Disarming the Rebels

PLUS: The BRBification of Everything
March 15, 2023
Pictured: a tweet from Hans Schrei, CEO of Wunderkeks

Everyone wants the unique, the vanguard, the unexpected, the one-of-a-kind. But, my dear futurists, that’s not how the world works.

At SXSW this week, Shopify hosted a creator studio pop-up grocery store, which featured the products of well-known “creator economy” founders: the likes of MrBeast, and Emma Chamberlain, to name a few.

It was largely praised, but there were some voices of dissent. The main critique on-hand — by partnering with larger creators, Shopify has betrayed its mission of entrepreneurship.

For years, Shopify has held a mission of “arming the rebels,” against Amazon; at least when it came to messaging to potential shareholders. The Shopify promise is that entrepreneurship is a force for good in a world dominated by massive global retailers, backed by incredible technology.
From 2PM in November of 2020

The company is slow to champion the very brands that use their platform. Out of fear of coming off as partial, Shopify has thus far hesitated to provide the one advantage that could lock brands into their ecosystem for the long term. 

SXSW represents an answer to the clarion call: use the media platform to promote creators. 

Naysayers mock Shopify with a nanny-nanny-boo-boo “arm the rebels” taunt; blowing virtual raspberries on Twitter. Their gripe: Feastables and Chamberlain coffee aren’t merely creator-led brands; they’re enterprises unto themselves. Feastables is seeking a $1.5B valuation. Chamberlain closed a $7M Series A at an undisclosed valuation in mid-2022.

Are these the rebels? Or are these creators with platforms large enough to give Shopify access to a new cohort? 

For growth to continue, Shopify must reach new audiences, especially those who are just entering the workforce; those who need to supplement their income. That emergent C.A.R.L.Y. (Can't Afford Real Life Yet) class — an individual who wants to become like the creators they follow.

That’s why you see Feastables on the side of a building at SXSW, and why Jimmy has his own Shopify landing page. It’s all about recruitment in the face of rising costs, the plateau of eCom, and worries about the global economy.

Maybe the creators weren’t the rebels. Maybe Shopify were the rebels all along. But that doesn’t sound anywhere near as exciting.

My dear futurist, THAT how the world works.

— Phillip

P.S. Do you believe in best practices? Our most recent guest on the podcast has made an entire career out of creating, and sustaining, best practices in his 5th-generation textile business. Now, Jesse Lazarus calls our “no best practices” mantra into question in this week’s podcast. It’s a wonderful listen, available wherever podcasts are found.

Photo by Mariia Shalabaieva on Unsplash

The Great SVB Collapse. We’ve started a running list of brands impacted by SVB collapse: Slumberkins ran a 40% discount off of everything. So did CAMP. Omsom has released an open letter from its founders. And Etsy has announced delays in scheduled deposits. Roku has filed an 8-K, informing investors that its SVB deposits “are largely uninsured.” Shopify’s COO has urged users update their accounts and is opening up Balance accounts for those whose funds are locked up, hindering them from hitting payroll.

More Sights & Sounds. Here’s an interesting breakdown of unbundling genres. 

Roku and Best Buy have announced a partnership in which Roku gets access to Best Buy’s ad platform and Best Buy customers get exclusive access to Roku TVs. Gen Z’s spending habits are booming, than ever thanks to inflation and wage growth. Layoffs are starting to hit retail now and Business Insider has started a list. Meta is jumping ship on NFTs. Also, here is a book we probably all need. Experts say the lull in eCommerce growth is affecting payrolls of logistics companies. Meta’s reels bonus program — the subsidization of content nobody wanted — is ending. Regulators in New York State closed Signature Bank, a lender in the crypto industry, citing systemic risk. And here’s some great reasons to "do the daring thing."

The BRBification of Everything. To celebrate The Super Mario Bros Movie, Red Wing Shoes has released a single pair of Mario’s boots in real life with leather uppers and mushroom-based heel pads. This continues a trend in absurdism (Dadaism?) in footwear; namely the “Big Red Boot” by MSCHF. 

Circular Business. H&M and ThredUp are partnering up to launch a resale service called H&M Pre-loved.

We Could Have Left That Valley Hidden. We’ve been really patient with all the food brand mashups, but I think this one has gone too far. Van Leeuwen has launched an ice cream in the flavor of Hidden Valley Ranch. Nobody asked for this.

The Power of a Shared Meal. During the pandemic, people’s social networks decreased in size by an average of 16 percent, with most of the losses occurring among men. Now, dinners with future friendship hopefuls are becoming trendy. This week, NYT published a piece called The Radical Act of Eating With Strangers, diving into the return of the social dinner, and dining with strangers.

Brian Lange covered this topic in detail in Eat, Drink, and Be Wary: The Nature of Human Consumption, which is well worth your time.

OOO: Hot Flashes.  A 2017 study revealed that almost 600 respondents think that granting a menstrual leave will have a negative impact on the organization. Now, retailers are asking whether they should offer paid leave for employees dealing with menopause and menstrual symptoms.

“My Name is Hugh Mann. I am not a robot.” GPT-4 hired a TaskRabbit worker to solve a captcha, then reasoned that it shouldn't tell them why, so it lied to them about having a visual impairment. So basically — we're so screwed.

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