It’s lonely at the top. Not that I know that first-hand.

Second-hand, though.

I’ve had the privilege over the years of building some special relationships with CEOs and VIPs of all kinds. Some of them pay us, some don’t. Many of them are reading this right now.

The funny thing is that they think I’m advising them, flashing a bunch of data and insight they can’t get anywhere else. But I’m learning way more than they are, sponging up everything I can about what they do and how they do it. I should be charging them, not the other way around.

Forget I said that.

When you start a company as a kid, you miss all the on-the-job education most people glean from a day-to-day boss. I had to spend my early career collecting mentors, sometimes predatorily. I would call, email, charm their admins, stalk them at events –  even deliberately do free work for non-profit boards they sat on (true story) – anything to get that first meeting.

And that’s what sucks the most about being the chief. Everyone wants something from them, every minute of every day. They live with their guard up, evaluating whether they can trust you or – more likely than not – what your angle is. Hardly an hour goes by when someone doesn’t ask them for a promotion or raise, a donation, a sponsorship, a favor, or some other request.

People get outraged about CEO pay and I get it. They fly private. I’m not playing a tiny violin for celebrities who are hounded by the paparazzi or pro athletes who can’t escape selfie-seekers either. They know what they signed up for.

But company leaders – save for an exception or two – don’t enjoy the adoration side of the coin like actors, athletes, or rock stars. Nobody flaunts a jersey with their name on it or wears their eponymous perfume. They make brutally-hard decisions, stand in front of firing squads, and walk into every conversation wondering what you want from them. Most of them worked their asses off and made huge sacrifices to get there. It’s not all roses and sunshine.

Sure, lots of them are jerks too. But I’d bet the jerk-to-good-person ratio among CEOs is no worse than you’d find anywhere else. They’re just more visible.

I’m not asking you to do a telethon for the poor, downtrodden Fortune 500 CEO. But a little more empathy is never a bad thing.

PS- I’ll be in Seattle for a couple days this upcoming week. Always eager to meet up with my pen pals, if you’re in that vicinity.

Here’s what we’re seeing this week:

The run of consumer confidence ups-and-downs has ended…with a solid up. If two consecutive readings constitutes a trend, then our Economic Sentiment Index is officially trending upward. High levels of optimism for the U.S. economy, job market, and major purchases pushed our numbers to heights we haven’t seen since mid-December. More rosy job figures and a well-received State of the Union address could have been contributing factors. Let’s hope the trend continues.
With Samsung’s big “Unpacked” event this week, loyalty among Galaxy smartphone owners has rebounded to levels not seen since the summer of 2016. In just the past few weeks, the percentage of Galaxy owners who show no indication of switching devices has reached its highest level in over 30 months, with a full 90% saying they plan to stay with Samsung. The dip was never that severe, even after Samsung phones were catching fire a couple years back. Though a small group, the likely switchers are disproportionately female, Hispanic, and Gen Z. People stick with their smartphone manufacturer, that’s for sure.

Online pet supply stores like Chewy are gaining real market share but watch out for Amazon, duh. We published an interesting study this week on Americans and their pet-food buying. Generally, the landscape looked as you’d expect, with big-box stores, grocers, and chain pet stores taking the lion’s share. But online suppliers like Chewy (our provider of choice) have climbed into double-digit market share – particularly among busy Gen Xers like us. But don’t sleep on Amazon – ever, by the way – because that’s where more and more Millennials are turning for their pet goods. Amazon is also attracting the consumers who care most about the quality of their pet food, which is critical in a category where brand preference is so strong.

Smart home security cameras are poised for a breakout. Web-enabled home cameras like Nest and Ring have gained a few points of market penetration since last summer, with overall awareness of the category jumping healthily in that time. But the biggest gains are seen in the intent category, with the percentage of people saying they plan to buy one of these products leaping from 18% last fall to 22% this quarter. Logically, the largest group of intenders are home-owning Gen Xers in the suburbs. It all adds up to a market ripe for growth.

People absolutely love ‘True Crime’ television but they’re not who I thought they would be. I’m an outlier in this case because the clear majority of Americans are into true crime TV shows and documentaries. 40% watch them regularly, which is insane. Half of those people watch it on Netflix and 1/4th on Amazon Prime. And 11% of people listen to true crime-related podcasts, to boot. It’s worth noting that the TV audience is disproportionately female – only 35% of women say they have no interest in the genre, compared to 43% of men. We don’t watch any of it in our house – except American Vandal, which is a hilarious knock-off.

Speaking of outlier, my daughter and I might be the only two people in America who tune in for the Oscars. This should come as no big surprise, given the terrible PR and dysfunction leading up to the Academy Awards this year, but the percentage of people who say they intend to watch is abysmally low. If there’s any glimmer of good news for Hollywood, Gen Z kids seem to be more interested than anyone else. As you’d expect, the few people who do plan to watch are decidedly more female, fashion-oriented, and way more politically liberal. Not a lot of Trump supporters in the Oscar-loving crowd, it turns out.

One Random Movie Stat That Has Nothing To Do With The Oscars

I’m just stunned that 10% of people have never seen a Gene Wilder movie. He’s a legend.


Hoping you’re well.


In case you’re wondering, this is an informal email I write to CivicScience clients, friends, and other VIPs every Saturday morning. If you’re getting this, you’re either one of those people or were referred to me by one of them. I always love your comments and feedback.

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