Episode 123
August 30, 2019

Focused Brands Find Their Audience

How do brands create retention strategies centered around content to keep their customers consistently purchasing? Emily Singer, the founder of consumer brand-focused newsletter Chips + Dip, joins the show to talk trends, brand analysis and how modern brands are using storytelling to create rich, immersive experiences for their customers.

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How do brands create retention strategies centered around content to keep their customers consistently purchasing? Emily Singer, the founder of consumer brand-focused newsletter Chips + Dip, joins the show to talk trends, brand analysis and how modern brands are using storytelling to create rich, immersive experiences for their customers.

Listen now!

Main Takeaways:

  • Emily Singer, Marketing Manager at Alma and the Founder of the Chips + Dips newsletter, joins Brian and Philip on today's episode.
  • Brands are trending towards developing unique voices that automatically identify their target customers.
  • How do smaller brands compete with the widespread voice of larger brands?
  • Phillip and Emily have visited Showfields, but did it live up to the hype?

Chips + Dips: The Story Behind the Content (And The Author):

  • Emily gives us a walkthrough of a typical issue of Chips + Dips as well as what she prefers to cover in her writing. (Spoiler: there are dip recipes with every edition.)
  • Phillip asks Emily to give us a brief history of how Chips + Dips came about and to give us the "Emily Singer Story".
  • Early in her career, Emily wanted to work in media, and Chips + Dips came about because she wanted an outlet where she could write the stories that she wanted to write.
  • No one was creating a casual analysis of news and trends that focused on the brand stories instead of looking at numbers and revenue, so Emily created Chips + Dips to fill that void.

Untangling the Threads: Discovering Brand Trends:

  • Brian asks Emily to explain a bit how she untangles the threads she discovers in the world of brands and marketing.
  • By latching onto things that may seem insignificant or small, Emily can use her unique mind to piece together the bigger picture amidst several publications.
  • Emily blows Phillip's mind by letting him know that she has a separate Instagram account that just follows brands so it doesn't disrupt the flow of her interests on her main account. (Phillip also brings up how he doesn't let Brian choose music on his Spotify account.)

Bridging the Gap: Insights from a Direct to Consumer Insider:

  • Emily talks about her first direct to consumer experience with JackThreads (which was acquired by Thrillist) and what she did when working with the brand.
  • Most recently, Emily worked at Daily Harvest, and how the subscription service company differed from her other direct to consumer experience.
  • Phillip brings up how there are brands (such as JackThreads and Gilt Groupe) that harken back to a certain "era" of eCommerce and how these brands change with the times.
  • People are more thoughtful and intentional consumers nowadays which has caused brands to shift their focus to customer retention as opposed to flash sales.

Retail and Direct-To-Consumer: Competing For Your Attention:

  • Brian asks Emily to talk a bit more about content and the role that content plays in retail and brands.
  • In the retail space, brands are spreading their wings and trying to cast a wider net and provide customers with more ways to engage, and content is a simple and logical way to do that.
  • Outdoor Voices sells workout gear, but they also have a very robust Instagram story approach that allows consumers to engage with the brand differently.
  • "Brand is all about storytelling and building a rich, immersive experience."

The Power of Touchpoints: Reaching the Customer in New Ways:

  • Phillip brings up Haus, a brand that has one product, and how Haus needs a way and reason to talk to you outside of selling their product.
  • Do companies with a narrow vertical need to expand the number of customer touchpoints to remain relevant?
  • Emily discusses Great Jones, a cookware company, and how their strategy differs because what they sell is supposed to be a more permanent fixture in their customers' lives.
  • Brian references the episode with Charlie Cole from Tumi and how Tumi wants its customers to use their bags for a long time so it has to create new touchpoints to stay relevant with their customers.

Smaller Brand Strategies: How to Compete with the Big Guys:

  • Phillip remembers the panel he led at Commerce Next that covered how smaller brands need to reorient the way they view lifetime value to be customer-centric.
  • Floyd has partnered with Airbnb in a collaboration called Stay Floyd that features home rentals fully outfitted with Floyd furniture.
  • Brian cleverly points out that stories with multiple characters are the best stories, and when you think about brand partnerships, you see how their stories merge and create something more complete and powerful when told with others.
  • In the episode with Jeremy King from Pinterest, Jeremy spoke about how Pinterest was trying to lead its users to interact with the real world, and Phillip compares this to brands with a conscious.

