Episode 242
February 11, 2022

Conspicuous Consumption

Phillip and Brian sit down today to chat all about conspicuous consumption, how it changes in different geographies, where Spotify is headed, how far Amazon has come in their advertising, and how it all relates back to consumerism. Listen now!

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Crossborder, Spotify, and The Truths of Modern Living

  • “A lot of growth in retail and eCommerce is trying to sell you things that really nobody actually needs.” - Phillip
  • Behavioral purchasing modes help explain personal shopping habits and the need to stock up on a product one really likes. We all have behavioral purchasing modes, even though each individual might go about it differently.
  • Step by Step Season 7 Preview: The future of many brands is to go cross-border. But American brands cannot expect that other countries and cultures will have the same shopping habits and demand curve as US markets.
  • “The way that [brand operators] think about that consumer has to change, which means that maybe the whole purpose of [the] brand and the way [operators] market changes too.” - Philip
  • Buying items from Amazon is just pure fun. The Amazon Advertising ecosystem is also a prime example of conspicuous consumption. 
  • You would think with DTC era and the growth of Amazon prime that recycling matters would increase, but they've actually been spiraling down. 
  • Brian offers a genius new venture to Amazon for cardboard recycling. Hey Jassy, take note.
  • “Modern living, our work is really just waste management. Most of our lives are just spent managing our waste. I don't think it's that far from the truth.” - Brian

Phillip: [00:00:15] Hello [00:01:00] and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about the next-generation of commerce. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:01:17] And I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:01:18] Brian is waking [00:01:20] up.

Brian: [00:01:20] Yes.

Phillip: [00:01:21] 5:30 a.m..

Brian: [00:01:22] It's sleepy commerce.

Phillip: [00:01:24] It's very sleepy commerce. We've kind of been a little bit lax. A lot of travel recently. I was just out in Seattle and conference season is kind of coming back. You know, our last episode was about NRF, but I feel like we've been on [00:01:40] a little bit of a tear ever since.

Brian: [00:01:42] Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure. Actually, it's just heating up.

Phillip: [00:01:48] Yeah. February/March are looking pretty busy as well. You're heading to eTail Palm Springs pretty soon, right?

Brian: [00:01:56] I sure am. Which is amazing [00:02:00] actually. It will have been exactly two years since I was last there, which was my last conference before the pandemic hit.

Phillip: [00:02:12] Your last in-person event. Do you remember what your last meal was?

Brian: [00:02:16] Uh-huh. Yep, I do.

Phillip: [00:02:19] What? Go [00:02:20] on. {laughter} Elaborate.

Brian: [00:02:23] It was Maialino in New York and then Rose Bar afterward in Gramercy.

Phillip: [00:02:34] I wasn't there for either of those.

Brian: [00:02:37] No, you weren't. You weren't there.

Phillip: [00:02:39] I was there [00:02:40] in New York the week, I think, after you just by four or five days. And I remember that was a strange time.

Brian: [00:02:47] You were in New York. You just didn't come out.

Phillip: [00:02:50] Is that it?

Brian: [00:02:50] Yeah, you were definitely in New York. You called it an early night.

Phillip: [00:02:53] Yeah. As I am want to do.

Brian: [00:02:57] Yeah. This was a late night.

Phillip: [00:02:58] One of my [00:03:00] last meals I remember was also an interesting meal. It was at Florie's at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach. And actually, this is an interesting lead into one of the things I wanted to talk about today around conspicuous consumption. One of those things of like, literally nobody needs this, [00:03:20] and you certainly don't need as much of it as you have. But everybody has too much of something, whether you buy it or you collect it or you just think about it a lot. So on the topic of conspicuous consumption, Florie's is one of the few places in North America that has [00:03:40] a water somm on staff. In the way that you might have a sommelier for, you know, wine, you would have this for water. And you've had the water tasting at Florie's.

Brian: [00:03:54] I'm pretty sure we've talked about this on the podcast.

Phillip: [00:03:56] On the show? Have we?

Brian: [00:03:57] Yeah, yeah.

Phillip: [00:03:58] Well, we're going to talk about it again.

