I wrote the first of these emails one year ago this weekend. I haven’t missed one since – not for a holiday, a vacation, or even the occasional Category 5 hangover.
It wasn’t even my idea.
Ivan Martinez, a marketing genius at United Healthcare, suggested it at our client summit in San Francisco last fall. He even coined the title. He thought the execs we work with would enjoy a more well-rounded view of the things we study, not just the category-specific data we pipe to them all the time.
But important people are busy and inundated with emails all week.
I stole the bite-sized (today’s email, notwithstanding) format from Mike Allen of Politico-then-Axios, and the tone from music industry guru, Bob Lefsetz – one of the most authentic and penetrating writers you’ll ever read.
Yeah, I basically ripped off the whole concept and execution. Except the Saturday thing. Everyone says you’re not supposed to send mass emails on the weekend. That’s on me.
A whopping 49 people (mostly clients and friends) read that first email, which covered the AT&T/Time Warner merger, food additives, and local news. Last week, 654 people read it – still laughable to those of you who have millions of people reading everything you write.
But the make-up of those readers is pretty cool. Last week, I identified eleven CEOs of companies you know, multiple members of Congress, two big-city mayors, several prominent journalists and editors, a two-time Super Bowl champion, two people who have appeared on Silicon Valley, and Mark Cuban, whose name I will shamelessly drop until he tells me to stop – or becomes President – whichever happens first. The rest of you are awesome, too.
It’s tempting to go trawling for more readers. Our marketing team thought about turning this into a search-optimized blog or a regular post on Medium or HuffPo or whatever. My friend Bracken talked me out of that. He made me realize that I write it more for me than for you. That would change if I wrote for eyeballs.
So, as long as one of you opens this, I will keep writing it. And the list of readers will only grow if we invite them – or you do.
For those of you reading this for the first time, this is way, way more than I ever write before getting to the good stuff. Won’t happen again, I promise.
Here are some of the more notable things we’ve seen over the past year that are still happening right now…
Trump changed everything. He was elected four days after I first wrote to any of you. All of a sudden, people who were thinking about switching banks (Democrats) no longer did, while people who weren’t thinking about it (Republicans) now did. In the mobile carrier space, the effect was the exact opposite, with Dems becoming switchers and Rs staying put. People’s media – social, et al. – habits changed, as they looked for safe havens where their beliefs would be constantly affirmed. Even brand preferences began shifting as the President took aim at companies he didn’t like and others took aim at him. Don’t get me started on the NFL.
Every day, more and more people just want to stay home. Trump exacerbated this too, as our data show that people have literally become avoidant of others who disagree with their beliefs or politics. Every time a national tragedy happens, like the recent Las Vegas shooting (which almost always occur during the same six-month period), a few more people decide to stay in, order food delivery, and watch Netflix. Whether Jeff Bezos is accelerating this trend, or just riding it, is hard to distinguish – but the parallels to Amazon’s growth are undeniable. And it’s proven to be terrible news for the movie industry, casual restaurants, big-box grocers, and pretty much every retailer who hasn’t cracked the online puzzle (oh, and dollar stores).
Hispanic consumers have been taken for a ride. We saw an immediate and extreme down-turn in consumer confidence among Hispanics starting last November and bottoming out in February. They stopped spending (and going out), which was more bad news for Hollywood, as Hispanics go to the movies at nearly twice the rate of others. Fortunately, Hispanic sentiment has slowly improved (particularly with Millennial Moms), with an occasional blip every time immigrant travel bans or ICE make headlines. Still, if you’re in the e-commerce space, streaming, delivery, or all-online banking, and you’re not aggressively targeting Hispanic consumers, whatare you thinking?
McDonald’s seems to have gotten its shit together. When they launched their signature line of sandwiches in the spring, we saw uncannily-similar consumers signals to those we saw with all-day breakfast two years earlier. Surely, that wasn’t the only reason for growth – deployment of delivery and other promotions contributed – but when a company as big as McDonald’s lifts same-store-sales by 4.1% in a quarter, it makes waves across the restaurant industry.
Some Random (Happy Halloween) Insights
- Dog owners (22%) are way more likely than cat owners (1%) to dress up their pets for Halloween;
- 39% of people think A Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie – 27% think it’s a Christmas movie;
- 43% of women believe in ghosts but only 29% of men;
- Fans of horror movies are 2X more likely than fans of other genres to dress up for Halloween;
- 30% of Gen Zers have never even heard of the song Monster Mash.
Thanks again for indulging me.
Hoping you’re well.