I’m not sure anything can unite us anymore. 

Fragmentation is too entrenched today, incentivized even. The promise of “personalization” in our online and offline lives has steered us further and further down a path of tribal isolation, never to return. 

I can be convinced I’m part of the mainstream when I’m not, simply because social media made it easy for me to find lots of other people who like whatever weird, outlying things I like. And it makes me feel good, normal, validated.   

We want our thing and our thing only. If those people like it, it’s not our thing anymore.

When half of America latches on to something – “Let’s go Brandon!” – it just pushes the other half further away. It’s only fun if someone else is sneering through the window.   

So, it’s time to retire the romantic notion of “tentpoles.” Phenoms like the Beatles, the series finale of M*A*S*H, Seinfeld, or American Idol – once ubiquitous fodder for water cooler talk – are relics, never to be seen again.

Take the Netflix hit Squid Game, that took the nation by storm, but not really. One-third of Americans don’t even have Netflix, skewed heavily by people that live in areas without broadband Internet. It only took one-third of the country to elect Donald Trump. 

Moreover, a subtitled series about a South Korean survival game is only going to appeal to a particular psychographic segment of viewers. Stereotype as you wish. Plenty of Republicans watched Squid Game – but you get my point.

The Summer Olympics couldn’t even bring us together. One side was pissed because Sha’Carri Richardson was banned for smoking weed. The other side was pissed because Simone Biles bowed out of the team competition to protect her mental health.

We can’t even agree on hating Russia or China, let alone matters of public health, climate change, or education. How can Evangelical Christians get along with Muslims when Evangelical Christians can’t even get along with other Christians?

I don’t know if it makes consumer marketing harder or easier. On one hand, if you find your niche, it’s easier to build your following. News spreads fast among the like-minded.

On the other hand, your upside is inherently capped. You can’t appeal to everyone without losing the loyal followers who once counted you among their own. 

I’m just glad we’re a B2B business. 

You’re the only tribe we need.

Here’s what we’re seeing:   

A lot of people are still going to work when they’re sick. First the good news: Thanks to the proliferation of remote and hybrid work, combined with broader general caution about public health, the percentage of American workers who work from home when they’re sick has nearly tripled (while the % who take a sick day has remained the same). The bad news is that 35% of workers say they went to work the last time they were sick. Ugh. So, either we have a problem where people don’t feel like they have workplace latitude (or support) to make the responsible decision or they don’t care. That needs to change.

YouTube is the king of media. Maybe this won’t surprise you, like it did me. I seldom think about YouTube in the same vein of cultural prominence as Netflix or Facebook and, on some levels – like the media attention they get or total time spent – that might be true. But when it comes to the size of its audience, YouTube reigns supreme. A whopping 85% of Americans watch YouTube, with 56% watching daily or weekly. That’s clearly more than the 68% who watch Netflix or use Facebook. Even among teens, YouTube is used by 75% daily/weekly, compared to 58% who use TikTok. Again, maybe time on the platforms matters more in the grand scheme of things, but when it comes to total audience reach, it’s no contest. 

Dollar Tree either picked a really good time or a really bad time to jack up their prices. This is an interesting guinea pig to watch, as Dollar Tree (the most popular among the peer group we track) made a high-profile move to increase its base price of items to $1.25 (but not renaming the company to Buck-And-A-Quarter Tree). While the company insists the decision isn’t a reaction to growing inflation, the timing seems more than coincidental. Perhaps it’s because their popularity grew significantly this year, as you can see below, and they have the momentum to pull it off. Or maybe economic headwinds will push consumers down market from big box retailers, where DT can still win on price. Or maybe all that goodwill they’ve generated this year will disappear. We’ll see.

Kids getting vaccinated will help the economy rebound even further. We all hoped this would be a turning point and, while a lot of parents are still on the fence about vaxxing their kids, the pro-vaxxers are showing early signs of ramping up their consumerism. From travel (especially by plane) to shopping, to visiting family and friends, to eating in restaurants – particularly upscale ones – it seems parents can’t wait to get back to normal now that their kids are getting inoculated. 

If you don’t offer free shipping, you’re playing behind the 8-ball. This is the new normal. People (especially women) expect to have things on their doorstep, in a couple days or less, and they don’t want to pay for the privilege. Among the most prolific gift-buyers, if they do have to leave the house, they want to order something online and pick it up curbside. And, if you’re selling to Baby Boomers, trust in your site is crucial. Don’t take my word for it.   

The NFL is winning back casual fans and the “Manning Cast” isn’t hurting. Monday Night Football seems to have stumbled on to a winning concept, having Peyton and Eli Manning add hokey commentary from their living rooms with the occasional guest joining in. It may not explain the improving popularity of the NFL among less-than-avid fans, but it certainly appears to be working. A large percentage of consumers think sports commentary takes itself too seriously. Now, let’s try doing the same thing with the news. 

Brands need to adapt to the changing values of Americans in the COVID era. My guest on our podcast this week was Claudine Cheever, the VP of Global Marketing from Amazon. We talked about everything from the future of advertising to stiletto Crocs. Check it out.

And, since I played hooky over Thanksgiving, we have tons of other delicious studies for you to devour:

Here are (some) of our most popular questions from the last two weeks:

Answer Key:  Cream cheese; Hell no; Also hell no; Gen X rocks; You’re welcome any time; As little as possible; On. Off is weird.

Hoping you’re well.



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