The Real War on Christmas

PLUS: The Data-Centric BF Recap
November 25, 2022

Welcome to the blackest of Fridays, futurists.

As we prepare for our sold-out event in Miami, I am watching the early returns for Black Friday begin to trickle in on Twitter. Here’s a high-level recap: 

Some other reports are trickling in from the ecosystem, including Taylor Holiday of CTC, who  sees Wednesday store revenue up 56%, AOV up 12%.

There are some deals to be found from the mall brands, too. Retail analyst Neil Saunders sees 70% off at Aeropostale, 50% off Lands End, and 60% off Crate & Barrel.

We’ll keep an eye on the festivities through the weekend, as Cyber Monday is on the horizon. 

— Phillip

P.S. This was a huge week for us on the podcasts. Like, a go-down-in-history week.

On Future Commerce: The web wouldn’t be the same if not for the idealists who built it. The majority of eCom and the free press is powered by Wordpress and WooCommerce. Take a listen to our interview with Adii Pienaar, the former CEO of WooCommerce, and how he built the web as we know it.

Infinite Shelf’s second season has been on an emotional journey this year, covering the base emotions and behaviors that guide our purchase journeys. Kiri Masters and Ingrid Cordy dive into the power of Memory in this week’s episode.

Step by Step begins a milestone 10th season where we interview Kirsten Green, the founder and GP at Forerunner Ventures. Kirsten’s thesis on DTC shaped the modern eCom landscape as we know it. Now, she sets her sights on B2B and the future of payments.

The Real War on Christmas.  Maximalist and absurdist product extensions are nothing new, in fact they’re almost expected. But we draw the line at Green Bean Casserole-flavored seltzer. Aura Bora’s offering requires a stunning 12-can minimum purchase for $33; making Liquid Death look like a bargain by comparison. Meanwhile, the Archie McPhee Caesar Salad Candy Canes are moving up the ranks on Amazon search due to social media virality. Other hit flavors include Mac ‘n Cheese, Dill Pickle, and Kale.

Our Take: We’ve long praised these types of off-kilter “dork mode” offerings. Archie McPhee’s entire company depends on novelty. The “unbundling of Spencer’s” is an oft-overlooked phenomenon, where a non-trivial amount of GDP goes to cheap laughs on even-more-cheaply-produced products.

Meme-natives Gen Z are the most likely target for this type of marketing, what with having more disposable income, and their penchant for irony. We’re especially fond of the Dadaist commentary: by infusing something that you love, in the season you’re meant to enjoy it, with unexpected and offensive flavors. This is art.

Walmart Expands Drone Delivery. DroneUp first partnered with Walmart late last year to offer on-demand delivery at three locations in Arkansas. Since then, Walmart and DroneUp have expanded their partnership to six states (Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah, and Virginia) to reach 4 million households. DroneUp has set up a delivery hub at the participating stores, which includes a team of certified pilots that operate within FAA guidelines. (FastCompany)

More Sights & Sounds. Happy 25th Anniversary to the Macy’s Barney the Dinosaur Disaster. Speaking of, the Macy’s Virtual NFT Parade was a sad state of affairs. Demi Lovato forgot that turkeys have feelings. Best Buy beats on Q3 as does Dick’s. Retail Next Plc plans to bring back Banana Republic and Gap to the U.K. through shop-in-shop concepts.

Retail Media is Reshaping Advertising. While social media currently attracts more ad dollars, with a forecast annual haul of $65bn, retail media is set to grow more than five times faster in 2022. Retailers’ ad revenues are already almost twice as large as radio and print combined, and the gap with television, which is forecast to generate $68bn in ad sales this year, is also closing swiftly, according to eMarketer. (Financial Times)

When Black Friday Is Your Super Bowl. As a kid, you hear about Black Friday, and it sounds like a free-for-all. When you actually are dealing with people in the merchandising and all that, there is a lot of thought put into it—what’s being marked down and how much it’s being discounted. (The Atlantic)

Image: Heinz

Heinz spent 185,000 hours redesigning its ketchup bottle cap. In Heinz’s squeezable upside-down ketchup bottle, the plastic cap is designed to dispense a standard blob of sauce without spilling. It can’t easily be recycled, so the Kraft Heinz Company decided to design an alternative. Nine years later—after 185,000 hours of product development, $1.2 million in investment, and 45 different iterations. (Fast Company)

PETA sets sights on HelloFresh/Nestle for “Illegal Primate Labor”. A new report and investigation by activist group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) shows that primate labor is still being used in the Thai Coconut industry; benefiting the suppliers of consumer brands like HelloFresh. (Boingboing)

House of Play. A virtual interpretation of the play-oriented physical House of Play stores introduced by Kids Foot Locker in late 2021, the game is curated by virtual, jersey-wearing Kids Foot Locker store associates, known as “Stripers,” who appear as non-player characters to guide users throughout the experience. (Chainstoreage)

Our Take: The Roblox Brand Activation Tracker has been updated with this new activation, bringing a total of 30+ brands who have launched on the platform to date.

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