I’m totally cheating this week. These words are being written two days earlier than usual from a plane to Orlando, with a Bloody Mary sitting on the tray next to my laptop – en route to my 20th college reunion at Rollins in Winter Park.

If you’re familiar with Rollins College, you probably know that I have one helluva weekend ahead of me. (And, no, Will Rochester will not be there. He’s in Thailand, vacationing with his new girlfriend). Sunday, I’m meeting my wife and daughters in Ormond Beach to split a week visiting my mom and mother-in-law, who live two blocks from one another. Yes, that’s even more complicated than it sounds. Trust me.

All that’s to say that I may not write next week – unless I need to escape. Apologies in advance.

Here’s what we’re seeing right now:

Consumer confidence rebounded…for a minute. Tracking this stuff is starting to feel like monitoring the mood of a teenager – an area where I have a particular level of ineptitude. It’s changing by the minute. For the first 10 days of our latest reading, economic sentiment showed a nice resurgence (coinciding with the latest U. of Michigan index), but then things began to slide. The overall two-week score was up but the recent trend isn’t great. People are losing confidence in their personal financial situation, even as their optimism for the broader U.S. economy has improved. If you track all of this alongside the news cycle, it reacts to everything from Cambridge Analytica to Stormy Daniels to all the political chaos in between. People are hyper-plugged-in right now and it’s swaying their disposition about everything.

One thing I understand even less than teenagers is the beauty and cosmetic industry – but it provides fascinating insight into human nature. Even when my daughter takes pictures of her go-to products and texts them to me before my weekly grocery run, I still find a way to buy the wrong thing and get yelled at for it. Skincare and makeup is one of the few consumer categories where overall quality vastly supersedes brand or price as a necessary virtue. Why am I so intrigued by this? Because it suggests that, in most product categories, a brand-centric consumer is brand-centric because of what other people think. In cosmetics, where the product I’m wearing doesn’t have a visible logo or obvious style-profile, I value what matters to me.

Convenience is shaking up the brand/price paradigm in retail too, but only until the Millennials finally engulf the rest of us. Yes, it’s cheaper to shop online, for the most part, and the availability of choice is near-infinite. But convenience crushes all of that as the main reason people use Amazon and such.It’s especially true among GenXers and parents, in particular. Interestingly, we’re beginning to see “price” gain on “convenience” among Millennials. My guess is that’s happening because convenience has become such a commodity to Millennials – if not an entitlement – that it just goes without saying. Interestingly, “brand” is losing ground.

Netflix is officially mass-market. I really can’t wait to show you all of the adoption-curve stuff we’re doing. It’s, like, important. Seriously. In the meantime, I was enamored with this little related nugget our team of geniuses put on my desk this week. At some point in the last year or so, Netflix moved from the realm of disruptive-new-fangled-only-the-cool-kids-do-it to the-Starbucks-of-streaming-media. People who use Netflix (and/but NOT other streaming services) actually UNDER-index as early adopters, market mavens, tech savvy, and brand-conscious. They’re Luddites, on average, believe it or not. In our taxonomy of products and stuff, that’s a non-trivial turning point.

This whole Facebook kerfuffle is mostly about political tribalism because everything is about political tribalism. I have to admit that the extent of the public outrage at Facebook this week was somewhat head-scratching for me. What did everyone think is happening with their data online? Do you know what companies like Acxiom have on you? There was just as much deep-web stuff happening in ’08 and ’12 that probably had more of an impact on election outcomes than whatever Cambridge Analytica did. So, we don’t trust our overall opinion numbers right now. People are still too emotional. But what I can tell you is that Republican FB users are nearly 3X more likely than Democrats to have their pitchforks in the air. Everything is politically-charged in 2018. Make no mistake.

Random Stats of the Week

From our most popular questions of the week:

  • 45% of wine drinkers do not put their wine glasses in the dishwasher (I’m in the 55%)
  • 75% of people think it’s a jerk move to drive around with the majority of snow still on your car;
  • 30% of adults shoveled snow for money as a kid;
  • 42% of people love the Toys ‘R’ Us theme song, so they’re sad.

Talk to you in April.