Brian: [00:04:00] Yeah, [00:04:00] I definitely have. And yes, it was fun. It was a fun experience. It was definitely one that I never thought that I would have, and then I had it.

Phillip: [00:04:11] {laughter} Tasting different waters. I always laugh whenever I have that experience because I'm like, "Yep, that one tastes like water." And [00:04:20] then you taste the next one, and you're like, "That tastes like a different kind of water. It's water. But it's different."

Brian: [00:04:26] Oh, there's no doubt. There are differences in flavor between water. I mean, I've had some pretty gross water before. Really nasty water.

Phillip: [00:04:36] Springfield, Missouri Tap water.

Brian: [00:04:41] Eeh. Eeh.  [00:04:40]

Phillip: [00:04:41] Not good?

Brian: [00:04:42] Yeah, yeah. Especially at a hotel there. Don't do that.

Phillip: [00:04:45] I've heard some people complain about the tap water in Central Florida. You know what's really actually, so on this topic of conspicuous consumption, there was a TikTok that was making the rounds [00:05:00] a few weeks ago, right after the holidays of people that would like go to their grandma's house for Christmas and the grandkids would play a game. It's like Seven Minutes in Heaven, but it's like everybody gets one minute in the pantry to try to find the thing that is most expired out of date in Grandma's pantry.

Brian: [00:05:18] I feel like that's not like Seven [00:05:20] Minutes in Heaven at all. That's One Minute in Gram's Pantry. That's like the opposite.

Phillip: [00:05:25] The premise is you get locked in a closet for a specific period of time. I'm trying to get everybody to understand what's happening.

Brian: [00:05:32]  [00:05:32]Sometimes there are things that appear similar but are complete opposites. [00:05:35]

Phillip: [00:05:37] {laughter} Man, early morning Brian is feisty. Yeah. [00:05:40] So you go in the closet or you go in the pantry, try to find like the oldest, you know, expiration date you can. You'd probably start at the back. You start with canned goods. But if you can come out with, you know, a 10-year-old out-of-date can of green beans, you're probably the winner. Anyway, some very funny TikToks have [00:06:00] ensued, and it just got me thinking down this path of, you know, I have a bigger pantry than I used to. I'm like thinking to myself...

Brian: [00:06:10] Is that a metaphor?

Phillip: [00:06:12] No. But we that's... This is the world we live in now. How much of commerce is actually predicated in the growth metrics that... [00:06:20]

Brian: [00:06:21] I think that was actually a metaphor.

Phillip: [00:06:23] What was a metaphor? I was actually being literal.

Brian: [00:06:26] You were. You were being literal. And ok. What part of speech was that? Anyway, I think you finally did the thing you've been trying to do for a long time where you told a story that was about something else.

Phillip: [00:06:38] Oh, wow. I [00:06:40] did it by accident. Let me finish up my coffee here. Long story short, I have a very large pantry. There's more stuff in it than I need. We have more storage space than we need here in my house. And I thought, you know, let's take a minute and talk about how interesting and maybe kind of gross that is. There's like a really [00:07:00] strange part of me that, you know, you have space, so we have to fill it. And that's sort of just the world that we live in and a lot of growth in retail and e-commerce is trying to sell you things that you really just nobody actually needs.

Brian: [00:07:16] Yeah, definitely, I completely agree. I think a lot of  [00:07:20]advertising is to stoke desire and to awaken things in us that we didn't know existed so that we will go buy things. That might be one of the main [00:07:40] goals of marketing, unfortunately.

Phillip: [00:07:41] Isn't that what we do? That's what we do. Isn't that what we do here? It's true. I have more jeans than I can realistically wear in a given week, right? More pairs of jeans. I've got more, from once upon a time, you know, before the sweatpants era, I have more like [00:08:00] blazers or sport coats than I need. That's just the world, right? That's the world we live in. I just thought that was an interesting point because so much of what we're doing these days, especially when you think about the direct to consumer era and everybody can launch a brand theoretically, although it was supply chain challenges [00:08:20] it's a little harder today than it used to be, there's this idea that you can create your own brand and go sell it. That's what the whole entrepreneurship/solopreneur era should be about. Anyway. Interesting way to start off the show.

