I’m always shocked at the number of people who are labeled as “excellent communicators.” There are very few truly transcendent communicators.
Forgive me for being the “Old man yells at cloud” meme, but what Twitter has fostered is a generation of broadcasters. You see, to be a communicator you have to listen. The central motivation behind communication is the sharing of ideas and the ponderance of thoughts and experiences that differ from your own.
Personal brands have followed cues from modern performance marketing: be the loudest, most present voice, and be constantly top of mind so that the algorithm blesses you. Lots of loud voices, and very few collaborators.
I sense that there might be a change coming. I recently invested in Space, a startup focused on creating one-click audio communities outside of social networks. A future brand may hold live, open-mic sessions with its customers and potential buyers on a platform like Space, creating a new opportunity for communities to form and engage around the purchase of goods. eCommerce experiences kinda suck on their own; when we shop IRL we often shop with other people. Space could be the missing link that we need. Audio provides a means of being engaged without the hangups of video, which require you to be somewhat presentable and appearing to be fully engaged.
Imagine Otherland’s founder, Abigail Cook-Stone, being able to have a candlelight chat post-purchase with her new customers, rather than her story being cordoned off to a section of the website or in a marketing email. Imagine being able to pop into a chat with co-founders Nina, Lily, and Hilary of Hilma to talk about diet and gut health, and not having to pop out to Discord or Clubhouse to do it.
I’m a product of healthy communities, so I’m bullish on the future of audio communities that will form around brands. One such brand is Pela, who is building a community that is sustainably-minded, and committed to reducing their waste as consumers.
You can hear more about Pela’s waste innovation and category innovation, and how they approach community, in my interview with Matt Bertulli on the latest episode of Future Commerce Podcast.
Bubble Boy 3.0. In this week’s really important news that is completely unrelated to retail, a hamster man has washed ashore on the coast of Florida. Reza Baluchi intended to run his wheel 1,000 miles north for charity, but the ocean is a formidable foe and currents dictated that he return to land 30 miles south of his launching point. The Coast Guard, which was ironically one of the charities he was supporting, came to his rescue. According to the story, they rescued him from beta versions of the hamster wheel back in 2014, and again in 2016. Of the experience, Baluchi says, “Don't listen to anyone. Chase your dreams.”
Actual Sights and Sounds. Netflix plans to join the physical space. Set for 2022, their first store is planned to open in Tokyo, merging “the virtual world of the internet with the real world.” Shopify is going to let merchants sell NFTs directly without a third party, starting with the Chicago Bulls. And Twitter is testing a shopping feature for business profiles.
Gently used fashion. Madewell and ThredUp are partnering together on a secondhand online fashion site, Madewell Forever. The platform launched Tuesday with over 3,000 pairs of “preloved” women’s jeans, and according to the companies it could “[reduce] its environmental footprint by 82 percent.” In our Vision report, we call this trend “The Product Eternal.” More brands are beginning to intervene in the life cycle of their products to reduce waste and maybe even squeeze a little more profit out where they can.
Amazon basics’d.CEO at Viahart Tiger Tale Toys takes a twitter stroll through what looks like Amazon and Melissa & Doug ripping off his company’s profitable plush Laurent the Lion toy. They sold it for less with a longer delivery time, but under the “Prime Delivery” label. Is the price of success on Amazon being imitated by the platform itself?
Gawker is Back: Few bounce back from being bankrupted by an invasion of privacy suit on behalf of Hulk Hogan bankrolled by a certain angry Silicon Valley super billionaire. Nonetheless, Gawker did. The irreverent gossip and humor site’s return wasn’t entirely tasteless, though. One of their top articles at launch shared a creative hack for making faster, easier hard-boiled eggs. They won’t taste better, but writer Kelly Conaboy makes the point that maybe your standards are just too high.
Brand loyalty through mental health prioritization? On Wednesday, Gap’s Athleta announced the launch of AthletaWell, which will be part of Athleta’s loyalty program benefits. The online workout platform will house space for conversations around mental health and will be in collaboration with the company’s endorsement deals with athletes, such as Simone Biles, who withdrew from Olympic competition Tuesday, citing mental health concerns. The athleisure clothing market is still booming, and Athleta hopes this new space will help them retain existing customers while bringing in more to their loyalty program. It’s certainly an interesting strategy, which sparks the question—can a brand ever really care for you? Or will the seller/customer part of the relationship always get in the way of that?