The Most Interesting Store in the World: Did It Live Up to the Hype?:

  • Back in Episode 89 with Brandon Singer (Phillip mistakenly says it's Episode 97) was when Showfields was first discussed, and now Phillip and Emily recently visited the location.
  • Emily describes Showfields as one of the few companies trying to make a direct to consumer department store. (Neighborhood Goods is another one that is opening in New York this fall.)
  • When Emily first visited Showfields, there was only one floor and felt much more like an Instagram experience than an actual department store.
  • Each brand has its own micro experience, but there is no cohesion between the different brands because the Showfields brand is too strong and competing with the brands it contains. (Phillip agrees with some serious sass.)

The Other Side of the Screen: Phillip Tries a Thought Experiment:

  • Phillip tries a thought experiment and asks Brian and Emily to think about the persona of brands and not the persona of the consumer.
  • Should brands enable their consumers to be content creators to then leverage that consumer-created content to make their brand more socially aware?
  • What people care about and value is more important to a marketer than their personality.
  • Brands that are focused and have a strong story will find their audience without having to cast a wide net to capture the attention of a vast range of consumers. (Tracksmith is a great example of this.)

What the Future Holds: Emily's Predictions:

  • Emily predicts that retail space is only going to get increasingly crowded and increasingly noisy, thus making staying in business a challenge
  • Retention overgrowth and finding ways to foster brand affinity and lifetime value are going to be keys to staying in business and being successful.
  • You don't need to build a billion-dollar brand, you can stay small.
  • Building brands that are sustainable and thoughtful calls upon the people running the brands to be more thoughtful themselves when it comes to raising capital.

Brands Mentioned in this Episode:

As always: We want to hear what our listeners think! Is it possible to bootstrap a brand when organic is dead and social marketing is pay-to-play?

Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on Futurecommerce.com, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Retail Tech is moving fast, but Future Commerce is moving faster.

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Brian: [00:00:00] Welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:00:05] And I'm Phillip. And today we have a very special guest, Emily Singer, the founder of the Chips and Dips newsletter, which is a consumer brand focused newsletter that I recently discovered, and I'm a huge fan of, is on the show with us today. Welcome, Emily.

Emily: [00:00:19] Thanks for having me.

Phillip: [00:00:20] I consider you to be like somewhat of an expert in the space that we're exploring around the sort of direct to consumer. And that's only because I think the space is actually quite small and most people can like raise their hands and be experts and say, I'm an expert, but you're doing it in an extremely unique way in that you're doing what I would consider to be sort of medium to long form content. That's really, really smart. Could you explain a little bit about Chips and Dips and like the newsletter and sort of the focus,.

Emily: [00:00:51] It's more or less whatever I'm interested in. I don't publish on any sort of set cadence. I don't have any like one thing that I'm kind of diving into. But the general gist is it's broad analysis of news and trends within the consumer brand space, and it leads with small news bites. Those are the chips. It just like links out to whatever the kind of news item is. There's a dip, which is a deeper dive in to whatever is kind of on my mind at the moment. And then there's a real dip recipe to kind of tie all together.

Brian: [00:01:34] That's the best part.

Emily: [00:01:34] That's what everyone tells me.

Brian: [00:01:38] No, it's not. It's not. But it's such a nice touch. And I feel like I always learn something, whether it be a new dip recipe or something really, really insightful about, you know, direct to consumer or any kind of consumer brand. I always feel like I learn something every time I read your newsletter.

Emily: [00:02:00] Thank you.

Brian: [00:02:00] Well, congratulations. Well done. It's awesome.

Phillip: [00:02:05] Yeah. We reached out to you because we just were sort of fascinated by the amount of knowledge and the depth of that knowledge. So I my my first question was, who is Emily Singer? And like, how did you come to the point that you felt like, you know, just writing this kind of content was important for you, or important for awareness for e-commerce brands and retailers to learn from? I guess what I'm asking is who? Who is Emily Singer?

Emily: [00:02:34] So my, I guess my like LinkedIn bio summary, which I'll lead with, and then I'll get to like how the newsletter kind of came about. So I'm Founder of Chilps and Dips. I work as the marketing manager at Alma, which is a co practicing community for therapists and mental health practitioners like coaches, acupuncturist, nutritionists... They take a pretty broad, holistic approach to wellness. And general, kind of like brand enthusiast, internet sleuth, storyteller, and the kind of long winded answer as to how Chips and Dips came about is that I more or less just wanted an outlet. Early in my career I wanted to work in media, and I initially pursued a career as a journalist working for digital media brands. And pretty soon realize that the media landscape just isn't particularly writer friendly. I wasn't really able to write the stories that I wanted to be writing, which tended to be more research heavy, analysis driven stories.