Brian: [00:08:37] Actually, this is really, really on point. [00:08:40] I was actually just reading an Arthur Brooks article in The Atlantic, and it was sort of about how to find happiness. I think your point here actually plays really well into sort of his mitigation of it's not about actually having less things. It's not necessarily about [00:09:00] minimalism as we think of minimalism. It's about understanding desire. And he makes a point in there that everyone out there is just selling something [00:09:18]. We've got all these constant voices [00:09:20] that are saying, you should have this thing. There are reasons for you to have this thing. And actually, they might be good reasons. This is the most interesting thing about, I think, what you're saying is that marketing isn't just like a scam where it's like, you know, we're trying to stoke these ideas for no [00:09:40] good reason. There are actually hugely good reasons to want something, but maybe we shouldn't have all the good things. [00:09:49]

Phillip: [00:09:50] There was a piece of research that I conducted over at Rightpoint last year that was investigating this idea of the sampling behavior [00:10:00]. There's sampling where I'm not just going to buy one of the thing, I'm going to buy a whole bunch of the same one of the thing. This idea that I don't just have a black T-shirt. I have like five black T-shirts.

Brian: [00:10:13] You stock up.

Phillip: [00:10:15] Yeah, you stock up or you seek out, right? So [00:10:17] the sampling behavior would be the seeking out behavior [00:10:20] where I'm going to consistently go and try to find the new version of something, or I stock up on something that's really great. And I think we all participate in both of these sorts of behavioral purchasing modes, the modalities of purchase. We all do that, but we do it differently, and it really varies dramatically based [00:10:40] on the category of the kind of product that you purchase. [00:10:43] I will stock up on Liquid Death because I love Liquid Death just as a brand. And I like the water, but I'll seek out brand new types of wellness products, proteins, supplements, that sort of thing. It's wildly [00:11:00] different behavior, even though I'm the same consumer.

Brian: [00:11:03] Isn't anyone that buys one thing at Costco technically a stock-er-upper? You're automatically someone that stocks up if you buy from Costco, unless, of course, you have four children. And then actually you [00:11:20] seek things out at Costco. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:11:22] Yeah, then you've got both, right?

Brian: [00:11:25] There's no stock up.

Phillip: [00:11:28] How many Noosa yogurts do you have in your fridge right now?

Brian: [00:11:33] Probably like three. We're low.

Phillip: [00:11:35] Oh, is that it? I feel like it's got to be more than that.

Brian: [00:11:37] I mean, you know how fast we go through a box of Noosa [00:11:40] yogurts?

Phillip: [00:11:41] I don't know.

Brian: [00:11:41] Do you know how fast the lemon yogurts go?

Phillip: [00:11:46] It's like the second you get home, they're consumed.

Brian: [00:11:49] Yeah. Oh, oh, that's not a joke.

Phillip: [00:11:52] Yeah, yeah. You have a whole crew of people that just go digging for it. It's like a zombie movie.

Brian: [00:11:59] They open the [00:12:00] wrong side of the Noosa box, and they have to pull all the Noosas out just to get to the lemons.

Phillip: [00:12:07] That's really funny. I think about the number of emails I get a day trying to stoke this awareness and desire.  [00:12:20]I don't know why I haven't unsubscribed yet. Nordstrom emails me twice a day. Saks Fifth Avenue emails me twice a day. It doesn't matter what the price point is. I don't think that I'm going to be buying something twice a day. {laughter} It's not actually working on me yet, but everybody emails me now [00:12:40]. Like Budget Rent a Car. How often do you...? I don't know. There are so many things that are just sort of top of mind in the way that marketing is trying to occupy, you know, to be there at the right time with the right message, but they're just doing it not in a targeted way, just hoping that they catch [00:13:00] me when I'm ready.

Brian: [00:13:01] This is a "When everyone's super, no one is" moment, I feel like.

Phillip: [00:13:05] Oh, it is. That's exactly right.

Brian: [00:13:05] Yeah. You email someone twice a day and everyone's emailing someone twice a day. And it's just like, "I'm never going to read any of these." Actually, here's a question for you. Is there a product-focused email [00:13:20] where you make regular purchases out of that email?

Phillip: [00:13:25] A product-focused email that I make regular purchases out of the email. I very rarely get emails from the online florist. The online flower shop Urban Stems, [00:13:40] but when I do, it's usually well-timed for when I need to buy some flowers. For instance, Valentine's Day is coming up next week. I needed to buy some flowers for my wife. So Urban Stems was in my inbox just at the right time. They tend to catch me. They don't email every day or every week. They do it sporadically, [00:14:00] but they do it where it's really well-timed. I tend to purchase from them almost every email they send me. It's that infrequent.

Brian: [00:14:08] Well, that's infrequent purchasing.

Phillip: [00:14:10] Very occasionally.

Brian: [00:14:10] So that's not quite what I was asking.

Phillip: [00:14:12] Sorry. Say it again.

Brian: [00:14:14] So is there a regular email that comes to your inbox...

Phillip: [00:14:16] I was getting cute. I was trying to think of...

Brian: [00:14:18] Oh, it was good. That's a good example [00:14:20] of someone who was well-timed with their emails and you make an infrequent purchase based off of those very well-timed emails. I think it's great. Is there an email that you get on the regular where you're like, "Hmm, yeah, I want that. I'm going to buy that?"

Phillip: [00:14:36] I will almost always open an email that says "Back in stock." I [00:14:40] can't think of a single email from anything, from any sort of brand, from any store. I can't think of an email that turns on the purchase mode for me every time. Why, does that happen to you?

Brian: [00:14:54] Well, I think that's because you're a seeker mostly. You don't stock too many things [00:15:00] at your house.

Phillip: [00:15:03] Five keyboards behind him.

Brian: [00:15:05] And that's not stocking. That's collecting. That's collecting.

Phillip: [00:15:08] Fine. I've got 350 flavors of Nespresso in my cabinets.

Brian: [00:15:13] You do stock in Nespresso. You're absolutely a Nespresso stocker. There's no question there.

Phillip: [00:15:18] I have a garage fridge with [00:15:20] all sorts of flavored fizzy waters. Is that good enough for you?

Brian: [00:15:22] You stock food and drinks. That's what it comes down to. You've got like your Liquid Death, and you've got your Nespresso. You just stock drinks. Actually, I stock drinks, too, but they're actually I'm a seeker there as well. I do buy something on the regular, [00:15:40] which is I do have an email wine club that I will buy stuff from on a regular basis.

Phillip: [00:15:48] Would you call the amount of wine that you buy a form of conspicuous consumption?

Brian: [00:15:53] Probably. Yeah, I think so.

Phillip: [00:16:02] Release [00:16:00] yourself of the emotional baggage, as if this is inherently an evil thing, I'm just saying...

Brian: [00:16:08] No, no, no, no, no, no, no, I'm not, I'm not. I'm trying to temper your expectations about how much wine I buy. It's actually not as much as a lot of wine people buy.

Phillip: [00:16:16] Yeah, some people buy a lot of wine.

Brian: [00:16:18] A lot of wine, a lot of expensive [00:16:20] wine. I buy a lot of medium-priced wine. I mean, it's the medium place.

Phillip: [00:16:29] {laughter} It's the medium place. Putting [00:19:20] this conversation to the side, I do think that there is an interesting tie-in to a forthcoming new season of Step by Step that we're going to be doing. So we're partnering with our friends at Avalara to talk about [00:19:40] the future of many brands, which is going cross-border. And in our prep sessions and in our conversations about going cross-border there's been talk about all of the hidden challenges around cross-border and the things that you have to figure out and learn. And I think about the [00:20:00] opportunity that a lot of brands see about going cross-border and selling overseas and being able to expand their customer base. But I also think about the fact that every time that I've gone to England and I bring a checked bag, I travel with more stuff in my checked bag [00:20:20] than many people or friends of mine that live in London have in their closets.

Brian: [00:20:25] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:20:27] When my family of four travels to London, it's disgusting, actually. It's like, "Oh my gosh, we have too much stuff."

Brian: [00:20:34] Do you break the airplane scale?

Phillip: [00:20:36] Oh, it's broken.

Brian: [00:20:38] You're like, "Oh can I just count that as two [00:20:40] bags instead of one?"

Phillip: [00:20:41] Exactly. And it's actually a little gross. And the last time we were in London, which was pre-pandemic, we showed up and we stayed at a like a hotel or two, but we actually wound up staying with some family and we didn't even have a place to put four checked bags. Where are you going to put four checked bags [00:21:00] in a small house in Leighton Buzzard, out near Milton Keynes? There's nowhere to put four checked bags, American. And so, it got my brain sort of thinking like, "Wow, I'm traveling with more stuff than these people actually [00:21:20] have in their whole home."

Brian: [00:21:21] You travel with like a pair of pants for every day. You've got like a shirt. You've got a whole outfit...

Phillip: [00:21:27] My packing game is on point.

Brian: [00:21:30] That makes it almost worse because...

Phillip: [00:21:32] It is worse.

Brian: [00:21:34] Because you've got everything so neatly packed, you can put in more.

Phillip: [00:21:38] I can put in so much more. Exactly. [00:21:40] And while we're having these conversations about cross-border, I'm thinking to myself, people in other geographies who just have different ways of thinking about the way they consume and their frequency of purchase, the way that they depend on brands and buying things [00:22:00] to just subsist, just to live, I think that that's [00:22:10]... Cross-border is important, but we cannot expect that going overseas we're going to meet with the same sort of demand curve and conspicuous consumption habits that we have here in the [00:22:20] United States. It's not the same type of consumer. And that's a thing that has really been top of mind for me in the last two, three months that we've been planning this season of Step by Step. You just can't transform someone in Europe into the same kind of consumer that we have here in The States. It's not going to happen. So the way that [00:22:40] you think about that consumer has to change, which means that maybe the whole purpose of your brand and the way you market changes too. There are so many upstream effects from selling across borders that I think has to change the way that we think. Anyway. [00:22:52] It's been really enlightening for me.

Brian: [00:22:53] It's funny, too, because if you are a well-known brand, perception of brand... It's [00:23:00] so funny. I feel like it's different. When I was in Italy before the pandemic, you're out and you see American brands, and the way that they present themselves is completely different. You're like, "Yeah, that's not the brand I thought it was."  [00:23:20]

Phillip: [00:23:20] Very different. Very, very different.

Brian: [00:23:24] Speaking of being not the brand you thought it was, Spotify.

Phillip: [00:23:29] Oh gosh, are we touching that?

Brian: [00:23:32] Are we touching that?

Phillip: [00:23:33] We can touch it. I mean, I just wrote a piece on this. Yeah.

Brian: [00:23:37] You did.

Phillip: [00:23:37] What about the Spotify story? Without us [00:23:40] having to explainify, let's assume that everybody understands the whole Joe Rogan Spotify situation. What about that is intriguing, and how can we touch on it here on Future Commerce?

Brian: [00:23:51] Well, let me start my thoughts off here because your article is phenomenal and there's not too much that actually needs to be added to it. [00:24:00] But let me start my thoughts out with a parable. A fable, really.

Phillip: [00:24:05] {laughter} Oh no. A fable?

Brian: [00:24:09] It's called The Man, The Boy, and The Donkey. Have you heard this one? Do you know this fable?

Phillip: [00:24:15] I do not, but I'm...

Brian: [00:24:17] It's a famous fable. This is actually a...

Phillip: [00:24:19] After this podcast [00:24:20] is over...

Brian: [00:24:21] You will. Everyone will know about this fable. They should know about this fable. It's a classic fable. I didn't know about it until recently, either. And I was practically shamed that I didn't know this.

Phillip: [00:24:33] We now present to you, What is it? The Man, The Boy, The Donkey?

Brian: [00:24:37] It's something to that effect. Maybe I'm butchering the name, but [00:24:40] effectively, here's what happens in this fable. A man and his son and a donkey are going along, and the man is riding the donkey and the boy is walking beside him. And someone comes along and is like, "What a terrible dad. How [00:25:00] could he ride that donkey and burden that donkey down and let his son walk next to him? What a bad dad." And the dad is like, "Oh, maybe you're right. I am a bad dad." And he hops off the donkey and he puts his son on the donkey. He walks along and [00:25:20] he's like, "Oh, I'm doing things right now." But then another traveler comes along and says, "That's ridiculous. That son is able-bodied, and that father is kind of old. Why is the young man riding the donkey and the old man has no respect?" And the father [00:25:40] is like, "Oh, you're right. I should be riding the donkey." And so he flips back and he puts the young boy on the ground who walks alongside and he gets back on the donkey. And then another person comes along and says, "This is ridiculous. Why is that boy walking when they have [00:26:00] an able donkey for them both to be riding upon?" And so the man is like, "Wait a minute, yes, we have a donkey. Let's put both of us on this donkey." And so he puts his son on the donkey with him, and they ride along, and then someone comes along and says, "What terrible [00:26:20] donkey owners you have there. Those two people shouldn't be riding that poor, poor donkey. He is in bad shape. He shouldn't have such a heavy load." And the man is like, "Oh, for Pete's sake." He gets off the donkey and he makes the donkey lie down, and he ties up the feet of [00:26:40] the donkey, and he puts the donkey between the old man and the boy on a pole, and they carry the donkey along. And then someone comes along and says, "This is the most ridiculous scene I have ever seen in my life," and [00:27:00] moves along. And just then they're crossing a bridge and the donkey kind of freaks out because it's hanging on its legs. I'm totally butchering the end of the story. Long story short, Donkey falls off down into the river. Drowns. Game over. Because its feet are bound.

Phillip: [00:27:19] That is [00:27:20] not where I thought this was going. And the moral of the fable?

Brian: [00:27:23] The moral of the fable is you better not do what everyone tells you to do. Don't think so highly of what other people think you should do or your donkey is going to drown.

Phillip: [00:27:36] Oh wow, that was a wild ride, Brian.

Brian: [00:27:40] The [00:27:40] ride here is this. Spotify needs to be Spotify.

Phillip: [00:27:45] Oh gosh, I forgot that we were talking about Spotify. I was really bought into this story.

Brian: [00:27:49] Yeah, their company is going to fall into the river and drown.

Phillip: [00:27:54] Kind of like, yeah. Oh gosh. Cautionary tale.

Brian: [00:27:58] A cautionary tale. That's exactly what that [00:28:00] fable is. It's a fable.

Phillip: [00:28:01] It's so funny that I wrote about brinkmanship about three weeks ago, and we're actually right in the middle of like this was just before this all sort of blew up. There is a very clear series of events that will take [00:28:20] place. It starts with the artists leaving the platform. It then moves to podcasters holding out. Brené Brown. Now Michelle and Barack Obama are shopping their podcast around a little bit. Then there are users leaving. I think the straw that will break the  [00:28:40]donkey's bound feet {laughter} in this example will be I think Spotify can withstand all of those sorts of criticisms. It's when the employees at a tech company perform a walkout and decide they don't want to leave anymore. We've seen that break Apple. We've seen that break Google. It's caused really irrational behavior [00:29:00]. In fact, I don't know if you remember the story where Apple fired Antonio Garcia Martinez, who had written a book that had some questionable passages in it many [00:29:20] years before he was employed there. And then, you know, a bunch of Apple employees basically pressured the company to fire him even just after hiring him. Long story short, companies do some really interesting things when you know when employees take up arms when users are leaving when creators [00:29:40] are leaving the platform. And I think one of the problems here is that Spotify just isn't... The reason I held out on Spotify as a musician myself for so many years was that Spotify is the worst of the worst in sharing profits with its creators. The people who actually give them the content that exists on their platform [00:30:00] are the least paid. And that's a shame. That's a shame. So yeah, maybe Spotify just needs to be Spotify. I appreciate Daniel Ek sort of taking the position of "We are free speech platform." But I don't think that that argument is going to help him very [00:30:20] much if employees decide they don't want to work for the company anymore, either.

Brian: [00:30:24] Sure, sure. Actually, I wasn't actually commenting on how they should proceed. I think that they need to own who they are, whatever that means.

