Your Soul for a Country Club Membership

PLUS: Klarna wants the government to stop them from saving money
May 31, 2024
Pictured: an email seeking cultural alignment from LA-based brand, Flamingo Estate

Stop the Steal (This is about $80 Strawberries)

You’ve probably heard it said that ‘election season’ begins in earnest on Labor Day. But think hard—who said that, your grandpa? A gray-haired newscaster? (Who does the news nowadays anyways, I get my news from the optimistic science lady on TikTok.)

No, the official beginning of the election season is when the Brands feel the need to contribute to the political discourse; which means the 2024 season began on May 30th, when luxury soap and candle brand Flamingo Estate announced “WE’RE GUILTY TOO!” in the subject line of an email:

Pictured: “stop the steal” is what I said when I saw these strawberries were $80USD

A quote often dubiously attributed to Jack Ma seems fitting here: “Don't try to be the best, Be the first.” Flamingo Estate said “bet,” and landed this campaign in less than an hour.

In “Brand-Up Comedy,” we drew attention to the bad behavior of brands, especially those that interject those into the public discourse due to their lack of marketing budget. Like a middle schooler who just learned how to fart with their hand cupped in their armpit, attention can be earned for next to nothing if you don’t mind trading your dignity.

On the spectrum of brands that need to seek eCommerce attachment to events happening in the broader cultural conversation, it makes sense to pile onto the content bandwagon in algorithmic channels. This is why brands participate in Taylor Swift album releases—while we don’t have a ‘monoculture’ we do experience monocultural events. 

Besides the eclipse and now political discourse, we’ll have to contend with the threat of swine flu, the summer Olympics in France, and probably three new types of full moons (it feels like they invent a new one every year.)

Call it ‘on-trend’ if you like; brands insert themselves into the public conversation for three reasons: signaling, relevance, and engagement; the very same types of criteria that power the algorithms that we’re trying to beat in order to be seen. 

  • Signals can be both explicit and implicit signs of interest. Flamingo Estate takes a side in a divisive social topic like politics, resulting in a polarization.
  • Relevance is fine-tuned by the recipient. Customers unsubscribe or become more enamored with the brand.
  • Engagement increases. Polarizing content provokes a response—cheers or jeers. Open rates soar on ‘both sides,’ and click-throughs skyrocket.

This is a dangerous game. Anyone who has found themselves on the wrong side of DrPimplePopper-tok will know that signals and engagement can be misinterpreted.

The commerce futurists out there are probably asking “BUT DOES IT CONVERT?” In the short term, it doesn’t matter. Cultural attachment Besides, the conversion of a soul is worth infinitely more than spicy summer strawberry preserves

As a luxury brand, Flamingo Estate is walking a fine line. Chasing culture is a modern requisite; but not always in the best interest of building long-term brand equity.

— Phillip

P.S. B2B2THEFUTURE. The future of B2B innovation lies within the Center of Excellence. Our newest episode of the podcast features Antonio Espinoza, Head of Digital Engagement and Strategy at Philips, who dishes on the future of their digital investments. Listen on Apple or Spotify.

Prompt: a self-checkout with a "NO" sign on it. liminal space. Isometric. Image generated by Midjourney.

The Ends of the Justified Means. This week, Dollar General announced it would eliminate the ‘vast majority’ of self-checkout due to theft, despite a 6% Q1 net sales increase. 

Our Take: Self-checkout was supposed to be a cost-cutting measure that delivered lower prices and frictionless retail experiences to all… so why are major retailers rolling back those programs?

Not all friction in the shopping experience is bad. In fact, some friction can be beneficial. Engaging with a cashier, for example, is a form of good friction. It offers a human touchpoint that can enhance customer service, deter theft, and even build brand loyalty through positive interactions. A friendly cashier can be an extension of the brand; they can answer questions, assist with problems, and provide a level of service that self-checkout machines cannot match.

On the other hand, bad friction arises from situations like rising prices, which can spur theft. When prices increase, it creates a financial strain for customers, leading some to resort to theft as a means to cope. This bad friction not only affects the retailer's bottom line through lost inventory but also undermines the trust and integrity of the retail environment. The increased theft, a secondary effect of price hikes, necessitates additional security measures, which can further erode the cost savings initially sought through self-checkout implementation.

“Secondary effects almost always end up outweighing ‘primary’ effects,” says Future Commerce co-founder Brian Lange.

Klarna: “We Saved $10M. Someone Stop Us, Please.” The leadership of payments giant Klarna is pleading for government regulators to step in and stop companies from saving money by switching to GenAI tools. “We’ve saved $10M this year from AI tooling,” said CMO David Sandstrom to WSJ. In a now-deleted post on X, CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski claimed that AI tools have allowed them to become ‘brutally efficient,’ while also recognizing it could harm creatives broadly.

Image Credit: MSCHF

The Art of Scaling Taste. MSCHF has been described as a lot of things: an art collective, the new dadaists; a one-trick-pony shoe brand? In a new Napkin Math essay, Evan Armstrong uncovers the depth behind the brand that raised $11M from Founders Fund to create virality—and shape consumer tastes—at scale.

Image credit: Liquid Death.

An Arm, a Leg, and a Soul. As millennials enter their latter H.E.N.R.Y. years, joining exclusive tennis clubs, supper clubs, and members-only socials; Liquid Death makes a metamodern critique by launching a Country Club Membership you can join for free when you legally sign over ownership of your soul. Perks include 40% off merch and a free t-shirt with a $50 purchase, and early access. You can also buy into the country club with cash for $125,000USD (read the reviews).

The B-1 which debuted with ‘Eno,’ the first generative feature film. Image credit: Teenage Engineering.

The First Generative Feature Film. Teenage Engineering partnered with director Gary Hustwit to compile and synthesize 500+ hours of footage from legendary creative Brian Eno’s private vault. The result is the first ‘generative feature film,’ which is showing to limited screenings in select global markets in 2024. Along with the film is a new device, the B-1, which provides a ‘unique communal experience’ to audiences.

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