feel like they're in the right place to shop for that kid. But we also know that the kid probably isn't shopping online. So we're crafting an experience that is shoppable for that audience.

Phillip: [00:24:40] I see.

Daniel: [00:24:41] But that looks and feels like that younger audience so that when they arrive, they feel like I'm in the right place to buy a gift for my kid, and so that's sort of like the UI UX answer to that question. When we cast models, we really make an effort to not just bring in ethnic diversity, but a diversity of body types and really kind of try to reflect our shopper.

Phillip: [00:25:07] And how do you get to know who that shopper is? Is there an ideal? Do you have a muse or do you do persona development? Tell me more about that.

Daniel: [00:25:17] Yes. And that's looked different over the years. Recently we did a whole lot of work on that to try to either confirm or deny previous hypotheses. So it's on a rolling basis.

Phillip: [00:25:32] It changes. Right?

Daniel: [00:25:33] And it changes. Exactly.

Phillip: [00:25:34] It needs to be refreshed.

Daniel: [00:25:34] It needs to be refreshed in a brand. We started in the early 2000s. At that point, the audience was one thing, but now a lot of those customers, if we did our job right, are still with us.

Phillip: [00:25:47] That's right.

Daniel: [00:25:47] So it looks different. So that audience looks different.

Phillip: [00:25:51] And they're older. They're in new life stages. Their needs are different.

Daniel: [00:25:55] I was in college and buying stuff for my dorm from Five Below when we launched. And now I have children of my own that if I don't bring home some Pokemon cards from work, they're also into Pokemon, then they give me an earful. Yeah, Yeah.

Phillip: [00:26:10] Pokemon is a subscriber. If they're listening, shout out, got to send Daniel some Pokemon swag.

Daniel: [00:26:17] My kids would love it.

Phillip: [00:26:17] They would go over the moon. Yeah. I have this thesis around what a brand is and and the trust we develop with a brand. And I don't think that that can be accelerated. Not through capital and not through advertising. The way that brand becomes apparent is through a long-term relationship and established repeated opportunities to develop trust. That just takes time.

Daniel: [00:26:51] It does.

Phillip: [00:26:52] Which means you have to exist for a long time, which means that over time the customer that you won in the early aughts is going to change. So now the way that you express the cultural affects of the brand, and the things that you put out into the world have to change, too.

Daniel: [00:27:10] For sure. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:27:12] That's a big... That's a tall order.

Daniel: [00:27:15] It takes time, to your point, and flexibility. You have to be flexible. One thing that I think about with brand, there's a popular term of "brand storytelling," and I really prefer "brand conversation" because that then implies that on the brand side, we're listening to the customer, we're in dialog with them. Be it at the call center, be it we have a huge brick and mortar presence, so be at the associates that are in store, be it comments on our social... Listening and learning back from the customer means it's a conversation and then you change what you're doing. If you're hearing enough direction from one side, then you have to be flexible. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:28:09] Let's talk a little bit about your eTail session because we're live here at eTail. Yeah, I hear it's about storytelling. Give me a little bit of a primer.

Daniel: [00:28:20] When I saw the topic, I thought it was great to be in the mix of a conference that has such a big AI presence because the session is about humanizing your brand through effective storytelling. AI, people like to say it's six months old. It's been simmering for a long, long time. But it's really kind of taken the market by storm in the past six months. So focusing on humanizing your brand is an important one because while the brains behind a website might lean on AI, your customer is a human. And so speaking to them effectively matters.

Phillip: [00:29:40] I'm going to keep coming back to art because it's your background and I feel like we can jam on that a bit. In media theory, there's this like human-to-machine dynamics that talks about how that relationship with a machine sort of informs your humanity. There are a number of artists who do this like hyper-realistic pencil drawings that are meant to look like a photograph, so art is becoming influenced by the output of a machine. Would you really characterize some of the things we see in AI today as really being useful or commercially useful for a business at this point? Is anyone really using that? Or is it more for the exploration for people who aren't necessarily trying to commercialize some output? And how is Five Below thinking about those things in the way that the machines may alter the way that you write copy or produce imagery? And if you can't talk in specifics, that's okay. But I think that we're all wrestling with this right now and at least having a framework around how you would approach answering the problem within the organization or how you're thinking through it is, I think, useful at this point in time.

Daniel: [00:31:42] There are a number of ways that I would answer it. And in thinking about AI, the ways I would answer it is through the lens of the different people that it impacts. So first and foremost, does it offer value to our customer? How could we potentially use it to solve their problems and make their lives easier? That's kind of what we have to work backwards from. And if the answer is yes, there's a tool to make the customer's lives easier, for example, at this conference, I've seen an awful lot about site search. Sure. I think for anyone that has gone on to legacy Google and ChatGPT and punched in an organic human phrase to try to search for something, the results are very different. So there might be an application there. We're exploring currently a Five Below, as I think probably most brands are. So that's one answer. Does it impact our customer? And if it's a positive impact, it's worth exploration. The other human answer is the team of Five Below. Let's say copywriters, for example, and this is just a hypothetical thing, but something I think about as I've seen all these vendors at this conference. Thinking about how it would impact their lives. Could it make their lives easier, their day-to-day? Would it shift their role from being hands-on, copywriting to being more of a curator as an AI engine is giving them results, they have to curate and make sure it's brand right. So as a manager, I have to think about job satisfaction with my team. Is that a satisfying day-to-day for them? So I need to consider that. I think inevitably every company is going to have to wrestle with those questions. I don't have an answer yet, but that's the way I'm thinking.

