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The Age of Contentment

Gillette goes Maximalist
October 28, 2022

Stop. Breathe. It’s okay to slow down a bit. 

As you read today’s newsletter it’s very likely that I’m trekking through mud, muck, and swamp on my latest running adventure. I found ultrarunning at a time in my life when things were spinning out of control. Running gave me an excuse to turn everything off — my phone, my brain — and get lost in the woods.

To run far you have to slow down, especially when there are inherent dangers like stumps, cypress knees (we call them “toe-catchers”), and muck that sucks the shoe right off your foot. 

Going fast is a great way to get hurt.

I see this in my experience of nearly 20 years in eCom, too. Whenever a retailer hires an outside consultant to create something new, it becomes a shortcut that adds friction later on in the lifecycle of the business. “You didn’t build the product, the team, the channel, or the strategy,” I’d tell them. “So of course, you’re having growing pains. You tried to do so much so fast that you’re struggling to keep up.”

In 2010 when we were scaling Native Remedies, we hired a fancy consulting team headed by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg, the two brothers who literally wrote the book on multivariate testing. They took on the bulk of the user research, design, and testing. When they left, we soon reverted to our old ways. Why? Because they moved so fast we couldn’t keep up. We didn’t learn anything in the process.

It took two more years before we had internalized how to be a team that tests rather than a team that outsources testing.

You know who’s taking this advice right now? Consumers. We’re approaching an Age of Contentment. Most Americans (although not every American) have a lot more than they need. I personally have too many clothes, way too many sneakers, and too many items in my pantry. I quiet this discontentment by buying more and when I have too much I try to quiet the discontentment by selling it. It’s a vicious cycle.

What would happen if we collectively decided to stop buying? Economic disaster, probably. So let’s not stop, let’s just slow it down a bit.

Consumers seem to be tapping into this feeling. This week Amazon announced dismal earnings that sent the stock price into a spiral — down over 20% in after-hours trading on Wednesday. Snap and Facebook seem to be feeling the squeeze. The traditional channels for eCom growth are slowing — yeah, some of that is due to Apple privacy changes. Some of it is the macroeconomic environment. A lot of it is due to people having more “stuff” than they need.

Guidance seems to be clear: it’s time for eCommerce brands to slow down and find contentment with manageable growth. Our customers sure are. We’re not stopping, we’re not quitting, we’re not turning back; we’re just going to take it easy for a bit and enjoy the trail.

I rarely check my watch on a very long run. I don’t need to know how long I’ve been running because it’s still daylight and that means I have miles, and miles, and miles, left to go. I won’t finish until late in the evening hours, so that means I’m nowhere near the finish line. I might as well settle in for the long haul, breathe easy, slow down a bit, enjoy the run, and keep an eye out for whatever the trail may bring me.

That’s good advice for all of us right now.

— Phillip

P.S. for more on the Age of Contentment and how I’ve moved into “dirtbag mode” check out this week’s podcast, where we break down Tracksmith’s long, slow, growth and compare it with Liquid Death’s meteoric rise. Available wherever podcasts are found.

Mixed Reality Brings About Mixed Emotions. Gillette went ham on a mixed reality giant razor ad, which emerged from a laser beam seated atop a tower at Gillette Stadium during Monday Night Football. The stunning, gorgeous, almost Egyptian god-like statue caused a mix of reactions.

It was both:
a) Confusing to many, because we really didn’t need them to go so hard just to make sure we all continued to shave

b) Interesting, because according to Twitter reactions, it seemed to bring some really die-hard Gillette razor fans out of the woodwork.

So maybe this actually was the giant laser razor we didn’t know we all needed?

Colors Are a Luxury. Pantone, the color library for (checks notes) print media color accuracy, has decided to follow Adobe’s lead and become a subscription business. Starting in November, if you want to use Pantone’s 2022 Color of the Year (17-3938 Very Peri) you’ll need an annual license and subscription to use Pantone colors in Adobe projects. In an August 2022 software update, Adobe quietly rolled out the new policy to Creative Cloud subscribers. Pantone Solid and Pantone Coated colors will cost you $21… per month.

  • Our Take: Continuing with the luxurification trend, even color can be “fancy” now. The business model for Pantone was based on the “old world” — one that required investing in physical sample libraries, and massive investments in printed materials and advertising. Color accuracy is an art, and a dying one at that, and so vestigial analog businesses of the past century are struggling to find modern relevance and dollars.

    The steep price point hints to us that the business is decidedly a luxury and enterprise pursuit; color ownership has never been more en vogue. As
    we reported in The Senses in April 2022, Pantone swatch ownership is now the realm of Supreme, Hermès, and Tiffany. Their real business hinges on the accurate reproduction of those colors to generational brands. The subscription is a way of further differentiating that they are decidedly more upmarket than their consumer brand collaborations would have you believe.

More Sights & Sounds. CRM tool, WATI, has raised $23m in Series B funding. Also, there is a website where you can order CONCIERGE PUMPKINS in Dallas and Houston (h/t David Chen) that cost $800. Well… you can’t anymore, because they are sold out for this year, but you CAN join their waitlist.

We Love Drama, Yes We Do. Not ones to be left out from the Ye theatricals, Sketchers thought… "quick put out a press release in case anyone thinks that we're going to entertain Kanye," stating that they escorted him off the premises after he showed up unannounced.

Murdering Polling Place Thirst. Liquid Death is maxing out on sticking it to the man (who in this case is Georgia’s new election laws) by offering the Georgia Election Hydration Kit. The kit, which is a stars and stripes fanny pack with a drink holster, comes with a can of liquid death and is only $1 for residents of the state of Georgia.

Fare Thee Well, McRib. McDonald’s is officially entering the phasing out stage in the McRib’s lifecycle (again). The beloved saucy sammy will begin its farewell tour through our digestive tracts beginning October 31st.

Slow Growth is Still Growth. The U.S. economy is finally showing growth again in the third quarter, but the risk of recession is still relatively high over the next year. We’ll take what we can get. Perhaps we can beat economists’ expectations again next quarter, just for the troll of it.

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