Emily: [00:03:54] A lot of it was really just like whatever you can produce the fastest, that will get as many clicks as possible and then like move on to the next thing. That's not what I wanted to be doing. So I kind of shifted my attention towards marketing and brand strategy. Not realizing at the time that like marketing is storytelling. When I was first starting, in my mind I didn't know a marketing was like in my head, marketing was advertising and I wanted nothing to do with that. Because I didn't know any better. So I shifted myself, shifted my attention towards marketing and really enjoyed it, found it like super fulfilling, but still kind of found myself craving an outlet. I really, really like writing and researching and analyzing things and just kind of untangling threads. And the newsletter kind of scratched that itch, so to speak. [00:04:56] And I subscribe to a bunch of different newsletters, but wasn't really seeing anyone doing a casual analysis of news and trends, not looking at numbers, not looking at like year over year revenue growth or like that kind of stuff. Like just really looking at the story that a brand is putting forth and trying to pick that apart. So that's what I try to do with Chips and Dips, and I've gotten really great responses thus far. It's like not even six months old. [00:05:29] So, yeah.

Brian: [00:05:32] So how do you untangle those those trends? I mean, I love that the research aspect of this. I think you've done a great job of identifying interesting trends. What's your method? How do you do this?

Emily: [00:05:50] I spend a lot of time online. It's kind of like a short answer. And I, for whatever reason, am just able to remember things and kind of latch on to things that maybe seem insignificant or small. And... I don't know... I am very much online. I read Tech Crunch and Fast Company like first thing in the morning. I'll check Twitter. Twitter's a great source for news. I think Instagram is kind of like a sleeper hit in that area and that brands using it a lot to tease product, launch new things... And if you follow a lot of direct to consumer brands on Instagram, you'll eventually start to be served ads for new brands that are operating in a similar space. So it becomes a really great discovery tool, in that sense.

Phillip: [00:06:47] Yeah. Yeah, I found the same. Brian and I have this story. A few weeks ago I visited him out in Seattle and we did this meet up with Amazon Pay, and we were driving back and forth to Seattle in the car a few times that week. And every time we get in a car, Brian says, "Oh, play this on your Spotify." And my first response is I do not want to put things into my search, on my Spotify that are of your taste. It's going to ruin my Spotify. And I feel that way about Instagram, too. I do not want to search for that.

Emily: [00:07:22]  [00:07:22]You should make a second account that you just use to follow brands. That's what I do. [00:07:27]

Phillip: [00:07:27]  [00:07:27]Wow.

Brian: [00:07:29]  [00:07:29]Wow. That's good.

Emily: [00:07:30]  [00:07:30]Yeah, I have an account that I used to follow like 200 plus brands, and I don't check it every day. I don't check it as often as my main Instagram. But yeah, it's just a really great way to keep tabs on what brands are doing. [00:07:45]

Brian: [00:07:46] That's smart.

Phillip: [00:07:48] It's sort of like you're doing like mental channel management of the types of content you want to see in certain areas. It's like the differentiator of what Slack was to AOL Instant Messenger is, you know, that you're curating for yourself. I think that's genius. I have this sense that, you know, you as a writer have a different viewpoint in the world. You're able to communicate very complicated ideas simply and because of your background, I think you do that really well. So a newsletter just makes perfect sense. So your perspective is a consumer, but I'm curious how you bridge that into what seems like really actionable insights or advice. Have you worked for a retail or direct to consumer brand in the past?

Emily: [00:08:37] I have. So the first kind of direct to consumer experience I had was at a brand called JackThreads, which was a men's e-commerce site. It launched as a flash sale site during... I actually don't even know what year. Early, early on when like flash sale was like the thing. And it was acquired by Thrillist. And Thrillist was the first company that I worked for out of college. That was my first media experience. And I was hired on more so the media side and through just general company evolutions got moved over to the JackThreads side. And by that point, JackThreads had shifted away from flash sale and was kind of functioning as like an online H & M, Zara, Gap...like basics with some kind of like fashiony pieces. And it was a really fast paced environment. So that was kind of my first experience in the brand space. And then most recently I was at Daily Harvest. I was there for almost two years, and that was a different kind of direct consumer, in that it's a subscription business. Where they're kind of like sales model is slightly different in the marketing and messaging that you're putting out. Your speaking more to the broad benefits of the product rather than like, here's why you need this specific T-shirt.

Phillip: [00:10:22] Yeah, because you're speaking to people who have a different association with a brand like Daily Harvest, where to them it might be, you know, weight loss focused or health conscious or maybe it's lifestyle, like vegan or vegetarianism, or it can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people, right?

Emily: [00:10:42] Right. And what I really liked about Daily Harvest is that we never spoke about diets or weight loss or any of that. It's just like, "Everyone knows that they should be eating more fruits and vegetables, so eat more fruits and vegetables, and Daily Harvest makes it easy to do that."

