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Out of Scope Issue 31: Milk Crate TikToks Not Recommended
This week’s nonrequired thinking on reputation, business, and culture
This week, we’re switching up the order of operations, giving you a taste of what’s on our minds first before jumping into the brand fail of the week and the other stuff on our radar. A sneak peek at what’s ahead: the Mets, cultish momfluencers, oatmilk (again!), milk crates, and horse dewormer.
💡ON OUR MINDS:
Nielsen’s Legitimacy Crisis
The Media Ratings Council officially suspended Nielsen’s TV measurement service’s third-party accreditation this week after months of controversy over the accuracy of its audience figures, having previously admitted to lowballing audiences nationally and locally.
What will the world of TV advertising look like without an MRC-accredited Nielsen?
NBCUniversal has put forth a rallying cry for research companies to create a new measurement scale. Advertisers like P&G and Anheuser-Busch reacted with statements that essentially said, “hold up”. While these brands believe in the project’s intention, they don’t want networks or publishers to be the ones that create the replacement solution.
Nielsen, on the other hand, seems to be relying on the strength of its industry presence, investing into its 2022 Nielsen One cross-platform measurement release rather than scrambling over the MRC accreditation.
The media industry hasn’t seen a measurement legitimacy crisis like this since 1964 when the Media Rating Council sprang up as the answer to questionable TV and radio ratings that spawned Congressional hearings a year earlier.
With billions of ad dollars at stake, we’ll be keeping an eye on what, if any, solutions bring data transparency that everyone can agree on.
NCAA’s Name, Image, Likeness Policy
July 1 marked a monumental shift for college athletes, who can now begin to accept endorsements for the use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL) while still competing for their university. The full implications of this new policy are still playing out.
There are many facets to effectively recruiting in college athletics and the most successful coaches and schools tend to understand how and what to communicate with prospective talent. As outlined by AdAge's Ilyse Liffreing, “experts say colleges and universities that provide the most NIL opportunity for their athletes in this regard will benefit when it comes to future recruiting cycles." Whether hiring an internal branding professional or outsourcing to talent agencies, the new age of NIL is adding a layer to the tricky recruiting process that can benefit schools, athletes, and brands alike.
Meanwhile, many current collegiate athletes are springing at the chance to affiliate themselves with brands like Barstool Sports, a controversial sports media company aimed at a young demographic, quickly capitalized. Founder Dave Portnoy offered any collegiate athlete the opportunity to join Barstool Athletes Inc – a partnership that not even Portnoy knows what will entail – on July 2, and now nearly 6,000 collegiate athletes are featured on the Barstool Athletics Instagram page.
Some universities like the University of Louisville are advising their student-athletes against working with Barstool Sports in terms of NIL activity.
Overall, this is a win for collegiate athletes in gaining control of their NIL and opens up a new sector of marketing and PR that has yet to be touched in the sports world. We’re curious to watch how the ripple effect continues to play out for athletes, universities, and sports agencies.
Does the arrival of a literary megastar prove that Substack is the next ‘it’ platform?
Substack has added a new level of literary starpower to its stable of authors in Sir Salman Rushdie, winner of the Booker Prize, who rose to worldwide fame with the publication of his religious fantasia The Satanic Verses in the late 1980s.
Substack, a partially-paid subscription newsletter platform, has seen many prominent journalists leave established outlets to hang out their own shingle, like Andrew Sullivan post-New York Magazine and Bari Wiess post-New York Times. But Rushdie is the first big-name author from the world of entertainment and literature set to release original material there.
Rushdie’s motive may be part financial. Recent news that Bari Weiss is pulling in $800K+ per year from the service is just the latest in gossip about serious income for authors on the platform, some of whom, like Glenn Greenwald, are rumored to make upwards of $1 million.
But Rushdie’s motives may also be deeper than that. One member of the HL team remembers snagging a seat hours early to see to the author lecture in the 1990s, only to be booted from the auditorium so bomb-sweeping dogs could be sent along the aisles. The infamous fatwa, or death sentence, pronounced against him in the 1980s by the highest religious authorities in Iran, in retaliation for his heterodox writing about Islam, has never been technically lifted.
It is any wonder that a man who has put his life on the line for the freedom to speak his mind would follow others to a platform founded for just such a purpose?
🏆 REPUTATION WIN/FAIL OF THE WEEK: Meet the Mess
We promised to not make the Mets the ‘brand fail’ too many times, but this week was too much to pass up, as the team’s most expensive players, Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez, decided to respond to booing fans with a thumbs down any time they did something right.
The explanation behind it was that fans boo the players when they fail. So when the players succeed, they’re going to boo the fans who booed them. “They’ve got to be better,” said Baez. Seems like they picked up this game plan from Mr. Met.
The two were lambasted and apologized (somewhat) quickly the next day, following critiques from the Mets owner and president. “These comments, and any gestures by him or other players with a similar intent, are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said team president Sandy Alderson.
There’s some friendly banter among Team HL about the takeaway here. The cautious, and more professional approach, is simply: don’t boo your customers. However, anyone who’s watched a game with a fair-weather fan who is boisterous when their team is winning and excessively whiny when their team loses may appreciate that this is a funny — if admittedly petty — reaction from the talent (or product, depending on how you look at it) to goad those who’ve fallen down on their commitment to brand loyalty.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
TikTok influencer content is the recent talk of the advertising town, but Kantar's Media Reactions 2021 Report found Spotify to be the most trusted platform for ads among both brands and consumers. Compared to last year, podcast ads are perceived as both better quality and more relevant, suggesting brands should lean into the platform to authentically connect with consumers.
