April 3, 2023


What will brands do if collaborations become uncool?

If you’ve been hiding under a rock and aren’t aware of the trend of de-influencing trend, dive in here.

I have personally been a little shocked with how interesting people are finding this trend. Giving real opinions that aren’t paid for has us shook it seems.

But it has got me wondering what ‘we’re over it’ moment is coming next. 

What other trends are so ubiquitous it has become central to how social media functions.

Is the collab next?!


Will one of brands biggest audience growth mills come to an end?

Are we grown tired of 20 GANNI collabs a year?

Has Mackintosh re-emerged with a new ‘fresh takes’ on the raincoat enough times?

Have Crocs Crocced with too many?

The way BLANK STREET coffee—as Bon Appetit pointed out: basically a brand designed as a vehicle for collaborations—is going, I think the answer is not just yet.

But like with all things. The backlash is coming. It’s not a matter of if, but when. 

Anything does not go anymore. The rose-colored glasses are off.

Beloved Outdoor Voices was recently skewered for their Disney collab.

And what of the collabs' best and worst enemy: AI? When everyone has the ability to dream up collaborations, often with fantastic and over-the-top results, how will real collaborations compete? And will it be worth it for brands, knowing a collab is often a 1-year production versus a 20-prompt exercise? 

So the question is:

Will brands learn to innovate on their own? Sans crutch of another cool brand or influencer to give them the edge. 

Will brands learn to innovate on their own? Sans crutch of another cool brand or influencer to give them the edge. 

Will we push past the blatant PR GRAB?

Will we know how to de-collab?

April 3, 2023



If I told you today to put your website up and leave it alone, alone alone, [without being able to change a single thing] for 5 years would you?! F**k no and you wouldn’t, excuse your language 😂

Would you design the same tee for 5 years straight? Likely not.

Read backdated trends reports for the latest advice? No.

So why do brands spend years working on perfecting their brand strategy and positioning and then leave it as an anchor for teams to sink with?

Today’s reality is that things move fast. New paradigms emerge. Chat GPT3, TikTok, global pandemics, bank collapses. Good brands chase great brands, nipping at heels. Two things are true: Everything moves quickly today. And there’s always someone new coming for you (if you are doing it right).

So what is a brand to do? 

Keep moving. Keep growing. 

Get active 

The problem is, times have changed but the approach to brand positioning has not.

Traditional Positioning = A strategy exercise to define what makes your brand distinctive. It’s often a C-Suite activity and not truly an integral part of every decision a brand makes day to day. Teams often lack the clarity of how the positioning affects everyday decisions leading to reactive decisions that don’t move you forward.

But what if you approach positioning in an active way?

The Active Position = Taking traditional positioning and going one step further. Putting your brand distinction into action in every day and extraordinary ways.

Sounds great, right? It is. 

It is a center for your evolving brand.

There are so many benefits to this approach:

  1. Your brand remains relevant and growth feels distinctive.
  2. Every action you take is a step forward—less chaos and more clarity.
  3. It helps you retain and maintain challenger brand status.
  4. Relationships with your existing customers get stronger, new audiences constantly and consistently get to see what makes you different
  5. And the icing on the cake? Internal alignment and clarity means your team is always ready to execute—content, product and creation comes easier. 

Singular brand visions are dead. 

Singular muse died a long time ago. 

And static brand positions are dead too.

Welcome to the world of an Active Position. 

The world is waiting for you to evolve.

February 7, 2023


How brand positioning makes good brands great brands.

Every morning I make a cup of tea. To get more specific: English breakfast*. Without fail, it’s PG Tips. For me, there is no other tea. Sure, it’s the quality. But it goes beyond that. There’s no messing with little strings and tags—because good English tea is made in a teapot. The taste is so distinctive its referenced in their tagline. And there’s the generational tradition: my mum drinks it, my brother drinks it, my nan drank it. Every sip is a little taste of home. PG Tips is a treatise on brand positioning. They have leaned into what makes them, them. And they are winning. Started in 1930, they are the #1 tea sold in Britain and are on international shelves worldwide. They hold the unique status all brands strive for: distinction + ubiquity. 


There’s a book about it. Many brands can be everywhere with good distribution but the difference between good brands and great brands is understanding your brand distinction—and living it.

Often, brand positioning, or what makes you distinctive, is C-suite activity that rarely trickles down into every aspect of the brand. And yet it should be the culture of the brand. It should be your main squeeze. 

As brands grow, extending into new categories or new audiences, there is often a race to grab every coin. In doing this, brands often lose what made them distinctive. They lose perspective in favor of widening their pie. Yet, historically, successful brands narrow their focus rather than broaden it.


When Crocs trimmed its product selection by 30-40% to focus its efforts in their main clog, business sky-rocketed. When they focused on their main squeeze—they grew. Perhaps they shaved off some underperforming products but that doesn’t explain this level of growth. They leaned into what made them distinctive. Crocs was always for the slightly weird and subversive. Polarizing but delightful. The deeper they leaned into this position at every turn, the stronger they became. They did it with Jibbitz, brand partnerships, the list goes on and on. They narrowed their focus on what made them great and they went big on being everywhere in an unignorable way. Distinction + ubiquity—achieved. 


Take Fishwife. They make tinned fish. They made their brand so distinctive it’s repositioning the WHOLE category. They have 48k followers on Instagram. The incumbents? Starkist, 17.8k. Bumble Bee Foods, 8k. Chicken of The Sea, 5K—Fishwife is clearly doing something right. They have a beautifully distinctive brand. From the illustration style, to their clear POV on who eats their tinned fish, to the partners they collaborate with. They are tuned in to what their consumers love. They ensured their spots at every shoppy shop* nationwide and they just inked a deal with Whole Foods. Distinction + ubiquity—check. If you’re not eating them yet, they’ll be improving your pantry any day now.

Liquid Death—another great example. They sell water. Everything about their success is positioning. And they lived it at every turn. They made distinction so core to their DNA it drove viral fame. Distinction + ubiquity status unlocked. Current valuation: $700 million. 


Tight positioning improves business, yes. And it drives ubiquity—the goal. But what’s often overlooked is how much a clear brand distinction will improve the lives of your team—business even gets better INSIDE the company. All decisions, from platforms to partnership, product categories to campaigns become clearer. When teams are guided by a strong position at every turn, living it daily, when they know your main squeeze, the how/when/where of the brand is clockwork.

This is not a plea to narrow your product categories down to one. The one thing you are good at is not a product. It’s your perspective. Your position is your distinctive take on your category, your audience, culture AND your product. Make it your guiding light. Make it the kool-aid. Make it WWJD. Make it something you live every day. Make it everything you do and everything you love.

Make it your main squeeze and see what happens. 

*Tell me you’re English without telling them you’re English

**We happen to love the shoppy shops

April 7, 2020

FORBES—How This Woman-Owned Design Firm Creates Brands That Last

This article was originally published in Forbes and written by Jane Claire Hervey

We live in a world where the way we get our news, tell stories about ourselves and communicate with each other is rapidly changing. From the latest social media platform to the newest design trend, it can be hard to keep up—let alone stand out.

So, what does it take to create a long-lasting brand for ourselves and for our businesses in 2019?

Kirsten Ludwig and Chris Danton of In Good Co., a brand consultancy based all around the country, have a few ideas. Ludwig, In Good Co's president and founder, and Danton, In Good Co's Chief of Ideas, both come from advertising backgrounds. A few years ago, they joined forces to work on projects that push culture forward. "My idealism was something I had hidden and apologized for in the past. And the idea [for In Good Co.] was just to really believe in brands and really get collaborative with clients and build a great culture. That’s what leads to the best work," Ludwig says. 

And that's what Ludwig and Danton say characterize In Good Co. today. Formed as a B-Corp, the company's team works all over the country and their clients span Capital One, Under Armor and Beats. Moreover, the firm is true to its name—ten percent of In Good Co.'s energy goes toward nonprofit, pro bono clients.

I chatted with Ludwig and Danton a few weeks ago to explore their collaborative process and the design of In Good Co.'s projects. Read on for the five things they think about when creating brands for their clients that last.

Chris Danton (left) and Kirsten Ludwig (right) of In Good Co.

Chris Danton (left) and Kirsten Ludwig (right) of In Good Co.COURTESY OF IN GOOD CO.Today In: ForbesWomen

1.) A solid brand starts with a business' values.

When we think of the word "brand," we often think of marketing tools, like Instagram, and visual, grid-like mood boards. But for Danton, the Chief of Ideas at In Good Co., a company's brand is its decision-making tool. It's the values and ethics that guide the decisions it makes, the conversations it joins and the products it introduces. "There’s a lot of tendency with start-ups to put up a website and a logo, and then they’re done. We very much believe that if you don’t start with the values of your company, it doesn’t mater what your logo is or your name is. You need to know your value and purpose. There’s so much worry when you have no money and your’e a start-up, but it’s the most valuable part of process," Danton says.

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2.) The creative process behind a company's identity and communication should reflect collaboration and communication.

A brand is essentially a company's culture, translated into a logo, website, visuals, graphics and copywriting. For that reason, Ludwig and Danton approach brand-building as a collaborative process. "We always kick every project off with a brand workshop. We have the most fun ridiculous meetings—with dancing and exercises—and it really breaks down the whole client-agency relationship. In those meetings, we establish how to have a dialogue. We’re listening to them have a conversation among themselves, too," Danton says. "Ultimately, we’re just very collaborative in nature and truly believe that when we’re collaborative, the work is going to be better and the ideas are going to better. As you go back and forth and push each other and pull each other, you’re going to get better results. We do that internally as a team and externally with our clients as well," Ludwig adds.

3.) A coherent communication strategy needs focus.

Social media has changed the way we communicate with others, and it has completely revolutionized the way companies communicate with their customers. Moreover, many companies and brands feel the pressure to join any and all online conversations with their digital communities. Danton argues that authentic brands should pick and choose the conversations they join online and off, instead. "The less tacked on that anything feels, the better. The reality of a brand is that it needs to be super focused on what your authentic purpose is. If you can’t really join that conversation, don’t," Danton says.

4.) An authentic brand starts with a company's culture—not its market identity.

Now more than ever, consumers have the ability to measure up a company's external image with its internal structure. To avoid manufacturing authenticity, Ludwig says a solid brand extends throughout a company's internal and external experience. "Internally, we have to change culture, which then externally changes the brand. The bullshit meter has never been higher. It’s all about transparency and incorporating that purpose piece of it in a really authentic way that’s right for the brand," Ludwig says.

5.) A purposeful brand is less about influence and more about meaning.

Although we live in the age of viral media, both Danton and Ludwig argue that a strong brand shouldn't exist solely to chase social media follows and likes. At the core of it, companies should expend their energy on understanding their values and translating those values into how they communicate with their customers.  "I think brands have to really engage their audiences. The rest of it just feels like image," Danton says.

May 30, 2023



‘Taylor Swift is a marketing genius’. 

If you’ve read one article this month with that headline, you’ve read 12. 

And why is TSwift a genius? 


She’s mastered it. Web3 loves it. And every CMO is asking themselves if this is the new frontier.


Does anyone else remember 2010’s favorite boardroom chant:  ‘surprise and delight’?

"Worldbuilding is surprise and delight on steroids."

It’s ‘easter eggs’, it’s weaving an interconnected story across platforms, it’s allowing your brand to get in on the fun of fandom. Worldbuilding is inside jokes, grand gestures and unexpected ‘add-ons’. It’s curating playlists to match products, celebrity partnerships that actually make sense, showing up at cultural events to actually support your community.  It’s niching down. Gestures that build goodwill. Doing the little things because they matter—and show you care. 

Worldbuilding endears customers, plays into FOMO, and when you capitalize on it, you’re able to build longevity and connection—it’s a deep investment but it pays off.

For example, Taylor Swift, in her latest tour, sported a manicure where each of the nails was painted in a hue to signify each of her albums. She incorporated a dance movie made viral by one of her Swifties on TikTok, insinuating she keeps an eye on her community’s comings and goings online. Swift even brought a prop golf club (used to bash in a car in her music video for Blank Space) to serve with on stage. 