Phillip: [00:11:00] Well my 8 year old doesn't know that yet. I'm still trying.

Emily: [00:11:06] They have smoothies that taste like chocolate milkshakes, with like a cup of Kale in it. She'd never know.

Phillip: [00:11:12] Yeah. Wow.

Brian: [00:11:13] I want that. I need that.

Phillip: [00:11:15] Ok, and this episode was brought to you by Daily Harvest. {laugther} It's interesting what you mentioned there that I think it really sort of harkens... When you said JackThreads it like turned on a part of my brain I haven't used in a long time, which is there are brands that are sort of a particular era where JackThreads having a business model that was centered around a flash sale, made a lot of sense in 2009.

Emily: [00:11:46] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:11:47] Right? In 2010. That was that was an era of e-commerce, and what we might have called pure play e-commerce at the time. It was all about the incentive and the timed offer. And we saw a lot of really big players at the time like Gilt Groupe, which I thought was really interesting recipes. But we go through trends. We go through fads. And I'm curious if there's a trend or a fad that you see now in the modern brand ecosystem, or if they've more homogenized to operate like the big global, traditional brick and mortar brands in that they're doing more of the things that those brands are doing. It's less about the schtick or a fad.

Emily: [00:12:35] Yeah, I think... [00:12:38] I think people are smarter consumers now. They're more thoughtful and intentional consumers in that... I mean, people still do love a deal. There's a reason why Amazon does Prime Day, and it beats records year after year, and just is crazy. But I think brands are starting to shift their focus more towards retaining customers and finding ways to extend lifetime value and keep people engaged with the brand. And with that, I think we're seeing two main buckets. One is community driven, which is kind of the Outdoor Voices model, where they engage people in real life. They do events. Things like that. And then there's kind of the more education backed, usually with a sustainability element, like a brand with a conscience, so to speak. And I'd argue that like Everlane fits into that bucket. Feed, the probiotic brand, does a lot around education. Brands that are selling you something that you can feel good about buying is I think where we're heading. [00:14:09]

Brian: [00:14:12] Interesting. Yeah. I'm thinking back to your sort of initial like what you wanted to do, Emily. You wanted to get into media, and then you found yourself here in the world of marketing, and you found yourself in retail specifically. I wonder, as we're sort of seeing maybe the sunset of Hollywood, and we've talked about this on the show a little bit before... But like new content. And the two stories, the two brand types that you've outlined here, two go-to market strategies, if you will, they both have really compelling sort of content components to them. You have to tell stories to be in direct to consumer retail right now. And so I wonder, what do you think about the role of content in retail and in brands, and are we the next Hollywood? Or even more so? I think we even saw like a really big rise of tech as content to, you know, back in the 2000s. So it kind of went from Hollywood to tech. But I wonder, what do you think about retail and direct consumer and brands being the new main source of how we consume content?

Phillip: [00:15:53] Competing for your attention. They're competing for your attention, right.

Brian: [00:15:57] Exactly. And your money.

Emily: [00:15:59] I think oh, I absolutely think that there is something there. I don't know that it will be the primary source or I mean, maybe it is, because like at the end of the day, Netflix is a brand, Disney is a brand. [00:16:16] But in the retail space, I do think that brands are kind of spreading their wings and trying to cast a wider net and provide customers with more ways to engage with them, and content is a really simple, kind of logical, way to do that. [00:16:35]  Outdoor Voices sells stuff that you'd wear to work out, but they also have a really robust Instagram story concept, so you're able to engage with the brand outside of your workout class, and they just introduced a content platform. And there's a zine. I haven't seen it yet, but there's a zine that comes with each purchase. So that maybe be something that you keep out on a coffee table after you've purchased your new pair of leggings. [00:17:18] Brand is all about storytelling, and it's all about building a rich, immersive experience and content, whatever form that takes, whether that's video, podcast, exclusively on Instagram, even just email storytelling, it just gives people more ways to engage with the brand. [00:17:42]

Phillip: [00:17:44] Cynically I wonder to myself if that's just because of the... Did we get here because this is what the consumer wants and it's what moves the needle for a business? Because let's face it, before Amazon Prime and before Amazon Originals and their video streaming, I don't know that we thought of Amazon as a media or a content company, but they had a tremendous amount of real estate in the psyche of a consumer. And so this is one strategy to take up more real estate in the psyche of a consumer where a brand like Haus, which is an aperitif, which I learned from you, by the way, and from Chips and Dips. Go subscribe. A brand like Haus has one product, and they need a way, a vehicle, to be able to continue to have a reason to talk to you outside of, "Here's a new product... This product is on sale..." [00:18:52] It's not just about the purchase of the product. It's having a legitimate reason to continue the story with you. And I wonder if that's just an outcome of companies having very narrow vertical and focusing very explicitly, instead of broadening the category, they're broadening their number of touch points with you to be relevant in every area of your life. [00:19:19]

