“Merch is Dead” (No, it’s not)

PLUS: Wrapping up Decoded Season 3
May 29, 2024
Pictured: Watch our interview with the author of Cultural Intelligence for Marketers on YouTube.

Welcome to Wednesday, Futurists.

Our final episode of Decoded Season 3 is here! Our final conversation on polymathic and multi-disciplinary thinkers leads us to examine a multiplayer future. 

I sat down with Rishabh Jain and Rabah Rahil of FERMÁT while at SXSW in Austin to discuss the “principle of least time” and how a new era of technology is tearing down the monolith that is the “website.”

What comes next? Listen to find out, and download our twenty-page companion guide (free, ungated)

— Phillip

P.S. Our VISIONS Summit has an incredible lineup of speakers—from author Kyle Chayka to renown chef Alison Roman, it’s missing just one thing: YOU. 150 cultural innovators in commerce will converge at MoMA in just 13 days. Will we see you there? Join us in NYC on June 11th.

P.P.S. Marketers Need Cultural Intelligence. Brands are leveraging research, intersectional insights, and innovative frameworks to create cultural relevance. But how do they do that? Dr. Anastasia Kārkliņa Gabriel joins us to discuss her new book, Cultural Intelligence for Marketers.

Image Credit: ModernRetail

These Deals Hit the Bullseye. Cale Guthrie-Weissman digs into the mystery of Target’s excess stock popping up on eBay and Poshmark. Owned brands in the Target portfolio, like A New Day and Boots & Barkley, are showing up on marketplaces like the eBay shop Bullseye Deals, a seller account that has sold over 2.6M items since 2013. The article covers the nature of reverse logistics, returns, and the challenge of operating large-scale eCommerce businesses with few diffusion channels. Target missed its last quarter, posting a 3.1% decline in net sales over the same quarter of 2023.

Google Accidentally Open-Sourced its Algorithm. A critical system that defines the API of Google Search and various ranking and promotion factors was accidentally published to a public Github repository. Technical SEO blog iPullRank breaks down the publication and the factors surrounding it, including some algorithm secrets. A breakdown of the events is covered in this X post by Rand Fishkin.

The repository was briefly published with an Apache 2.0 open-source license, which gave users broad usage rights, including the legal means to copy, modify, and distribute the code. Google has since deprioritized the breakdowns on its owned properties, delisting the iPullRank post on its search engine and Youtube videos covering the details of the matter.

Amazon Returns. The Atlantic chronicles the descent of Amazon's return process into a Kafkaesque nightmare: long lines backed up at myriad retail stores as diverse as Kohl’s and Whole Foods. For a company that operates a literal movie studio, this is a plot twist no one saw coming.

Image Credit: Ana Andjelic

“Merch is Dead” Samuel Hine’s recent editorial for GQ proudly announced the decline of graphic tees and branded merchandise: “Once-highly coveted merch doesn’t hit like it used to.” It seems our collective taste is maturing beyond wearing our fandoms on our sleeves Or is it? In a collaborative clapback, the former chief brand officer at ESPRIT and the turnaround artist at BR (neé Banana Republic), Ana Andjelic, and fashion critic Eugene Rabkin, loudly declared that, actually, “everything is merch.”

Image generated using Midjourney

Triple Cheeseburger, Hold the Triple Cheeseburger. “I ordered a triple cheeseburger with everything removed. Stay tuned to see what happens,” wrote renowned shitposter @greg16676935420. The heavily-modified order was placed on Doordash and was promptly questioned by the Dasher: “you’re gonna get an empty box… you good with that?” The grand total: $19.81 (including an $11 tip). You’ll never guess what happened next.

Image credit: culture.ghost.io

Cultural Critique: Revered author and cultural critic W. David Marx published a new essay redefining culture as an ecosystem of plurality rather than majority. In it, Marx calls out the superficiality of modern cultural criticism: “The ‘culture’ of a society isn't a blob of random human activity, but an orderly ecosystem arising from the interactions between particular subunits.”

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