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The Tortured *Brands* Department

April 19, 2024

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P.S. The ‘Spatial Race’ is on the pod this weekend. Spatial Commerce? Digital Twin? Quantum? It’s all here, and we’re bullish. Rob Petrosino drops by to drop some knowledge about the state of the art. Check it out on Apple or Spotify, or watch along on Youtube.

P.P.S. Should those with power wield it? This is the question we posed in our special report on the state of the MKBHD vs Humane AI Pin discourse. Our take: despite what the culture has normalized, corporations aren’t people.

Image Credit: @Pixar on

The Tortured Brands Department. The monocultural moment du jour is here. Taylor Swift’s newest album—a two-hour-long dual-album opus—provides a cultural platform for brand participation. Among our favorites: Pixar, Pizza Hut, Joann, Duolingo Brazil

At least two businesses turned the album drop into a price-drop: Titan Casket offered men named Matt $100 off a casket (a nod to Matty Healy, the rumoured main character of TTPD). Powell Books offered 10% off Swifties wearing TSwift merch.

Our Take: For a brand to stand out during a large cultural moment, they must participate in the discourse. The most adept will find ways to create coded-language content. The Pizza Hut tweet is a wonderful example of this.

This monocultural celebration—something we’ve referred to as ‘hyperculture’—is a participatory act. Cultural philosopher Henry Jenkins theorized this would take place when the barrier to entry for participation tips over from consumer to producer; meaning, more people are participating than those who are consuming.  In a prior era, consumers expected 2-Day fast, free, shipping. Today they expect cultural commentary and multiplayer participation.

Image credit: Facebook/Crocs

The Return of the King. Brand kingmaker Terrence Reilly returned to the Crocs family of brands after a four-year stint at Stanley. In a LinkedIn post Reilly signaled the passing of the proverbial lead-filled bottle, and title of President of Stanley, to Matt Navarro. Matt was previously SVP of Global Commerce.

Stanley Quencher and the Law of Platforms. Speaking of Stanley, the cottage offshore manufacturing industry of Quencher accessories has become a first-party core offering for the historic brand. A post on the brand’s official Instagram signalled the launch of a ‘carry-all’ which turns a quencher into a cross-body bag; replete with a keychain clip and a wallet holster.

Our Take: Stanley is officially a platform business. The ‘law of platforms’ is two-fold: 1) a platform exists when it creates more opportunity for its ecosystem than it is able to capitalize upon itself. And 2) a platform will always cannibalize that ecosystem in an effort to maintain control. 

Stanley’s move takes direct aim at an accessories ecosystem that has thrived on TikTok and Tume through overseas manufacturers and dropshipping sellers. 

Image credit: User Jackdude101 on

Someone Check on Kanye. Just when you thought the chicken sandwich wars were over, Shake Shack took aim at Jesus’ favorite chicken sandwich this week when it announced that its entrant to the chicken sandwich wars would be available for free on Sundays in the month of April.

Image Credit: Pop Crave on Twitter.

The Multiplayer (Personal) Brand. Zuck’s personal stylist may have begun the social discourse about our favorite new Silicon Valley fashionista; but multiplayer dynamics are taking it to new heights. Zuck took to Instagram this week sporting a silver chain as he unveiled updates to the Meta Llama 3, the company’s newest revision to its AI assistant. An altered still image taken from the video began to circulate, featuring Zuckerberg with a beard.

In a follow-up post, the Meta CEO indicated that he may be considering growing the beard out IRL.

This is Multiplayer dynamics in action. As we wrote in The Multiplayer Brand: “​​The process by which images influence reality is called hyperstition. AI is a machine that accelerates hyperstition both by allowing image production and also through social media or through the existing infrastructures, the dissemination of those images.”

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