Emily: [00:19:20] Yeah, I definitely think there's something to that. I was actually just talking to someone about kind of different categories within the direct to consumer space, and how there are certain brands whose product lend themselves to repeat purchases. Like, let's say Outdoor Voices. You can buy as many pair of leggings as you want, but with a brand like Great Jones, which sells cookware, in an ideal world, you buy that cookware and then you don't buy anything from them again because you have the cookware that you need. So content then just becomes a way, another way to keep that brand top of mind to take up... It's like a chicken or the egg, kind of situation, I think.

Brian: [00:20:25] I like that differentiation between repeat purchases vs. one time, longtime purchases and how different their strategy has to be around how they speak with their consumers and stay connected to them. I think back to our interview with Charlie Cole from Tumi and you're gonna buy only so much luggage, or hopefully only so much luggage, in your life, and Tumi wants it to be one of those purchases that, until you decide you want a different color or something like that, they're using that same set of bags for a long, long, long, long time. Right?

Emily: [00:21:06] Yeah.

Brian: [00:21:06] So they have a few touch points. We talked about how they've replaced wheels on the spot, and how powerful that's been to their customers. But thinking to cookware, you want to have the same set of knives for ever, forever.

Emily: [00:21:29] Yeah.

Brian: [00:21:30] And so how do you, as a brand, continue to tell a story there and have those touch points? Really interesting. Really interesting point.

Emily: [00:21:38] Yeah. And content is just a really effective way to get at that because...like what Great Jones does. They send newsletters that feature really interesting people with recipes that they've created using Great Jones product. And maybe it inspires you to create the same recipe, kind of showing the way the product fits into different people's lives.

Phillip: [00:22:07] I'm sensing a tie in with Chips and Dips and the real dips section with a Great Jones. I feel like there's a natural tie in there.

Emily: [00:22:16] Yeah. Yeah. A dip party.

Phillip: [00:22:19] Yeah. I also really appreciate that you didn't use away as your example because that's the one I think everybody usually reaches for. I think the long term strategy... [00:22:33] I led a panel at CommerceNext with Shop Runner and American Express, and one of the things that came out was, OK, well, this is all well and good for big companies, like American Express, to say you should do this, you should form strategic partnerships. But how do the little guys make that work? I think that the response to that that I thought was really insightful is that you have to reorient the way that you think about lifetime value because everybody talks about LTV. They all talk about lifetime value of a customer, but they actually aren't in it for the lifetime. They're in it for this quarter, and they need to move the needle on LTV this quarter and the long term play, to be customer centric, the long term play for a company like Away or Casper is not for Away to get into bedding and Casper to grow category into travel. It's for them to see opportunity to partner and tell the story together while respecting, you know, the purest strategy of being directly focused on their category. So I, as an Away luggage owner, would love to see a Casper partnership to choose a hotel or an Airbnb that has a Casper mattress in it. And I think that is the future of modern brands. [00:24:03] And I think that could be a recipe for success for any any brand of any size, at every price point.

Emily: [00:24:10] Yeah. I think Floyd has actually done that. The furniture company, they're based in Detroit, and they have, I think they call it Stay Floyd, and they're basically Airbnbs that are fully furnished with Floyd Furniture.

Phillip: [00:24:27] Yes, it's so transformational. And I think those things are so hard to pull off. But when they work, they work so well.

Brian: [00:24:36] Well, when you think about storytelling. [00:24:39] Stories have usually more than one character to them. Stories that have more characters, that are complex and interesting, and have stories that weave together are the best stories. And so when you think about storytelling, and you think about brand partnerships, well, you have to talk about how those stories weave together and form a new and more powerful story. Those characters play together. So I think that as brands, for our listeners, as you tell your own story, you have to do it in the context of other characters. Your story is going to be more beautiful and more complete and more powerful when you tell it with others. [00:25:23]

Emily: [00:25:24] Yeah, yeah. And it's true that brands today don't exist in a vacuum. I think you need to be aware of the landscape around you. And that actually kind of ties in to the multi-brand storytelling leading to something richer, ties into an early principle that Glossier promoted, which was that they viewed their product and marketed their product as an ingredient within a broader recipe of your skincare routine. It was never meant to be the only thing in your medicine cabinet. It was like one piece of the puzzle. And I think that, especially early on as they were growing their product line, that served them very, very well.

Brian: [00:26:17] It's so smart. It's the opposite of arrogance as a brand. It's understanding your role and your place. You're not the most important thing in the world. You play a part in that story. I like that a lot.

Emily: [00:26:31] Yeah. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:26:33]  [00:26:33]I felt like that was really interesting. So you're talking about sort of on one end of the spectrum. On the way on the other end of the spectrum, like from a social media platform perspective, we had Jeremy King from Pinterest on the show recently. And he said they're position, as a discovery platform to find things you love, is to go out in the real world and then go experience them. So if you have a board of national parks in the United States, of places you want to visit, they should lead to real world experiences. They're not trying to force you into a cycle of dopamine hits to keep you addicted to the platform. They're trying to get you to interact with the real world. And that sounds a lot like brands that have a conscience is understanding the role in the consumer's life that you have and respecting that and not vying for one hundred percent ownership of attention. [00:27:35] That's really, really impressive. So speaking of... You and I, Emily, we visited Showfields recently.

Emily: [00:27:47] We did.

Phillip: [00:27:48] And Showfields, for those who may not be aware, we spoke about Showfields first on the show, I think back in Episode 97, with Brandon L. Singer from Cushman & Wakefield. And at the time, I had really no concept of what Sheffields was. Seeing it for myself in real life recently was an experience. It was very experience driven, but maybe not the experience they wanted me to have. I'm curious what... You've now been a couple of times, Emily. I'd love to hear... Oh, I didn't actually give the background. Showfields... It's the most interesting store in the world. People that heralded it as the Mall of the Future. Or it's effectively a "we work for direct to consumer type brands" where there is space set up for brands to come up and set up shop for an ill defined period of time. It could be for a short period of time, long period of time. It's not always focused on the direct sale or exchange of goods there onsite. But more to experience the brands and their own little setting and to interact with them and to apparently have an actor led guided tour. That's a whole other thing. Emily, I'd love to hear more about what you think about Showfields and sort of its role in this new brand, consumer brand landscape.

Emily: [00:29:15] Yeah, So Showfields is one of the few companies trying to make a direct to consumer department store. Neighborhood Goods is another one doing it. And they're opening in New York this fall, which I'm really curious to see what that looks like. And, so I first went to Showfields like a couple of days after it first opened. And at that point it only had one floor. It was the ground floor. And when we went this time around, it had three floors open to the public. And they've definitely changed the setup since then. When I first went, it kind of felt much more like an Instagram heavy experience where a) it was more crowded in part because it had just opened. But I think it was... I think it was Function of Beauty, which is a custom shampoo brand, was in there and they had like a bathtub that people were like lying in to take photos with. So it was more kind of like engaging, in that sense. And it felt like when it first opened, it felt like each brand had its own micro experience, and it kind of gave you a little bit more to do, but it still didn't feel super cohesive. Which I think is something that has stayed true as it's added two more floors. [00:31:00] And I think... I have been thinking about like what felt off about it. And I think it kind of comes down to the fact that the Showfields brand and the Showfields vision is too strong, and it's competing with the brands inside of it. And so you at this point, especially with the actor-led piece, you're going to Showfields from the Showfields experience, not to see these brands. [00:31:30]

Phillip: [00:31:34] Wow. Yeah. I think you hit the nail on the head. I didn't hear that viewpoint until just now. We hadn't talked about it since then. I think I fully agree. [00:31:49] My first experience did feel like I wanted to talk to people more. [00:31:53]

Emily: [00:31:53]  [00:31:53]And there weren't people.  [00:31:54]

Phillip: [00:31:54]  [00:31:54]And there aren't people there. I went to go engage with the brands, but in reality, I'm going to engage with a museum exhibit of what the brand could be. And that's not how I went to interact with in a shopping context. I also again, I'm going to the department store the future. My mind was centered around what can I buy while I'm here to sort of take home as a souvenir. And I remember Bob Schwartz of Nordstrom.com... He repeated someone else quoting it, and maybe someone can look it up and attribute it. But I heard it first from him. He said, "The brand is the theme park and the product is the souvenir." And in the Showfields context, it is very much a theme park, but the only souvenir that you can acquire while you're there is the memory or the experience, of an actor led guided experience. It's not necessarily the product. [00:33:05] And there were some cases, especially like the Klarna, Man Repeller collab that they had at the space, where I probably would have purchased something there. They had product hanging there with a price tag on it, but there was no one there to take an order. There was no kiosk to interact with. And so my head was certainly fixed around a purchase decision in going there, and I felt like I walked away unfulfilled. But the coffee shop was kind of fun.

Emily: [00:33:37] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:33:39] Yeah. How does that track you? Does that sound...?

Emily: [00:33:42] Yeah. And I think I agree, it wasn't clear that you could purchase anything. They had tablets in some of the booths, but those seem like they were mostly being used for like email collection. There wasn't even a like a button that you could press to have like a sales rep come over and help you. None of that. I was thinking about ways that, OK, if they want it to be kind of hands off, it's maybe supposed to be self guided, and there aren't people, what are ways that they can still create a meaningful experience? And I kind of drew the connection between the Cooper Hewitt Museum. Have either of you been?

Phillip: [00:34:32] No.

Brian: [00:34:32] No.

Emily: [00:34:34] So it's a design museum on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. I highly recommend it next time you're in New York, and when you buy your ticket, they give you this kind of oversized pen looking thing. And as you go around the museum, you have the opportunity to kind of scan things with your pen and it saves your visit for you so that after you leave the museum, you can go home and plug in whatever like your pin number is, and then you have a digital record of everything that you saved.

Brian: [00:35:11] Cool.

Emily: [00:35:12] Which if you're not able... If at Showfields you're not able to purchase things onsite, you should at least be able to kind of like copy and paste them into like a digital record. So borrowing that like Cooper Hewitt technology and applying it to this kind of multi-brand department store of the future kind of thing, that would be a really great way to integrate technology and potentially get people to buy things.

Brian: [00:35:41] I love that. It's so funny that you bring up the museum example because instead of being at Showfields with you all when we were in New York last, I was at the Museum of American Natural History with my family. And I was just thinking about your sort of comparison to a museum. I think it's a really good comparison because you know what we did when we were at museum? We went we oohd and aahd at the things that were there, and we took pictures.

Emily: [00:36:16] Yup. Yeah.

Brian: [00:36:18] And we learned about them. And I feel like Showfields, based on what you're saying, again I wasn't there, but I'm going to go there when I go back to New York... Is that this is the place to take pictures. You brought up the bathtub example. You know, the Instagram feel. And it's really not a place to purchase. It's a place to get free content. {laughter}

Emily: [00:36:43] Yeah. Yeah. You go and look and take pictures and then maybe you buy something in the gift shop.

Brian: [00:36:49] Exactly.

Phillip: [00:36:49] Yeah. Yeah. You are, by the way, sort of, kind of led through the gift shop on the way out the door. That's a whole other thing.

Brian: [00:36:55] Exit through the gift shop. {laughter}

Emily: [00:36:57] Yeah. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:36:59] Yeah. But it's interesting. So it's like kind of bringing it full circle. I think that's such an interesting sort of takeaway on the current state of it. Sounds like others are trying to replicate it. It brought me back to, and this is a little bit of a thought experiment... We haven't ever done this on the show, but I thought it would be an interesting thought experiment. I had a conversation with someone who heads up marketing for a digitally native vertical brand recently, and they were saying how their approach to content creation is not just persona based. It's more about, you know, playing to... They used Myers Briggs as sort of an example. It's like, well, it's not just the persona, it's deeper than that. It's like, how does an INFJ think about our brand? And let's think about that. Which kind of blew my mind, but also, you know, I was sort of immediately put off on on the idea that Myers Briggs is something that's going to guide a sales team effort. That's a whole other thing. It just got me starting to think about sort of archetypes of the personas of the brands and not necessarily the persona of the consumer. So I thought maybe we could think about that for a minute. You mentioned that there's really two kinds... You said there was sort of two buckets, Emily. There is a community focused and...

Brian: [00:38:30] Conscious.

Emily: [00:38:30] Yeah, liked educational, conscious brand.

Phillip: [00:38:33] Right. I'm curious sort of how you see the world in in that regard as a content creator. Do you think that that helps creating content that way? Is that something that a brand should be thinking about? And is that something that a consumer might really appreciate? Does that make the experience more personal? Or is that something that...in this world...how does that sort of mindset around creating marketing sit with you?

Emily: [00:38:58] That's a really interesting question. [00:39:00] I don't know that content would be any more effective if you were to tailor it to different consumer personas. But I do think that there is something to be said for kind of creating content that hits at different value props, which if you're hitting at different value props, then maybe you're more likely a version of one might resonate with one person version two might resonate with another. And they both ultimately convert and become customers. [00:39:28]

Brian: [00:39:29] Whoa. Are you saying that what people care about and value is more important to a marketer than their personality?

Emily: [00:39:38] Maybe. {laughter}.

Phillip: [00:39:38] When you say it like that, it doesn't sound so revolutionary.

Emily: [00:39:43] Yeah. I mean, I know I make purchasing decisions... [00:39:48] I probably make purchasing decisions in a different way than you do. Like, everyone kind of has different things that impact what they buy and why. And I don't think that brands should go out and try to cast like the widest possible net and create content that works for the three of us independently and differently of each other. I think brands that are focused and have a really strong story will find their audience. [00:40:21] I think Tracksmith is a really great example of that. They're a small running company. And they're not trying to compete with Nike. They appeal to people who are, for the most part, like fairly serious about running, maybe on a club team, have probably done like a marathon or two, and they have a very clear sense of who their target customer is. And they stick to that and they're not... I don't think they're like going after the Couch to 5K people, and I think they're okay with that.

Phillip: [00:40:58] I also think that there are brands that have elected voices that are automatically exclusionary. So Whom is one that comes to mind as sort of a decidedly sort of bad boy, kind of a you know, not a potty mouth, but they seem to be very forward and they kind of have an edgy feel to them. How do you see that approach playing out? Because it feels like that might not be a sustainable approach for the long term, not to call them out directly. I think just the idea of the strategy.

Emily: [00:41:37]  [00:41:38]I think brand voice usually evolves as the company grows, but taking a more kind of irreverent tone at launch, if nothing else, can just like get people's attention. I do think that it's tough to maintain that. That said, a brand can have a really unique voice and grow and maintain it and stick with it, so long as that voice is kind of created to be future proof I guess. If you look at Recess, they're tone and their voice and their copy is very distinct. It's not necessarily isolating, but it's something that they've created and they can stick with it as they grow. [00:42:24] They're a sparkling CBD soda company.

Phillip: [00:42:30] Got it. Which is the most 2019 business ever.

Emily: [00:42:35] Yeah, but they're great. Their marketing is so strong.

Phillip: [00:42:39] I'm so fascinated by this space. And I'm very thankful for all the time that you've given to us today. We always close the show...because we are called Future Commerce... We close the show asking our guests to predict the future. What do you think is one of the most important issues that brands will face in the next five years? And why should we care about that? I guess is what I would ask.

Emily: [00:43:08]  [00:43:08]I think this space is only going to get increasingly crowded and increasingly noisy. And with that, I think literally staying in business will be a challenge for some businesses with like Facebook advertising getting more and more expensive. And at the end of the day, like, is it really worth it for a small director to consumer brand that hasn't been in business for a year to be spending more than one hundred thousand dollars a day advertising on Facebook? So with that, I think retention, overgrowth, and finding ways to foster brand affinity and lifetime value are really going to be key to staying in business and being successful and solidifying that brand story. And I think the brands that I'm most interested in right now are ones that are smaller and focused. They're kind of looking to grow steadily. You don't need to build a billion dollar brand. Like, you can stay small. It's OK. [00:44:16]

Brian: [00:44:18] I love that. It's so anti what you hear from a lot of VC, and...

Phillip: [00:44:30] Venture capitalists, Brian?Brian: [00:44:30] ...and people that are looking at 10x now. Let's build brands that are sustainable and thoughtful and maybe you don't ever become a billion dollar brand and that's...you can be OK with that.

Emily: [00:44:41] On the business side, it also it's kind of on the the people running the brands, running the business, to be more thoughtful with how they raise money and how they like gain capital. Yeah. If you're going to venture route, it's going to come with like insane growth benchmarks.

Phillip: [00:45:02] So I think that's a conundrum. And I think this is you know, we can leave it with an open question. It doesn't have to be solved here, although I think the three of us could probably solve a bunch of problems right here. But I don't know that it's possible today to bootstrap a brand when organic is almost dead and social is pay to play. Really, the only thing left is you really can't build a digital first brand. It comes back to local. It comes back to what has been the foundation for entrepreneurship, at least in the United States for a century, which is creating local community, building real relationships, and recruiting people who live and work near you to become fans of your business and your experience. And I think that the mom and pop and the upstart bootstrapped brand is really, really difficult to pull off in this day and age with customer acquisition costs on the rise, because you kind of need to rely on venture or some sort of massive capital infusion just to get through year one. You buy every single customer that you have, and then you hope to hold onto them. I don't know that that's sustainable. So I think we, maybe what this all comes down to is maybe there is more of a focus back on community, but it's not about digital communities and content. It's about, you know, real relationships. Where can people find your newsletter?

Emily: [00:46:27] Its ChipsandDips.substack.com

Phillip: [00:46:34] Awesome. And I hope to have you back on the show again sometime.

Emily: [00:46:38] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:46:38] We thank you for all the insight. It's been really awesome.

Brian: [00:46:41] Yeah, thank you, Emily.

Emily: [00:46:42] Yeah, it's been fun. Thanks for having me.

Phillip: [00:46:44] Thanks for listening to Future Commerce. Remember, the future is what you make of it.

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