In the 3½ years since I started this email, I’ve never wrestled this hard over what to write or how to write it.

I was thinking about telling a funny personal story today. It could have been a welcome respite from all the horror we’re seeing and feeling at the moment.

But this isn’t a time for comic relief.

That’s a calling card of white Gen Xers, by the way. Somewhere along the line, we developed a collectively macabre sense of humor, as a way of pretending problems didn’t exist. Hell, we learned about the plight of homelessness and poverty through something, literally, called Comic Relief (Look it up, Millennials). We created South Park, convincing ourselves it was okay to laugh, because it supposedly made fun of everyone equally.

We’ve been making jokes “Too soon!” ever since.

It helped us deal with things we were too immature, too ignorant – too privileged – to deal with otherwise. We clung to humor, all while acting like being latchkey kids was real hardship. Please.

Making jokes to escape hard truths, reflection, and culpability is the stuff of cowards. Trying to manufacture equivalency is even worse.

Nothing is funny right now. Our culture is at a crossroads, as we confront the consequences of hundreds of years of hardships and atrocities, perpetrated – institutionally and personally – against Black Americans. There is no greater disgrace in our country’s history.

My generation is straddling that crossroads. Most Boomers were around in 1968 and likely picked their sides then. Their time on stage is waning. Younger Millennials and Gen Zs, like my kids, are enlightened, compassionate, and committed, but it will be years until they’re in power.

Gen X will decide how the scales tip in the coming months, make no mistake about that. And we have to take that responsibility seriously. Solemnly, even.

On another note, in case you were wondering, I can’t – I mean I won’t – tell you and your company how to respond to this new maelstrom. Many of our clients have asked us and we’ve said no. If you need data to tell you what to do, to figure out how to profit, grandstand, or virtue signal, look somewhere else.

Racial injustice isn’t a platform for brand-building.

Just do the right thing. And do it hard.

Here’s what we’re seeing right now:

What I will tell you is that Americans are heavily divided (so what else is new?) over whether brands should engage in social issues at all. It may come as a surprise to you, but most people aren’t looking to their car insurance company or toothpaste manufacturer for moral inspiration. Thirty-four percent of people think it’s appropriate for brands to engage, 31% think it isn’t. Thirty-five percent say it depends on the issue – and that’s the hard part. Like I said, do what you think is right because it’s right. You can tally up the score sometime later.

Concern over “deep fake” videos on the web is skyrocketing. It felt like the coronavirus crisis was a new low point in the dissemination of fake content across the web. People lost any barometer of what was real – stats, studies, doctors, you name it. But it may have also opened people’s eyes. The percentage of Americans who are “very concerned” about fake online videos leapt 17 points since this time last year. People are waking up to the fact that it’s a massive and scary problem.

It’s interesting, then, that the most frequent users of social media – and especially Twitter – are the least supportive of fact-checking. A whopping 77% of Twitter users support the company’s decision to place fact-checking labels on tweets. As you might suspect, there is an entirely predictable and depressing political skew in those results. Not as intuitive, however, is that the most frequent daily Twitter users are far less likely than less active users to support the labels – which doesn’t fall squarely on party lines. Maybe those expert Twitter users consider themselves better trained to spot garbage.

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It’s hard to be optimistic about the future of urban commercial real estate when you look at our data from New York. Nearly 1 in 3 New Yorkers who are working remotely due to the coronavirus say they would prefer to continue working from home once the virus is completely gone. Fifty-five percent of New Yorkers say they will be uncomfortable commuting into the city for work before a vaccine is available. And a majority believe the economy can return to its pre-COVID days, even if companies continue to work remotely. A bunch more related stuff in this study – but it tells the same story. The Manhattan real estate market better say its prayers.

Maybe they could pray at the same church as the cruise line industry. No surprise, the CV pandemic hasn’t been the strongest tailwind for the cruise ship companies. The number of past cruise-takers who say they would be willing to go again fell nearly 25%. The number of people who have never taken a cruise but would consider it fell by almost half. Yikes.

One group whose prayers were answered during the pandemic is the games and hobbies category. I’m a statistic here, having picked up the guitar when lockdown started and subsequently spent more money than I expected to buy a new one. Sixty-two percent of people who have hobbies (which is 88% of the overall U.S. population – I’m sad for the other 12%) made hobby-related purchases in the past month. Outdoor activities and reading/learning lead the way. Eight percent, like me, spent it on something music-related.


And of course, our hardworking team cranked out a ton more research for your reading pleasure: 

  • One promising insight for the restaurant category is that the people most cautious about returning to dine are the ones who were using delivery apps before anyway;
  • Sales of frozen entrees really heated up during the pandemic (see what I just did there?);
  • Support for a cashless society climbed appreciably over the past few months because passing around paper money is gross right now;
  • We looked at all kinds of interesting trends among people who shop at discount retailers, especially TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and Nordstrom Rack;
  • Brand favorability for American Eagle Outfitters is positive, but the underlying demographic trends are a bit more complicated;
  • Most Americans think tariff policies should ease during the pandemic because of course they should.

And here are the most popular questions from this week:


Hoping you’re well,