Phillip: [00:30:38] Well, I think... I [00:30:40]sn't the natural progression of all of these companies now to try to basically... Everybody's aiming to compete. We'd written in The Senses last week about YouTube's stand-out quarter. Beat out Netflix actually [00:31:00] in the quarter, so YouTube took in, I think, 8.63 Billion dollars in revenue in Q4 of 2021, which beats out Netflix at 7.7 Billion. And when you look at the roadmap and the opportunities [00:31:20] ahead of them, Sundar Pichai, and in particular the CEO of Alphabet, said that the future is in podcasting and gaming and live sports, podcasting being the top of that list. Spotify has got a lot of people coming for it.

Brian: [00:31:37] Yeah, that's true.

Phillip: [00:31:39] It's going to [00:31:40] be a really interesting thing to watch. I would have loved to see a future where Spotify wasn't embroiled in all of this, where they become a much more commerce-centric platform. Having the ad model that they have with on-demand creative, I think that there was a lot of opportunity for channel arbitrage and advertising. Talk about awareness [00:32:00] and desire in the earlier part of this conversation. There are some under leveraged places where there are hundreds of millions of eyeballs and ears that could be hearing brand messages, but it's just under leveraged.

Brian: [00:32:15] I agree.

Phillip: [00:32:15] So, it's interesting. It's such [00:32:20] a funny time too. Just as another aside, right now, the Biden administration is looking at enforcing antitrust rules against the likes of Facebook and in particular around the idea that [00:32:40] Facebook has an advertising monopoly. When you look at the revenues of YouTube and the growing revenue of Spotify and its On-Demand ad product, you start to really wonder does Facebook actually have a monopoly on advertising? Amazon and its ad network is the highest growth part of its business. [00:33:00] Walmart and even the likes of CVS and Walgreens all have started their own ad businesses for their own. I don't think Facebook has a monopoly on advertising in 2022.

Brian: [00:33:15] No, definitely not. In fact, a lot of people really struggle with Facebook advertising, and [00:33:20] they're looking for more affordable advertising options. And they do exist. And in fact, I think Amazon finally released public numbers on their advertising business, and it was astonishing. And I don't remember exactly what they were, but I think it was like 30 Billion or something [00:33:40] like that, I want to say.

Phillip: [00:33:42] When you look at 31 billion, actually. This came out six days ago.

Brian: [00:33:48] Yeah. Pretty close.

Phillip: [00:33:48] So Amazon in 2021 did 31.2 Billion dollars in revenue in advertising. Ad revenue, Brian. That's insane.

Brian: [00:33:59] Yeah, I [00:34:00] mean, Amazon. Amazon. This is why they continue to win. I think they got into the ad business at a really smart time. They were like prime... Prime...

Phillip: [00:34:13] At a prime. {laughter}

Brian: [00:34:14] Yeah, that was amazing. {laughter} I didn't mean to go that way. They [00:34:20] became one of the prime opportunities for searches on the web. They were competing with Google for product searches on the web, but they had been for a long time. It was a no-brainer for them to add an advertising business. In fact, you might [00:34:40] even say that they waited too long on that. It was probably a business that they could have had many years ago and made a lot of money on many years ago. And it was like all that intent was just sitting out there.

Phillip: [00:34:55] It's interesting... Yeah, it's an interesting point. Coming [00:35:00] back again to conspicuous consumption, there's so much that happens, in particular in the Amazon advertising ecosystem, that makes me want to buy things that I don't need, I have to stay off that platform. I really do like buying things on Amazon.

Brian: [00:35:19] I [00:35:20] think that the best example of conspicuous consumption in present-day America is the amount of boxes that people have in their recycling containers.

Phillip: [00:35:34] Oh, yeah.

Brian: [00:35:36] That has been... That is probably the biggest indicator. I wonder [00:35:40]... There are probably stats on this. I should have looked up beforehand, but I wonder how much ramping up of recycling facilities there's been in the past five years?

Phillip: [00:35:54] Wow. I would say that's a really great [00:36:00] point, actually. It looks like, just a quick Google search, that they're starting in around 2017. These aren't very recent numbers. From 2017 to 2018 recycling and composting rates [00:36:20] were decreasing. So at least prior to the height of the DTC era and maybe even like the international growth of Prime, it looks like, according to the EPA, that recycling was trending downward. That's not good.

Brian: [00:36:36] That's actually terrifying because I know for a fact [00:36:40] people have more cardboard.

Phillip: [00:36:42] It's true. No, we all do. Especially, post COVID where a lot of people were ordering a lot more online.

Brian: [00:36:52] Really, oh my gosh. Wait, wait, hold on. Before the segue. Amazon's next business is to just add cardboard [00:37:00] compactors onto the back of their trucks and just become...

Phillip: [00:37:05] Oh yeah...

Brian: [00:37:07] They could replace my local waste management.

Phillip: [00:37:08] Yeah, you know, that's not a terrible idea.

Brian: [00:37:12] No, it's not. It's actually a really good idea.

Phillip: [00:37:14] Matt Bertulli, who has been on the show actually says, "Waste is a very durable business [00:37:20] to be in because humans will always produce a whole lot of it and someone's got to do something with it."

Brian: [00:37:26]  [00:37:26]Here's my take on modern living. Modern living, our work is really just waste management. Most of our lives are just spent managing our waste. I [00:37:40] don't think it's that far from the truth. [00:37:42]

Phillip: [00:37:45] Wow. Ok, let's put that into Visions. Speaking of Visions, just as we're getting close to wrapping up here, we are in the midst of building our next big omnibus report. This semiannual [00:38:00] consumer research piece that we do that actually has a really new component this year. It's called Casting Visions, and we are building our next version of the Visions report, which is one of the biggest things we do all year. We're building it in public, and we'd love for you to take part in it. If you go to FutureCommerce.fm/Visions, [00:38:20] then you can check out all the work that we're doing there and we'd love for you to be part of it. We are doing weekly live streams every week. If you want to find out when they happen you can subscribe over a FutureCommerce.fm/Subscribe and get on our list. We'll tell you when the next one is coming up, and [00:38:40] we have some really great guests, folks who are helping us build this, and they're great friends of the Future Commerce team and family. And so we're just really excited to be on this ride. We've got 10 more of these live streams coming up, and we're going to put all of this together into one giant piece of research and something that's really entertaining [00:39:00] and fun for everybody to engage with.

Brian: [00:39:04] I'm excited. It's going to be fun.

Phillip: [00:39:05] Maybe conspicuous consumption is part of it. Who knows? But we will be working on all of that in public for everyone to see so that we can have a broader amount of participation. And let's face it, let's just be honest, building it in public actually is just how we're keeping ourselves [00:39:20] accountable to work on it ahead of time. So anything else to say, Brian? That was a really interesting show. I did not expect opening the show that way would take us on a thirty-five-minute little jaunt. But I really thought it was great. And I like 5:30 a.m. Brian. 5:30 a.m. Podcast Brian is a good Brian. [00:39:40]

Brian: [00:39:41] Yeah, it's like middle of the day Brian that's not a good Brian. It's like late-night Brian and early morning Brian.

Phillip: [00:39:47] Early caffeinated Brian. I'm here for it.

Brian: [00:39:50] Oh, that was pre-caffeination, man.

Phillip: [00:39:53] Oh, you haven't even had...

Brian: [00:39:53] I just finished my first cup of coffee while we were podcasting. It definitely hasn't hit yet.

Phillip: [00:40:01] Go [00:40:00] check out one of your, you know, 30 flavors of Nespresso and think about how you know you're going to manage that waste sometime later this week. All right. Thank you for listening to Future Commerce. I don't know. I can't tell if this was like an upper or a downer.

Brian: [00:40:15] Downer.

Phillip: [00:40:15] I had fun doing it. It was a really great episode. If you want more episodes of [00:40:20] this podcast, you can get it FutureCommerce.fm, and we are in your inbox two to three times a week with things that are only worth your time. We have our newsletter called The Senses, and we have our in-depth research pieces that come out. We also have our deep dive essays that come out every Monday, that's called Insiders, [00:40:40] all of which you can find out more about and be up to date on when those land. You can get those at FutureCommerce.fm. That's it. Thank you for listening to this episode of Future Commerce.

Brian: [00:40:51] Peace.

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