"If ‘storytelling’ was brands giving you a peek behind their behind-the-scenes, worldbuilding is the ‘choose your own adventure’ novel."

Worldbuilding is full-on immersion, just like the name implies.

But who else can we learn from in the world of worldbuilding?

Good question. Much like brand purpose, worldbuilding applies more to B2C brands. If you’re selling backend software, no, it’s likely not for you. But if you’re a brand that sells products or experiences, worldbuilding is where the world is going. 

But before you go and study the TSwift playbook, take a step back and ask ‘What world am I looking to build?’

Worldbuilding isn’t about being on every platform. It’s about living inside the hive with your community. 

Entertainment properties have been doing this a while. Disney is a masterclass. But who else can we learn from?

1) DuoLingo. They are moving into Math, they are moving into music. Duo Lingo doing worldbuilding. They have created a language, rules, and world around learning. In their world you go on ‘streaks’, language and prompts are delightfully weird and fans revel in their weird world.

2) Yowie. Once a small, socially-beloved store, now a hotel/coffee shop/store/product creation studio. Yowie’s not worldbuilding with inside jokes, they are literally creating a way for you to engage with their brand on a variety of levels from visitor, to regular. Shopper to creator. What’s interesting about Yowie is how its founder Shannon Maldonado has continued to take us on the journey in the building of the world. With every table developed, every color picked, the hive is there engaging with her along the way. 

3) Vacation. Since its inception, Vacation has constantly brought us into their perfectly odd 80s world. From hysterical content series that weave fictional tales of couples enjoying their vacations, to surprise and delight products like their Classic Whip sunscreen, to their always on-point 80s campaign-inspired imagery, to their Ball Boy Prince collab candle that you can practically smell through the screen, the world is inescapable. 

So how to begin to build your world?

"The success of worldbuilding relies on your brand positioning."

  1. The success of worldbuilding relies on your brand positioning. If you must be clear on what makes you unique to the world. Not every world is a parody. Your world must be authentic to your brand but it is a big do or don’t bother exercise.
  2. Consider every sense. From the physical to the digital. Architecture to scent. The more small but considered elements the deeper the world.
  3. Grow it actively. As they say, worlds weren’t built in a day. Every action, campaign, content series, event, each Easter egg is a moment where you build the world. Active positioning in everyday and extraordinary ways is the key to worldbuilding.
  4. Move your mindset from us and them to we. Worldbuilding is about joining in on the fun. Ego goes out the window. You have to be in on the jokes or it just won’t work.
  5. It’s part plan, part Jesus-take-the-wheel. Related to being in on the joke, you can’t tell where a world will go. You can work on crafting it with your lens but when it’s going well it will have a life of its own. Go on the ride. Live in the world.

"The way to world domination is in the details."

Time to build your world.

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April 3, 2023



Brand Purpose Aka your raison d’etre, or your whole deal. 

The ‘Why Are You Here, Beyond Making Money’ question. 

A brand purpose is essentially a brand’s motivation. Some equate it to a mission statement but it’s also your positioning. It takes everything from external elements like culture, competition, and customers and what you stand for and rolls it into one big ‘HELL YEH’ statement for you to rally around. 

But recently ‘Purpose’ has been the latest target of ‘debunked marketing trends’. It’s gotten bad PR and been unfairly attributed as your ‘cause.’  It’s found itself in a grey area. A middle zone between ‘do we even need it’ and ‘we can’t live without it’.

Recent research suggests that purpose is not a major driving factor in decision-making.

But when you dig deeper into the research there’s more to tell.


What the data shows is that much like everything in the world, if you do a s**t job, it’s not effective. But if you invest the effort to do it right, the benefits are beyond your expectations. 


What this graph shows is that ineffective brand purpose hurts more than it helps. 


Solid, meaningful brand purpose moves your brand into another tier and out-performs everything else.

So how do you ensure your brand purpose doesn’t read like AI wrote it?? 

Some cold hard realities about brand purpose:

  1. It’s not easy 

If it’s not obvious, no brand should be spouting generalities like ‘we connect people’ and call it their purpose. Purpose, why, mission, whatever you want to call it, is a rallying cry for your company. If you aren’t investing the effort in making it distinctly different, ask yourself why you are doing it.

Your purpose is your difference. 

  1. It's not a nice thing to say

Much like company values, generalities are boring and unimpactful. As many times as we have heard ‘‘integrity’ stated as a company value—it’s not one—we have heard ‘we care’ listed as a brand purpose. Integrity is not a company value because it is a given. Are you hiring people that don’t have integrity? No. Company values have to be truly unique things that only your company values—not just decent-human-being traits. ‘We care’ is not your brand purpose for the same reason. It is a generally assumed belief that brands aren’t there to rip you off and not care. Purpose can’t be a nice thing you want to say and it can’t be a pay-to-play. Get specific, get detailed, get into the nitty gritty and own it.

Your purpose must be true and ownable only to you.

  1. It’s not charity 

Causes are great. But they aren’t your purpose. Mental health, women-rights, race equity, climate change? Donate to them, live the values but unless these are directly connected to you as a founder or to the operations of your business then they are causes you support, they don’t qualify as your brand purpose. The former is admirable, the latter is opportunistic. Consumers can smell opportunistic from a mile—it’s not cute.

 Purpose must be intrinsic to your brand.

  1. It’s not a CSR program

Successful brand purpose is holistic and integrated. It drives decisions, it’s factored into all things. Gone are the days where you can do one thing on the left and behave differently on the right. If purpose isn’t IN your brand you are better off accepting you simply sell goods and are there to make a profit and that’s that. Consumers would rather hear that than say one thing and act another. In short, it’s better lived than said. 

Purpose integrated into the operations of your business

  1. It’s not a nice to have

The power of purpose is that it gives you words to define your unique brand position in a powerful way. It allows you to consider that your brand position is not just a tool for market and category difference but an opportunity to shape culture. 




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April 3, 2023



The metaverse is the new mall. 

And no, not because it’s full of brands wanting your attention. 

Let’s call a spade a spade: 

The metaverse is the new mall because it is a place kids love* to kill time and make friends—and basically everyone else will hate it.


It’s is simple: 

It’s too much work.

Much like going to the mall requires getting in a car, finding parking, not finding what you’re looking for, dealing with others and most often walking away with nothing. 

The metaverse requires too much of us.

The metaverse is not made for scrolling in bed lying next to sleeping partners. Nor for using while standing in line for coffee. And it’s certainly not made for wasting time at the office when we can’t focus. 

It’s not immediately gratifying.

It’s not designed to be sneaky or mindless.

The metaverse requires full immersion. Immersion we won’t tolerate lying in bed next to us. Immersion we can’t hide. Immersion we can’t sneak in the in between.



And it’s complex. 

Worlds change fast. You don’t learn to scroll vertically and call it a day.

If you aren’t doing it for work or aren’t an avid gamer, you won’t keep up.

And the final reason the metaverse will not go mainstream? 

Delia Cai puts it perfectly: “the pandemic taught us no one actually wants to be on the internet more.”

So, you’re a brand and you’re wondering if you should enter the metaverse. How do you know if it’s right for you? 

It’s actually quite simple. 

Are you a media franchise? This could be your jam. Are you a genuinely beloved youth brand? If so, play at your own risk. If not, much like branded TikTok doesn’t play well, branded Metaverse spaces are probably not going to do you much good. 

It’s time we stop burning millions only to get ignored. 

Let’s let the kids have the metaverse. They deserve it. Leave it there for them to have fun with, to get weird and try things they want to in a world  dwindling with ‘safe’ options.

Everyone else? Find another way to spend precious marketing dollars.


*About 50% of Roblox are 12 or under—and users spend a lot of time there.

A recent Qustodio study showed TikTok running circles around YouTube in daily engagement (113 minutes per day vs. 77 minutes per day, for daily actives). But Roblox trumps both at a staggering 190 minutes per day, up 90% since 2020.

April 3, 2023



The future of retail is personal. 

Curation will take over. 

But who’s curating is about to change.

Before we get into what the future of retail looks like, let’s take a quick look back on the eras of retail that led us here.

Prior to the early 19th century, we existed in the Bespoke Era. Goods more or less were made for you personally. Tailoring was the norm, handmade goods were common practice, vendors sold door to door. 

Then, enter the department store. House of Fraser, Au Bon Marche, Gallerie Layette, Selfridges, Macy’s.

We begin our Curator Approved Era

Many goods, brought together under a tight lens of someone with taste, usually the taste du jour helping the masses stay caught up.

Fast forward and we reach today: our Peer Approved Era

Initially it was crowd sourcing with the likes of Yelp and Lookbook.nu

Quickly we evolved to individual curators: influencers. ‘Peers’ curating a list of products or even storefronts’ with tools like Flagship.

Peer approval even sparked all our favorite Substacks. A constant stream of curated lists, more personal than PR-bought media. 

But the question is: what is our next era?

What will help the decision-fatigued consumers in a world where they make over 35000 decisions a day?

Welcome to the Curated For You Era.

Now you may be thinking: Tiktok is already here. That may be true in terms of content but this era will go far beyond a scarily good algorithm. Far beyond what we are just starting to see in Web3 ‘worlds’. This is just the cusp. 

AI and user-owned data powered by blockchain will enter us into an era of truly personalized curation. 

But serving up good, truly personal recommendations isn’t what will mark this era.

This era will change the shape of retail as we know it today because of YOU.

And we couldn’t need you more.

Ibrahim Ibrahim put it so well: ‘The past 30 years have squeezed the magic and margins out of retail, as we have tried to make it more about convenience, commodity, ubiquity, value and speed, while the next 30 years should be about bringing that magic, storytelling and wonder per square foot back.

The era of Curated For You is that future.

It’s a blending of all previous eras and more.

It will feel like a unique dream-woven moment, made just for you. 


You love a specific illustrator. 


Brands will mint you the collaboration.

Limited edition, just for 12hrs. 

Just for you

They will then learn from your purchase, offering you more truly unique products at a clip that will make Shein look slow.

In many cases YOU will be the designer.

VC, Rex Woodbury, put it pretty clearly in his recent article on the retail revolution

You will “be able to enter the text prompt “bright orange high-tops emblazoned with the swoosh and ‘REX’ on the back” and get a custom-made shoe in seconds. Everyone will become a product designer, unlocking new levels of personalization.”

But that’s not even the magical part. 

I predict it will define this era because it will change HOW we shop.

In this coming era every brand-owned ecomm site will offer a curated selection that goes beyond one brand. 

Do you always buy Everlane tees but Ganni jeans? Brands will accept that and serve you up what you’re looking for in hopes it will push you over the edge.

But it won’t stop there.

The real prediction is it will also change WHERE we shop.

You won’t go to brands. They will come to you.

You will have your own store. 

Brands will be granted access. By YOU.

It’s ecomm decentralized. A truly consumer-first world. Who gets access? Who has to pay to get in? This will be up to you to decide. Brands will fight to be in the business of YOU.

Perhaps it’s not the Curated For You Era. 

Perhaps it’s the Curated BY You Era.

It’s time for retailers to ready themselves for this evolution. The power shift is coming. 

Get ready for everything to change.

March 24, 2023


Filling the Hedonistic gap with bite-size, guiltless pleasure.

The title of this article was initially going to be ‘The Future of Luxury is Bite Sized’. That title is a true phenomenon. The desire for luxury is expanding but the size of the ‘splurge’ is often smaller. It is no longer the size of a $12K Birkin and is now the size of a $28 bag of chips. $28 dollar chips.  A whoa-that’s-pricey bag of chips but a luxury we can all manage—and increasingly, seem to justify. You only have to take a walk through the aisles of Erewhon, Foxtrot or Big Night to see it happening. $55 ceramic mugs bought in an elite-athlete-level competitive buying experience—yet another example. But while this phenomenon is fascinating, the more interesting question is: WHY is this happening? Hedonism 3.0. (Or 15.0 as Hedonism has been around since the dawn of woman). In our post-Me Too, post-alcohol, post-sex-scenes world, we are having to fill our Hedonistic cups elsewhere. 

With cultural shifts, those latent desires still exist under the surface, and as a result, we’re seeking that pleasure…in the safe loving arms of expensive chips and fancy supplements. 

Don’t get this wrong, we’re pro Me-too. Can understand the ‘alcohol is poison’ rationale. Agree with the concerns of consumerism and the planet. That’s not the point. The reality is there are fewer places where ‘pleasure’ feels safe. Hedonism at a VERY basic level, it is defined as: 

But one VERY important and distinctive aspect of Hedonism not mentioned in the definition above, that is key:


And this is where bite-sized luxury comes in. We want pleasure and we want to not feel guilty about it! Exactly what small but extravagant pleasures offer.  Yes, it’s indulgent but it’s an indulgence you don’t have to feel bad about. This guilt-free view of expensive snacks is such a phenomenon it has spurred a treasure trove of hysterical content. One prime example, the realization that the minibar is in fact not the devil or that tiny little hotel-fridge was filled with Cokes and chocolate bars are not so unimaginably expensive they were going to bankrupt your family and ensure you could never go on vacation again. 

@the.mcfarlands Dad used to tell us we would get charged if we even *touched* the snacks 💀 #dan #dad ♬ The Treason of Isengard - Howard Shore

As a collective generation we have not managed to mend the many realms of mental health issues we face but we have as a collective managed to get past the fear of the minibar. 

So what can brands do with this?


Turn up shame-free pleasure. Splurgy options that lean heavily on indulgent and divine pleasure—within reach. 

One example: the minibar. Following in the footsteps of brands like Ghia and Amass and show up to make this splurge even more  worthy.


Gift with purchase that people actually love spending money on but are frequently shamed for doing so—like Tarot Readings (and end the choke-hold bag totes have on GWP—pls lord). If not Tarot, tattoos. If not tattoos, you get the point. 


Embrace a coming together that creates a Hedonistic level of splurgy nirvana. The key to this is understanding what pleasure/pinnacle means to both audiences in the collab or you can really miss the mark. You also have to go big or go home. Nike x Tiffany collab for example that really missed all the marks because it didn’t go far enough. You have to maximize the pleasure or don’t bother.

Have fun! Get wild!

February 7, 2023


The Need for Clear Positioning

You know that feeling when you introduce two friends that seem different but yet glaringly similar? Lately I’ve been having that same feeling about two different types of clients: hyper-growth brands and incumbent brands looking to reposition. Different on the surface yet glaringly similar situations.


Beyond those that put them on this warp speed trajectory. Asking themselves (and us) how to propel the brand into its next phase of growth.

This inflection point often looks like:

  1. Growth into difference audience segments
  2. Product category expansion
  3. Increase in marketing spend
  4. Rapid team growth 

This often correlates with the 80-100* employee inflection point. That moment in team growth when fissures arise, processes no longer work, when retention takes a nose dive—when it all seems ready to implode or explode. 

At this point you need two things: 1. processes for 50 that will work for 300 and 2. an ultra clear brand perspective (brand positioning). This can be the difference between implosion and explosion. 

Why is brand positioning so critical?


Generalized data-driven audience profiles based on existing consumersDeep insight and data-driven new audience segments that further embed the brand in culture
Products for products’ sake. Frequently paired with the misunderstanding it will increase LTVProducts that advance what made your brand unique to begin with
Media buys that get you consumers that would have likely converted anywayStrategies that connect more deeply and campaigns that feel nuanced and IYKYK
Lack of clarity on what the brand stands for, resulting in individual interpretation at scaleClear, focused, unique audience mindsets and brand ‘why’ which drives sustainable growth

Interestingly, all four of the challenges in the left column are the same ones incumbent brands often face. Why?

More often than not, along the way, incumbents have lost a clear brand position. 

So, if you’re in hyper-growth or an incumbent looking to right the ship, the advice is the same. If you want to maintain your stake or re-stake your claim at being a GREAT brand, figure out your brand position and get ready for the explosion.

*Not counting store employees, speaking more to head-office teams.

February 7, 2023

THE FUTURE IS ON CO-PILOT—and we’ll love it

Filling the Hedonistic gap with bite-size, guiltless pleasure.

