Episode 343
March 15, 2024

The Nerds Will Save Us

For FACEGYM, what is the multiplayer future? What are those incentives, and what do customers want in return? PLUS: A teardown of Web3 as it enters the slope of enlightenment. Listen now and join the discussion!

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For FACEGYM, what is the multiplayer future? What are those incentives, and what do customers want in return? PLUS: A teardown of Web3 as it enters the slope of enlightenment. Listen now and join the discussion!

“What does ‘better’ mean?”

Key takeaways:

- Web3's potential for mass adoption is still hindered by regulatory conditions and technical barriers, but a breakthrough use case could emerge with advancements in technology.

- Purpose and values are fundamental in connecting with customers and building brand loyalty in today's market.

- Deepening relationships with localized communities and empowering creators can help brands create more meaningful connections with their customers.

- Decentralized ownership and collaborative multiplayer experiences offer new possibilities for brands to engage their audience.

- Niche communities are becoming increasingly important, allowing brands to embrace fragmentation and connect with specific audience segments for more authentic brand building.

  • {00:10:08} - “A lot of people in Web3 were looking to Web3 as a solution, but actually, the same problems still present themselves. A lot of what I find is that we're just using new words to talk about the same things.” - Alexa
  • {00:16:02} - “Whatever happens in the future, whatever technology winds up underpinning, it's going to take more consumer adoption to make any technology pervasive and ubiquitous, and that's what any technology needs to be able to survive.” - Phillip
  • {00:22:36} - “When you give customers, certain kinds of customers for certain brands, maybe not every brand, the tools of creativity where they can now reimagine the things that you're making in a way that they think is more powerful or more emotionally resonant, that becomes very disruptive for all industry. That's the scary thing.”
  • {00:22:56} - “What brands are missing is the methodologies and the toolset to pick up and give those people that are ready to raise their hands a way to engage in a really meaningful way.” - Brian
  • {00:26:09} - “What is better is always the question, and that's where I think you bump into challenges where different people have different visions for what better means, and I've definitely seen that cause problems.” - Brian
  • {00:27:07} - “Community has become such a buzzword, but community at scale is actually quite difficult to achieve in a meaningful way. And so then you end up watering down your incentives to kind of like the minimum viable incentive set, and then you're actually not really achieving what you set out to achieve.” - Alexa
  • {00:40:52} - “I don't want to say that brands have no responsibility to their customers or to the world that they live in. I think that they do have responsibility. I think that we ask more and more and more of them over time because of the failings of other parts of our society that are not working the way that they used to. Or maybe we romanticize the past.” - Phillip
  • {00:43:34} - “Instead of your brand being what you say it is, your brand is what someone says about it to their closest friend.” - Alexa

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Alexa: [00:00:00] When you filter your decisions and your actions and your behaviors, like when your values are your filter, that allows you to attract the right people to work with you. And then also, more importantly, the right creators to work with you because that's how a lot of creators connect with their communities is through what they value. And again, it's just like making brands more human. And I think aligning yourself with the right creators without really knowing what you stand for and knowing your values,  that's really hard. And then you're kind of throwing spaghetti at the wall. You're trying to tap into every single trend that's happening and at the pace that trends move now, you just can't do that.

Brian: [00:01:51] Hello, and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about the intersection of culture and commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:57] I'm Phillip. I like the way you did that. "Ahbout." We are something like 400 episodes in, and you still surprise me. You still give me the magic. I get the tummy chills when you say...

Brian: [00:02:09] Every time.

Phillip: [00:02:09] And you're like "culture and commerce," Brian. "Culture and commerce" it's like, "oh," little flutter.

Brian: [00:02:14] It's exciting every time. It's just a fun life.

Phillip: [00:02:20] Feeling romantic about commerce because it's Valentine's Day as we're recording this. And, of course, one of the best ways to celebrate Valentine's Day is we did a little group activity here. The team at Future Commerce got together. We made friendship bracelets. I'm wearing mine right now. If you're watching the YouTube feed, it says "Commerce," and it's got hearts around it. Let me see if I can get that to focus.

Brian: [00:02:41] I'm going to wear mine to conference.

Phillip: [00:02:42] Yeah. And speaking of, if you're listening to this, you're probably listening to it as we're in transit. We'll be heading to eTail West, Palm Springs, and both Brian and I will be rocking our friendship bracelets. Maybe I'll bring a little kid along so we can do some friendship bracelets with people at the conference.

Brian: [00:02:59] Oooh. We're gonna have our own room there. We should just turn it into a whole beading room.

Phillip: [00:03:06] {laughter} That sounds awesome. And who better to do it with, Brian, than our good friend, Alexa Lombardo, the Founder and Head of Strategy at Atomic Number 8 and also the Fractional CMO at FACEGYM, but, of course, one of our besties and a friend of the pod. Welcome to the show to join us to hang out a little bit and talk multiplayer brand and all the things South by and all the things coming up. Welcome, Alexa.

Alexa: [00:03:29] Thank you. Thank you, guys. Thanks for spending Valentine's Day with me. It's really special.

Phillip: [00:03:36] No better person to spend it with. Have you ever made a friendship bracelet before? That's the question.

Alexa: [00:03:41] Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I have so many friends. There are so many bracelets out there floating around that I've made.

Brian: [00:03:47] Oh, yes.

Phillip: [00:03:48] And friendship is magic. What are you working on these days? What does your day-to-day look like? You're in the CMO role. You're kind of bridging back out of the Web3 into the Web2 sort of realm again. How are things? Catch us up.

Alexa: [00:04:03] Yeah. It's funny. So as I'm planning my next couple of months of travel and heading to South by Southwest, the last time I was there, I had kind of just jumped down, a few months prior into the Web3 rabbit hole, and now I'm out of it. And what I've been doing lately so, obviously, I started in a very traditional brand kind of strategy role, very Estee Lauder, and did Unilever after that and then started my studio. And after kind of doing a ton of rinse and repeat branding gigs with, sorry to those past clients, I love you all. But with direct to consumer brands, I was hungry for something a little bit more just to sink my teeth into it. That was where I found Web3. And then after doing that for a little while, I was like, "Wow. I'm so far away from the real world and from the customer." I felt very far away, and I was kind of craving some work back with brands that people really love, like obsession worthy brands. So I was talking to a few people in this role at FACEGYM came up quite organically. I was actually with one of my good friends. We were at a Sunday roast, and I struck up a conversation with someone who was there, turned out to be my now CEO.

Brian: [00:05:28] Amazing.

Alexa: [00:05:29] And after a few months of me pitching him on my studio work, he was like, "Why don't you just come work for us?" And I hadn't really thought about the fractional CMO role. I actually really don't like marketing. I love brand marketing and storytelling, and I love organic growth. But growth marketing, performance marketing, I just really loathe.

Phillip: [00:05:49] Sure.

Alexa: [00:05:50] I made that quite clear, but I think this pendulum seems to be swinging back towards loyalty and retention and meaningful relationships, community... Those are all things that I really like. And so it's very, I feel like it's very timely for me to enter a CMO type of role where that's now what a lot of CMOs are thinking about, as growth and performance marketing has kind of failed in a lot of ways for a lot of brands. So, still do a lot of that, but I'm more thinking about how do we actually build meaningful relationships, and how do we take a very community or consumer-centric approach that's less about this kind of blind acquisition and more about deepening relationships. And so I've been doing that. But then I also the studio is alive and well and still running and still doing a little bit of Web3 stuff. But I think this role has really allowed me to flex my kind of creative and my content creation muscles a little bit more in terms of how do you engage creators, etcetera, and then how does that become the new kind of format of branding or brand building. And that's kind of shifted the approach that the studio is now taking to how we work with brands, where it used to be very much like branding was an exercise that we would do with founders and with their teams about what's mission, vision, etcetera. How do we actually then create something that can support that or communicate that or visualize that? And now the earliest stages, I'm like, "Give me three pieces of content that you feel directionally would be a way that you wanna communicate your brand or connect with an audience or three creators that would be your dream partners to work with that you feel like would really be values aligned and get you." And that's kind of how... It's totally shifted my approach and what we do at the studio. But on a day-to-day basis, I'm still very much steeped in FACEGYM, and it's a really, really, really cool brand for the listeners who haven't heard of it. It's a noninvasive aesthetics beauty services brand. But what we do is we take all the kind of best, you know, traditional elements of a traditional facial. We combine them with this unique muscle training technique that our founder had developed with experts over a range of years and research. So that muscle training and facial massage combined with the traditional elements of a facial is kind of like our core service. So it's like taking your face to the gym, and it's not like a traditional spa environment at all. You're in there. It's very, like, high speed, fast paced. It's still very like relaxing but dynamic and fun and it has like a very strong cult following, which like creative cults is like something that I'm like, "Oh yeah." Like to work on a brand that has a cult following is very...

Phillip: [00:08:50] Everybody should create a cult at least once in their life.

Brian: [00:08:53] {laughter}

Alexa: [00:08:53] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:08:53] That's what I always say.

Alexa: [00:08:54] Yeah. So that's what we do.

Phillip: [00:08:56] You can be in a cult. Leading the cult's more fun.

Alexa: [00:09:00] Yeah. It's fun.

Brian: [00:09:02] Web3 might have been a cult of its own. Let me ask you a question, Alexa. You went into Web3, and you kinda came out of Web3. Did Web3 ever actually exist, or was it just a set of tools?

Phillip: [00:09:15] What does that mean, Brian? It's so cynical.

Brian: [00:09:18] No. No. It's not cynical. Was it really just a branded way to talk about a set of tools for brands to connect with their customers? Was the dream of Web3 ever something that could ever come to fruition in the way that the Web3 community assumed that it would come to fruition? I'll let you answer.

Alexa: [00:09:41] It's funny. A lot of the ideals in Web3 are the same ideals that people have in the real world that are blocked for whatever reasons, whether it's because we live in a capitalist society or because of regulated banking or whatever it is. Those are the same, whether you're in Web3 or not in Web3, it's like why these ideals can't necessarily be realized. And I think [00:10:08] a lot of people in Web3 were looking to Web3 as a solution, but actually, the same problems still present themselves. When I hear about people using Web3 "to [00:10:20] properly incentivize community," I'm like, that sounds just like capitalism. Community doesn't need incentive. That's not how this works. You're just talking about [00:10:32] a lot of what I find is that we're just using new words to talk about the same things. [00:10:37] And so what it really comes down to is the tech. I ended up working on a lot of projects that were more altruistic, and they were much more of these very idealistic types of solutions, for these problems that we were experiencing as society or as humans. And I think now a lot of the tech that I see is, "How to build a better loyalty program." And it's like, that's what it is. It's it's just pure tech. Yet that tech is so much clunkier than a lot of just the non-Web3 loyalty program tools that are out there.

Brian: [00:11:09] Right.

Phillip: [00:11:10] And if you didn't have to jump through all the hurdles if it worked the way that it should work in the future when there's more seamless onboarding and there's less danger of being rug pulled or being vulnerable because of bots or bad actors, then, yeah, it would be a better solution, but there's a lot that needs to happen before the technology can actually truly be better. Because right now, yeah, you solve for one thing, but you've now created all these other problems for the customer.

Phillip: [00:11:42] Right.

Alexa: [00:11:42] And that's ultimately why I was like, "We're not even close to having this be mass adopted." And I think that's what you see brands doing now that are still continuously experimenting. They're not onboarding all of their customers. They're doing these pilots or they're taking some subset of their people. And they're just continuing to evolve with the tech and continuing to adapt and kind of not trying to force things on everyone at scale at this point.

Brian: [00:13:06] This is why I asked the way I did. I feel like what you described to me was a set of tools to solve a specific problem within loyalty, and it was an immature technology to solve, maybe a few specific sets of issues or improve loyalty programs. But does that justify having given it its own, like, this is Web3? Is that enough to have to given it its own classification as the next iteration of the Web?

Alexa: [00:13:45] I think social media is what basically Web2 is when you think about it, it's like what a consumer would consider it. I think that there's not a very clear, single-use case that actually espouses what Web3 is or what it will be for the consumer. And there's been nothing... I don't think there's been anything for the consumer to really latch onto in a meaningful way, but I certainly think that that will emerge. I think that as the tech advances, we will see this coalescence around something that can resemble the significance of what social media was. And maybe it'll happen faster than we even expect because I do think that it will be solved, but I think that there is just, there are many more hurdles, and a lot of those are tied to the regulatory conditions around this stuff as well as just some of the technical barriers right now. I think in the same way as you didn't see Web2 coming. You didn't see this being this, like, huge thing when it was happening. It just kind of was like I'm sure there were really early people who were like, "This is gonna be a game changer," but I wasn't one of those people until all of a sudden I was on Facebook, you know?

Brian: [00:15:12] Sure.

Alexa: [00:15:14] So I think we'll know when we see it maybe, or we won't know it until more people see it.

Brian: [00:15:18] When we're all signed up for Worldcoin.

Alexa: [00:15:20] I could be totally wrong because sometimes, when I'm using MetaMask, I'm like, "God, I hate this. I can't imagine anyone wanting to do this." So yeah, who knows?

Phillip: [00:15:36] It's hard, depending on where you sit in whichever ecosystem, you probably already have your beliefs about what is happening or what has already happened with Web3. So, you know, I don't know that anyone here is gonna change anyone's mind. I think that what's really tough is people have cemented their perspective of what something is and that takes a whole long time to change by now. So [00:16:02] whatever happens in the future, whatever technology winds up underpinning, it's going to take more consumer adoption to make any technology pervasive and ubiquitous, and that's what any technology needs to be able to survive. [00:16:18] On that note, the one way that we can make sort of a larger conversation around what does happen in these communities, especially like tight knit communities where there was a lot of conversation around cocreation... There was this big concept specifically around the organizational management structure of a corporation, or a decentralized autonomous organization, which would have been maybe a new type of a way of organizing people around concerted efforts and getting people to be involved together. That did feel like something that was interesting and new, and it had its own challenges. So if we're looking at what the current state of things is now, I think you could say that's one form of what we've called multiplayer, but I don't know that that's necessarily that is multiplayer and that it requires lots of people that are all playing the game of running and organizing a business. I think you could say at its very nature, any business has to be multiplayer to have lots of people involved and lots of people making decisions. But do we see and do you see, Alexa, a world where the multiplayer brand is real and customers have more say so in what brands are doing, what they're building, where they're going, and how they're making investments?

Alexa: [00:17:41] Yeah. It's funny. I was thinking of this the other day, and I said to my friend, I was like, "When did play become associated with ownership and multiplayer? Why does it have to do with me owning a piece of something?" And then it becomes transactional, then there becomes this exchange, and then it becomes not play anymore, and it becomes for profit. And that we know when people do things purely motivated by profit that it doesn't produce the best outcome. So how is this supposed to be better? And I think that was what a lot of these DAOs were kind of proposing is that this is a better way of doing things. You are part owner, and therefore, you are incentivized. And that's kind of been a recent realization for me is I worked for quite a large DAO, and I was compensated in token, and I would go and change that token into money that I could use to pay my rent. And so I wasn't actually an owner, but... And so and then you think about, okay. I think about FACEGYM, for example. I don't think our customers want to own FACEGYM. They wanna have a say in the things that we do, but they don't wanna deal with owner... And then you gotta deal with taxes. They're like, "No, what? No. I don't wanna deal with that. I wanna feel heard. I wanna feel valued." So what is that future that is multiplayer? What are those incentives, and what do people actually want to get? And if it's just this idea of feeling seen or heard or valued versus actually being compensated and being able to sell whatever it is, those are two really different things, and I think we haven't really scratched the surface of that yet. What is the future of multiplayer? Like, for me, I think it's really making sure that there's a representation of interests, and there's a representation of the kind of widest range of narratives or niches or stories or experiences that your brand might resonate with that they are being expressed, and that those are being not just tapped into, but also celebrated, highlighted, or being sort of indoctrinated or ingrained into the brand itself. Because I think that makes for a much stronger brand proposition and a multi narrative brand. And I think that that's what content creators are now becoming more of a driving force in terms of how brands reach customers. I think that's where if I'm the creator, then I'm like, wait a second. I'm actually the one driving your sales. My face is in your ads. That's when I start to think of ownership. And that's very different from the relationship the customer has with the brand.

Phillip: [00:20:57] Right.

Alexa: [00:20:57] A lot of these different layers of multiplayer, multi narrative. And the consumer, even though they're the most important, there are many layers between these different levels.

Phillip: [00:21:12] If you ask them what they want... It's the Henry Ford thing. The problem is that if you're trying to encourage participation from your consumers, you may not like what you get back. What I'm considering is a future where customers demand more participation from a particular style of a brand, and that could be, hey we saw it with, sustainability efforts. We saw it around diversity calls, especially around the summer of BLM. We've seen examples and glimpses of this in the past. I think [00:22:36] when you give customers, certain kinds of customers for certain brands, maybe not every brand, the tools of creativity where they can now reimagine the things that you're making in a way that they think is more powerful or more emotionally resonant, that becomes very disruptive for all industry. That's the scary thing. [00:22:56]

Brian: [00:22:56]  [00:22:56]What brands are missing is the methodologies and the toolset to pick up and give those people that are ready to raise their hands a way to engage in a really meaningful way. [00:23:09]

Alexa: [00:23:09] Yeah. And I think there are a couple of things that are coming up for me now. The remix ability of a brand and giving, you know, making sure that you're providing something that can be easily remixed. Or is like memetic. Right? And can be turned into meme that can then be then built on top of. I think a lot of brands are missing that, and it's like you have to create you have to design something that can be intentionally remixable. But then there's also, when you think about multiplayer, when I was first entering the DAO space, DAOs are good for two things, for impact and for incubation. And then as soon as something becomes a product that you're ready to scale or sell, it needs to be turned into an actual business unit because that becomes much more complicated to actually be able to ship product, as a kind of multiplayer community. But ideation, incubation, and impact, those are very passion fueled exercises that again, harnessing the power of creativity. Those are really good for that, but you don't necessarily want that when you're running actual business. So I think that's where there's like, how does that process occur? How do you facilitate that? At which point does it kind of funnel into the actual business unit? And then how do you properly compensate the people that you brought in to do all this great concepting and creative work? Now the idea has been incubated, and it's moving into this new business unit, then what does their role become now, and how do you...? And that's where coming full circle, Web3 and having these smart contract or token agreements, something where there's royalties involved. I think that there's definitely some potential there, but it's very, I think, still far too complicated for a lot of consumers to engage in in a meaningful way.

Brian: [00:25:21] What do customers really want? Certain customers are gonna want different things. Incentive programs can mean different things to different people. And depending on how your community operates, the most vocal voices, some of them are looking for money, but a lot of them aren't necessarily looking for money.

Alexa: [00:25:39] Right. Exactly.

Brian: [00:25:40] Yes. Really good point. I'm just thinking about different communities. Some of them are it would be nice to have some sort of monetary recognition, but other ones, like, that's not the goal. The goal is to surface good good things. Surface making things better. That's what a lot of community members are looking for is excellence within the ecosystem that they love and seeing it improve and get to a better point. And now  [00:26:09]what is better is always the question, and that's where I think you bump into challenges where different people have different visions for what better means, and I've definitely seen that cause problems. [00:26:21]

Alexa: [00:26:21] Some of that can be very operational. Right? That was always a really big challenge that I saw in a lot of these communities that I was part of. It was, like, everyone always wanted to do the creative fun stuff, but then everyone was fighting over the operational stuff. And it was like, we don't have an issue with the creative and the actual ideation and all that. We have a problem with execution and operations. People want to belong to something. They wanna feel part of something, and it's really hard to incentivize that or implement that at scale because what makes someone feel like they belong is actually quite personal and quite niche, and I won't feel like I belong somewhere unless I actually know other people that are part of this. And so I think that's why this [00:27:07] community has become such a buzzword, but community at scale is actually quite difficult to achieve in a meaningful way. And so then you end up watering down your incentives to kind of like the minimum viable incentive set, and then you're actually not really achieving what you set out to achieve. [00:27:27]

Brian: [00:27:28] Feels more like an audience.

Alexa: [00:27:29] Yeah. Yeah.

Brian: [00:27:30] It's an audience, not a community.

Alexa: [00:27:32] Right. Exactly. Exactly. And that's what I think, again decentralization is really interesting because then you could have these almost pod incentives. That's just so much harder to do. Everyone just kind of wants a centralized solution to things to simplify. Especially if you're someone who's me managing marketing for the whole brand and I'm trying to think of a CRM. These are the things that I'm, like, "What's this the lowest possible lift, easiest, lightest thing that we can do? But then that's for when I want a bigger solution, but then I'm thinking about, okay, but then how do we build real authenticity? Well, that has to be at the localized level, and I have to get in the weeds with my studio managers. And when I think about community, I'm not thinking about it as this solution that we implement company-wide. It's a philosophy. Sure. And it's a practice, but to actually implement it is much more localized and much more decentralized.

Brian: [00:28:44] Localized groups care about different things too and have their own unique cultures, which is why it's so hard to scale. Part of this is also, we talk about what sort of brings people together and what makes them feel like they belong. Purpose and values has a huge role in that. You just wrote an article for us, for Insiders, on purpose-driven brands and the backlash that they received recently and what it means, you know, for consumers right now. And so, as you're thinking about communities and what brings people together give us a little bit out of that article and how it plays into this.

Alexa: [00:29:24] I'm smiling because I just watched the Hellmann's mayonnaise Super Bowl commercial. I didn't watch the Super Bowl because I'm in the UK, but I watched the Hellmann's commercial I love Hellmann's, love my mayonnaise, which I talked about in that article because that article stemmed from what I'd been thinking a lot about how we are this increasingly polarized society and why things have become so polarized. And what it ended up coming down to was purpose and values, and I'm biased. I'm a brand marketer, so I always think that values are super, super important in terms of making people feel connected to your brand, whether they be people that work for your company or for your brand or people who from your brand. And the new-ish CEO of Unilever, Unilever who a company that I worked for, I worked there was all about the USP and we always worked on our brand love key and it was all about, like, purpose was so central, but purpose was very much tied to mostly social, environmental responsibility, and actually probably more on the environmental, sustainability side of things. And I think they kind of defined purpose as that. Your purpose had to be connected to that, which I don't think purpose is. Your purpose can be, you know, not about saving the planet at all. And in the case of Hellmann's, I think their purpose is enjoyment. It's to make foods more delicious, and it's for pleasure. Right? Like this is not a necessity. It is just for pure enjoyment. And I feel like a lot of brands try to think of something that's like really, really like, "Oh, what's our purpose? What's our impact?" And like, yes. That's important, but at the end of the day, sometimes, you can just be there to make food tastier or to make people feel like they look prettier. Because if they feel like they look prettier, honestly, we live in such an aesthetics driven world that they're gonna feel better and they're gonna be nicer and they're gonna be happier. That's the sad truth of it. I say that. I mean, we've been working on our purpose here at FACEGYM, and it's just like it's hard. Like, I don't wanna pull the wool over anyone's eyes. This is about looking good. And I think, you know, from a purpose washing perspective, I think that a lot of brands need to not think about their purpose being so linked to this kind of social or environmental impact, but really think about what's true to their core. And then think about the things that they care about, and that's where the values come in. And I think what you value informs your behaviors and the choices that you make and how you kind of show up in the world. And so while your purpose might be for pleasure, your values can be actually ultimately more impactful. Because you can make decisions and you can have behaviors through those values that they work to uphold that purpose, but your behaviors ultimately have equally or even more impact on people and then on the world. And so things like thinking about leading with joy, a value or something. That can have a ton of impact and can uphold your purpose, but also be something that ultimately has that positive impact on the world that I think that people or brands or CEOs are thinking that their purpose must. And it's like, no. We're humans. We work at this company. We're doing this thing, and the choices that we make, the behaviors that we put into practice can really have a ton of impact on the world and on people. When you filter your decisions and your actions and your behaviors, like when your values are your filter, that allows you to attract the right people to work with you. And then also, more importantly, the right creators to work with you because that's how a lot of creators connect with their communities is through what they value. And again, it's just like making brands more human. And I think aligning yourself with the right creators without really knowing what you stand for and knowing your values, that's really hard. And then you're kind of like throwing spaghetti at the wall. You're trying to tap into every single trend that's happening and at the pace that trends move now, you just can't do that. So if you don't have values as a filter, I think it's really, really difficult to ensure that you are able to connect with customers and with the creators that they're connecting with, and so I don't think that purpose is dead. I think purpose and values are more important than ever to making sure that you're able to connect with customers.

Phillip: [00:34:36] Let me take the opposite side of this. Just to play devil's advocate, not because I believe. In a world where we have a functioning society, let's assume that that's happened within our lifetimes much earlier to this moment. So let's say that at some point where we had some social safety net where communities were more tightly knit, your neighbors knew each other, they took care of each other, they looked out for each other. You had in real life communities at the rec center, at the community center, in the neighborhood, in your church. You have all these places that all are tightly knit human bonds and connections. People in those eras and of course the world's bigger now I understand all the caveats. The world's more complicated now. Technology definitely increases all of our social networks to be much larger than that. We make different types of connections today. I understand the critiques of my own argument, but I will say that we now place an unbelievable burden on the role of work and on the role of commerce to provide all of those things that we're missing because the rest of society doesn't function the way it used to. Commerce has to change the world because the government's not gonna do it. So brands have to go and do it now. That's one part of our unfair ask of commerce to fix all these problems in society because we all have to engage in it. Sure. Why not? Then the other thing is, well, we're asking all of this to happen in our work, in our jobs as well. Our jobs have to be a safe place. They have to be a place for us to be sharing our feelings, have to be a place for us to feel like we're being fulfilled as human beings, but these are not things traditionally that we've asked brands or our work to give to us. And that's I think it's a big ask for us to change societally to those two things. That is sort of my devil's advocate poking at we want these things because we don't have them elsewhere. So we're asking it of the two things that we are forced to have to engage within a capitalist society, which is the things we buy and the place we work, which is it feels like we're poorer for it to some degree. And also those systems are not set up to deliver those things that we need on a human basis. I don't know if you wanna respond to that, but maybe my mayonnaise doesn't need to fix the world. I don't know. It's a thought.

Alexa: [00:38:14] First of all, I think brands are still passing a lot of this on to the consumer. Right? And that's why they talk about this stuff because they're passing it on to us. They're passing along the cost of a lot of the costs of change down to us as well. So I think that we are trying to then hold them accountable and then the next layer, maybe they can hold the government account. I don't know. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:38:37] It's all true. Yeah.

Alexa: [00:38:39] I'm not sure. But what I think lately, I've been thinking about this, because since I spend less time in New York than I used to, and when I was in New York, I was like, I didn't know my neighbors. It's very fast paced, and I've actually built some, like, really meaningful community roots here in London. And if any of my people in my little small community told me to go buy something, I would immediately buy it because I trust them more than anything. And so I think that's ultimately the goal, and it's this idea of contract to expand. This is like a personal philosophy of mine that I've been trying to really hold to in the past few months even, which is I don't need to have more friends. I don't need to have a bigger community. I just need to keep deepening. And I think that's also kind of goes to what we were saying before about if you have this philosophy and then you can localize it and you can decentralize it and what again, certain social media platforms like TikTok are allowing brands to do is to tap into these niches through creators and bring it back to that. Because then, collectively, all of those small communities form a sum that's greater than its parts. And so I think that's kind of what I'm holding brands accountable, what I would like to do with more brands is create that meaning, and that doesn't happen at scale. That happens when you take this very much more of a slower smaller, more localized approach. And I'm not saying that the brands need to save the world at all.

Phillip: [00:40:31] For sure. I'm very dreamy about that. I don't wanna say, like, [00:40:34] I don't wanna say that brands have no responsibility to their customers or to the world that they live in. I think that they do have responsibility. I think that we ask more and more and more of them over time because of the failings of other parts of our society that are not working the way that they used to. Or maybe we romanticize the past. [00:40:52]

Brian: [00:40:52] What you were saying, Alexa, actually, gets back to community and how to build real community. It gets back to, and whether this is physical or digital, the conversations I've been having lately have been around, well, content and creative and storytelling. And one of the problems that we've seen with scale is that usually, we have to go to the lowest common denominator...

Alexa: [00:41:18] Mhmm.

Brian: [00:41:18] In the type of thing that we produce because it's accessible to everyone. But the problem with that is it usually ends up diluting everything that we do. And so I think you're dead on in terms of how to get after these localized communities, whether they're, again, whether they're digital or physical, and that's hard to scale based on the way that our businesses are set up right now.

Alexa: [00:41:40] Mhmm.

Brian: [00:41:41] But researching and finding out who champions are within the local communities and groups, I think that probably is the way forward. It's not influencers. It's nerds. It's experts.

Phillip: [00:41:56] Nerds will save us.

Brian: [00:41:57] Yes. Maybe that's my refrain for 2024. It's experts and nerds and people who dive deep empowering those...

Alexa: [00:42:05] Yeah. Niche. Niche is the new mass.

Brian: [00:42:06] Yes. That's right. Strengthen those relationships. Go deeper with those relationships. Give those people the tools that they need to be empowered to represent your brand and represent not just even your brand, but the industry or the niche that that your brand is impacting.

Alexa: [00:42:25] Yeah. Let them do their thing. Yeah. Yeah. Don't give them a brief and expect them to adhere to your copy and your guidelines. Give them the platform, give them the resources that they need to do what they do better, and deepen that. And that's definitely something that's like a really pivotal change. And I think that's like that giving up of control. That's a big part of enabling this and that's something that a lot of people are just not comfortable with. Then it goes back to thinking about brand, and thinking about brand guidelines and brand guidelines are dead. I think no one cares about your logo. No one cares about your font. Your brand cannot be just that. And if it is, then good luck. I don't even want to think about that stuff. That shouldn't be how I recognize your brand.

Brian: [00:43:19] It's not that we are brand less.

Alexa: [00:43:20] Yeah. Yeah.

Brian: [00:43:21] It's not that we're brand less. It's that the brand has been given up. You've given it over to people. Yeah. Just give up. We're going into Lent. Just give up.

Alexa: [00:43:34] Yeah. [00:43:34] Instead of your brand being what you say it is, your brand is what someone says about it to their closest friend. [00:43:42]

Brian: [00:43:42] Yes.

Phillip: [00:43:42] That's right.

Alexa: [00:43:43] That's what I want to know and what I want to help empower and then what I want to kind of shed light on,  as a marketer, as a founder, as a creator. I just think it's also just so much more interesting. I could never... It's the same thing with how you write copy, how you design, it all becomes watered down if you're trying to appeal to everyone versus instead of creating harmony out of all these voices. Which I think is, again, something that going back tom my time in Web3. That's what I learned. And that was a really powerful thing to watch and see and be a part of, and it didn't always work, but it really changed the way I thought about brand and how it gets formed and shaped, and how it will continue to evolve in the next, you know, 10 minutes, 10 years. Who knows?

Phillip: [00:44:43] And I think that there's something to be learned about the way that our relationship to brands changes as we have to deal with more of them over time. Right? So, you know, obviously, there's more choice in the world. Your expectations can always continue to rise because the opportunities for a brand to give you some sort of unfair advantage become an expectation over time with the customer. So then you have a different type of almost adversarial relationship with some facet of your customer list where they are trying to get the most they can out of you. Others want to co-create with you. It becomes, it is. It's like, we live in a very difficult time, and you can't make everybody happy.

Alexa: [00:45:37] No. You can't.

Phillip: [00:45:39] Kinda getting down to the end of it here, Alexa. So nice to have you on the show.

Alexa: [00:45:44] Thank you guys so much for having me.

Phillip: [00:45:47] that's it. We're out of time. We're going to wrap it up. Thank you for listening to Future Commerce. You can find more episodes of this podcast at FutureCommerce.com and sign up for email updates at FutureCommerce.com/Subscribe so that you can get on the list when we do new cool events. You don't have to hang out to the end of a podcast to hear about it. You'll get it first in your inbox, two to three times a week. FutureCommerce.com/Subscribe. Thanks for listening to this episode of Future Commerce.

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