Phillip: [00:33:53] Nobody has. Nobody has the answer.

Daniel: [00:33:53] Those are the ways I'm thinking about it. First, backward from the customer. And second, the people in-house that it impacts.

Phillip: [00:34:00] I don't know if we were really at the place where we're seeing the productivity gains from AI because I think there is an orientation period where you have to learn how to use the platform. I think your example of a Google search versus a ChatGPT style conversation is a great example of this human-to-machine dynamics where we've been trained over a long period of time of how to get the best results from the platform. So when I go to Google, I'm not talking like a human being, right? I'm typing what I think will coax the thing out that I'm looking for.

Daniel: [00:34:42] Exactly.

Phillip: [00:34:42] And I think a lot of people bring that same style of communication to a retailer's website when expressing through a search box what they're looking for. So Google did the training of your customer for you.

Daniel: [00:34:55] It's true.

Phillip: [00:34:55] Let's think about ways that you would untrain that customer. How do we get them to tell us exactly what they want? And does that look a lot more like CX than it does UX?

Daniel: [00:35:09] Potentially. To me, though, the promise of AI is that it's crawled the Internet for all these years. And I would hope, and I don't know if this is true or not, but I would hope that it would be familiar with the Google searcher and the ChatGPT searcher equally. My hope is that I don't have to retrain the customer at all. If the customer comes in and punches in a Google style search, I would want them to get valuable results just the same as the other customer. I mean, yeah, that's to me is what AI is promising. And I hope that's true.

Phillip: [00:35:50] I think it might be true. I think that's a really insightful answer, actually, and one I'll have to chew on and have to hit you back because I do think that something I've witnessed in our industry is we like to see things like customer session playbacks. I don't know if you do this at Five Below, but there is a new process by which we make decisions, by inferring intent, by watching someone's behavior. Okay, so we're now all cultural anthropologists. {laughter} Okay. So we are trying to infer what somebody was trying to do, what they're trying to get the meaning or the service, the satisfied query, whatever it might be, so that we can serve them better.

Daniel: [00:36:38] Of course. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:36:40] That's what we want. We want to serve them better, reduce frustration, and reduce friction. Sometimes, though, I think what's missing in the conversation is, well, for all of this inferring that we're doing we're doing very little in the way of actually talking. How do we talk to customers better? And they do tell us exactly what they're looking for if you ask them. Sorry. I was waxing poetic. What is your thinking around how some of those areas where you do have relationship with a customer, maybe it's in store and that informs your online, but how do you listen to the customer and bring it all home? How do you listen to the customer and make decisions about the customer without making decisions for the customer?

Daniel: [00:37:25] It's an important question because to what I was saying earlier, ideally, it's a conversation with the customer. And the answer to how, there are just so many ways. Or I should say at Five Below, there are a lot of ways. The customer interacts with our brand in a million different ways. We need to present them with a listening ear and ideally solutions in any one of those touch points. Our store associates are great and we internally celebrate those moments. So whenever we have a town hall, our CEO who is fantastic and makes a really good point about bringing up those real human interactions where an in-person store associate was able to help or solve a problem for one of our customers. And we celebrate that in our town halls. And I think what that does is just culturally, internally, it drives the point home that that's what we're here for. So whatever part of the business you're in, are you a merchant? Are you a web designer? Wherever you're at, that's who we're trying to help. And the customer information, their voice is going to hit us in a bunch of different ways. Like I said, it could be at a call center. It could be in a store. It could be comments on our social feed. And just listening honestly to it, wherever it's coming from, is important.

Phillip: [00:39:08] I mean, that's the amazing thing about this type of conversation we're having now is I think there's a lot of the thinking and a lot of the solutions for this problem seem like they come from a similar place, but everybody realizes it differently in their business. And so I love hearing the thought process. And I know it's like, you know, am I saying anything really definitive? What can I say specifically? Because my context is different from another's. Maybe kind of bringing it back too, what are you currently working on that has you excited? What is getting Daniel out of bed in the morning and makes you excited to get to work?

Daniel: [00:40:05] There's a lot. I have a great team. I'm very fortunate. I'm primarily working with the creative team, but even wider in the marketing department where I'm at, the people are great, which I don't take for granted. I mean, I have worked at other companies where it was a little more of a struggle, and the people that I get to work with are really awesome at Five Below, so that right off the bat. And our customers are cool. I mean, I work for a fun brand. The whole point is to put a smile on someone's face. So it's great. The nuts and bolts of my job, be it the web, our web design, or a video production, all that's fun. So I can kind of point to the specific work that I love the most. But just in general, the fact that the goal of my job is to make folks happy and bring some fun into their life is great.

Phillip: [00:40:58] Well, you brought a little fun to the side of Future Commerce for today. Thank you so much.

Daniel: [00:41:02] Thanks for having me.

Phillip: [00:41:03] Daniel Hoffman, Digital Creative Director for Five Below. Thank you for coming on the show and enjoy the rest of eTail East.

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