There’s something about the AI frenzy that recalls Y2K. A level of irrational panic that causes even the most logical among us to instinctively buy 6 bottles of water for a family of 5. 

I think this panic is misplaced. First, let’s face facts: AI will be everywhere. It’s not a question of if but when. And this could a good thing. 

We need to rebrand AI.

It’s not a bot coming for your job.

It’s a co-pilot to your life.

Just as you Google even the most basic fact or pull up an app to get you to a place you already know the way to, just with less traffic, AI will run alongside you. Assisting and lifting the monotonous burdens that we all secretly know we’ll be delighted to let go of.

Let us put aside the panic and ask: is AI the future of work happiness? A co-pilot to free up our time, allowing us to be our best human-selves? 

If I’m hearing Matt Klein’s research correctly, the answer is yes. Humans are better at making the magic connections happen. At bridging complex business needs. At finding synergies that no bot can see. At imbuing depth and meaning. But AI can sift through the muck and uncover bits of gold we might have missed. 

AI needs to be viewed as a super handy collaborator, not a nemesis. And we’ll all have a co-pilot soon enough. 

  • Electricians will have a co-pilot for the super complex raceways. Humans will still be there implementing the solutions.
  • Architects will have co-pilots to help them adapt to local codes, assist with the n-teenth stair solution or reconfigure because of a duct discovery. But there’s no AI that can navigate the emotional meaning of ‘home’.
  • Assistants will have assistance. But we all know a recap is just an outline.
  • We’ll scan giant documents without using keywords. But navigating the complex realities of business priorities—that’s a human superpower.
  • Dalle-2 will feature in every design field. But there’s so much more that goes into a design than what it looks like. 
  • Agencies will generate ideas for pitches, and even ads. But once the novelty of it wears off, humans will still need to uncover the deeply weird, unexpected realities that are the bedrock of great ads.
  • AI might write our quizzes (and we’ll be glad of it!) But something with of true substance is impossibly far off. 
  • Doctors will get AI-powered tools to translate bad penmanship. Perhaps this will free up time for the the human side of patient care.
  • Yes, there will be tools to make editing videos faster and easier but it will still require a vision, a director, to guide how it all unfolds. If you think AI will replace A24’s magic, you’re mad. 
  • Toy companies will play with making fun virtual prototypes but they’ll still engage with customers to see what actually matters. ‘Shop small’ has proven we don’t truly love to buy from robots.
  • There will even be a co-pilot for you. A digital twin to practice tricky surgeries on, to track and predict more preventable disease—this is the stuff of dreams not the stuff of nightmares.

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of potential applications for AI we’ve been wanting and needing.

If you have ever navigated applying and REAPPLYING for your elderly parents’ Medicaid, you will fall in love with the AI that helps ease that burden. 

Imagine when AI gets so good that moms will have reduced emotional fatigue from a few monotonous tasks being taken off her plate.

When the lonely have access to an AI that remembers all their stories and can engage them in meaningful conversation.

When an AI that let’s you find a specific piece of advice in a book you own without the hassle of flipping through the entire book yourself. Heaven.

Co-pilots will be amazing. 

That said, I think AI is still in its—to continue with our ‘aughts references—Limewire phase. We’re stealing on a daily and personal level. I don’t think this will last long. Once we get out of the ‘free fun’ phase and this becomes a truly entrenched part of our lives we’ll be paying for it like we do the rest of the internet. Some stuff will be free (mainly the stuff that makes money off you in other ways), the rest you will pay for. Artists will license their styles. Authors their books. Specialists their know-how. Already, tools are coming out to tell you if something is AI generated. These are growing pains. Annoying? Yes. Reason for panic? No. 

So if you need to buy 6 bottles of water to calm your nerves—go for it. But I think 6 will be more than enough. Spend the rest of your time planning  what you’ll do with the fraction of extra spare time AI might provide as it creates shortcuts to daily life. I for one am one mom ready for a trusty co-pilot.

PS. Obviously we had to make some AI generated image for the cover of this piece. I can tell you now that I spent way too long trying to smash the right words together to get something even passably acceptable. This no doubt will change but we’re not in the future just yet y’all.

Attempts prior to a mediocre finale: