Forget Blands. We're on Blahducts now.
The year is 2050. People create newsletters for their influencer pets. Every digital product has stories, every website sends you a #wrapped. The monoliths have become so pervasive we receive tax benefits for purchasing monolith offsets. Digital entertainment is so fragmented that the streaming giants have launched show-specific networks. The Gilmore Girls channel is particularly popular, and Warner Bros have launched the Looney Tunes streaming package for just $55/month.
This week was a glimpse of a future of digital products. HBO Max will receive all 2021 blockbuster films simultaneous to their theatrical release. This includes Wonder Woman 1984, Dune, and The Matrix 4. The DTC-ification of every industry, media included, marches on (hat tip to Web Smith for inspiring this train of thought.)
We’re surrounded by “blahducts” — a portmanteau of blah and products — brought about by a pervasive samey-sameyness in digital products.
Digital products have always had a copycat culture. The earliest eCommerce giants gleamed their navigation inspo from Pets.com and Ebay. These spurred purpose-built enterprise solutions like Endeca created the language of eCom we have today: left-rail layered nav, account tab. Retailers like GAP pioneered multisite, and the retail world copied ruthlessly.
The language of digital products is a mashup of the game of mimic with broken telephone. LinkedIn launches stories because users expect it in social media contexts. Not because it has a meaningful place in the ecosystem, but because users crave sameness. This leads to a vicious cycle of uniformity - an average of sameness in digital products. Mark my words, more sites will launch a version of Spotify Wrapped than we will be comfortable with (do I really want others to know how much I spent on Starbucks this year?)
Used to be that digital experiences were informed by real-world analogues. We have a “cart” in eCom because, well, you have a cart in real life. You push that cart through an aisle (categories) and you go through a checkout. But now, as digital experiences enter into real life, they reinform the digital experience in new and frightening ways. In the article, “Freaky Friday” I wrote:
This erosion [of the reliance of real-world analogues on digital experiences] has had an effect on consumer demand and began to shape real-world experiences, in turn. In-car delivery, click-and-collect, or BOPIS (buy online pick up in-store), are offshoots of providing digital experiences overlayed onto real-world interactions.
As movie theater chains across the country close we’re likely to see them rescued by the media businesses themselves. Eventually, we’ll have Disney theaters — and the digital fit and feature of sameness will invade the real world.
The good news is that it won’t take much effort to stand out from the crowd. Just… do what everyone else isn’t. This is why cottagecore, glitchcore, and brutalist design aesthetics are so appealing — they’re different. Being different evokes a sense of discovery and excitement. And discovery is so very difficult right now in a world dominated by a handful of well-capitalized brands who can spend tirelessly in performance marketing.
For some additional reading this week, see our newest Insiders article on Digital Neighborhoods, CPG Dominance Theorem, and Virtual Foot Traffic in Insiders #063.
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When I was a kid, we had 4 genres and in my house 3 of them were gospel. According to Spotify #Wrapped this week, there are hundreds - nay - THOUSANDS of genres. Some of our favorites include sea shanties and freak folk.
With cuffing season behind us we’re firmly in blankie season - get prepared for the frigid temperatures. A snuggie beautiful blanket is a must. We suggest these absurdly huge blankets from Big Blanket Co. (big enough for 7’4” hooper Boban Marjonavic) or these artful throws from Throw and Co. (started by Starbucks Senior Designer Trevor Bassett).
Move over “sober curious” we’re full-on “sober luxe”. Our biggest cocktail connoisseur, Jesse, was ready to hop on the wagon for Suckerpunch’s cocktail kit, which inexplicably contains garbanzo beans.
No doubt, Suckerpunch the NA bev brand has to be better than Suckerpunch, the disturbing 2011 Zack Snyder film.
Erin’s Nana’s Very Easy Holiday Cinnamon Pecan Shortbread Cookies (or, Envy Hiccups)
In a bowl:
- Cream 1c of Butter
- Add 1/2 cup of sugar - mix well
- Gradually add in 2c flour
- Stir 1/2c of chopped pecans into dough
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll dough into heaping tsp balls, roll in cinnamon sugar and place 2" apart. Bake for up to 15 min or until edges are slightly tan at 350F.
Bonus: use King Arthur All Purpose Flour. The brand rated at #4 on our Spring Nine by Nine report in the “Late Stage Retail” category. These brands are the retail heroes seeking to uplift underserved communities, create and market sustainable products, pay their employees a living wage, and treat their suppliers ethically and fairly. King Arthur Flour is an employee-owned brand with a majority Female Executive team. Killer content and cultural relevance given the COVID-19 baking renaissance.