Are mommy bloggers their own kind of cult? According to the language certain kinds of momfluencers are using - quite possibly yes. A Harper’s Bazaar piece dives into the “truth-telling mamas” and their “thought-terminating clichés” they use to discourage feedback or pushback, isolate their followers, and uphold themselves as supreme authorities.
Pour one out for the latest stories challenger from LinkedIn as it closes down shop at the end of the month. (Fleets, the short 24-hour tweets from Twitter, retired earlier this summer). As a platform, LinkedIn is designed around big announcements and job updates, and less for those personal moments one might share on an Instagram or Snap story. Advertisers were into the feature since it provided another potential avenue to reach business customers, but we have to ask… did any of you, dear readers, ever once click on a LinkedIn story at the top of your feed?
Is it finally the end of the “girlboss” era? Former Teen Vogue editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay writes on “The Demise of the Girlboss” for the Cut. Girlboss energy usually came tinged with a touch of racism, quite a bit of elitism, a minimalist (or maximalist) brand, and a LOT of scrutiny. See: Sophia Amoruso (Nasty Gal), Jen Gotch (Bando), Audrey Gelman (The Wing), Steph Korey (Away), Christene Barberich (Refinery29), and others who brought their brands to incredible heights only to fall to their (personal brand) demise. All this begs the question… what will the next rebrand of the woman executive look like?
It’s the era of the values-based consumer, and that applies to the job market too. The Edelman Trust Barometer reported that 76% of prospective employees have higher standards for their employers than just three years ago, including not just salaries and benefits, but how well the company’s stance on social issues aligns with the employee’s values. With 60% of employers saying that their employees have more leverage than ever, demonstrating social impact may be the ticket to attracting tomorrow’s top talent.
Customer service is more important than ever when it comes to word-of-mouth marketing, now that customer complaints can go viral in moments. The Wall Street Journal reports on long hold times for airline customer service, captured perfectly in one quote from a TikTok by Ruby Murton, who spent nine hours on hold with Delta in July: “At four hours I had some Fruity Pebbles. This was the best part of my night. So delicious, except I added too much milk ... By hour seven I was questioning my entire existence.”
Ever wonder why hyperlinks are blue? Sometimes the best communication is a simple visual cue.
If Kanye West's new album "Donda" is really a tribute to his late mother, why would he feature so many artists with a history of violence against women? His newest album, ringing in at 27 songs and an hour and 48 minutes, is full of featured artists currently or previously involved in cases of sexual and physical assault against women. Message consistency is key… not that Kanye has ever stuck to that approach!
What do “Blue Mountain State” and “Bishop Sycamore HS” have in common? Neither of them are real schools. Last week ESPN aired what was thought to be a marquee matchup of high school football talent. Bishop Sycamore suffered a 0-58 beatdown at the hands of the nationally recognized IMG Academy, but that was just the beginning of their downfall: the school is now under investigation by the Ohio Department of Education when reports called its legitimacy into question. Image can take you fairly far, but usually, it helps to have something to back up your claims.
From GameStop’s Ryan Cohen, who spun investors into a frenzy last February after posting an ambiguous tweet of a McDonald’s ice cream cone alongside a frog emoji, to Tesla’s Elon Musk, who has a history of clashing with the SEC re: his social media posts, one thing is becoming clear, according to the WSJ: more and more meme lords are occupying the C-Suite. These company insiders, who post outlandish tweets and have cult-like followings online, tend to use cryptic tweets or memes to drum up interest in their companies. But there’s a fine line that these executives have to walk between being relatable or becoming the butt of an internet joke, and the risk can have serious impacts on a company’s reputation.
Oatmilk is still having a moment, with big brands like Chobani and Califia Farms launching new campaigns that tout their twists on the latest trend (think zero-sugar oat milk and oat milk coffee creamer). Oat milk’s US market, which saw a growth of 31% in sales between May 2020 and May 2021 to $304 million, is becoming more and more crowded, encouraging brands to turn to bold advertising and celebrity influencer campaigns in an attempt to distinguish themselves from competitors.
TikTok has now banned the viral Milk Crate Challenge, where people stacked milk crates like stairs and tried to climb them without falling flat on their face because it’s too dangerous and hospitals are full. As the ladies of Slate’s podcast ICYMI aptly noted, this is one of the most organic social phenomena to go viral in the past few years, i.e. it gained traction without the help of influencers. It’s the perfect blend of compelling — accessible, creative, bizarre, and risky.
Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced Theranos founder, begins her criminal trial this week. This case is particularly interesting to Team HL because of how far she got the business on story alone, and how the lasting legacy of her ability to dupe investors is creating undue challenges for other women entrepreneurs in the biotech and health space. Some of the top women entrepreneurs in the space report they are (still) often held in comparison against Holmes.
Here’s one way to make a statement — Irwin Bernstein, a University of Georgia professor, resigned mid-class when a student refused to comply with a mask policy. In related news, Bari Weiss, who quit the NYT via open letter, is now making $800K/year via Substack. The great resignation continues, and it’s happening for all the world to see.
People are turning to Ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19, which is typically used to, we kid you not, deworm horses. While the FDA strongly warns against this, tens of millions of people around the world have allegedly taken this drug. In the U.S., it’s been promoted on everything from The Joe Rogan Experience to Facebook ads. While actual COVID-19 vaccines have been proven effective, studies of Ivermectin have found no clinical evidence that it does anything to treat or prevent the virus. But alas, here we arrive at another chapter in the culture war, where truth just doesn’t get in the way of a good story. Here’s a horse meme to ride us out:
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print: