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Out of Scope Issue 39: The Ghost of Barneys 👻
This week’s nonrequired thinking on reputation, business, and culture
This week, we take a dive into what (Facebook hopes) will be the new metaverse, vie for some contraband B.J. Novak merch, consider whether $15,000 is worth moving to Kansas, and salute our Halloween overlord, Spirit Halloween. Happy Halloweekend, folks. 🎃
💡ON OUR MINDS:
Facebook… or Meta?
This week, The Facebook Papers, a series of articles spread across nearly twenty publications, were published, outlining the disorder and chaos unraveling in the organization as employees reckon with the platform’s more-than-questionable operations. Specifically, employees take aim at the platform’s failure to quell misinformation that has driven domestic terrorism and anti-vaxx ideology, along with its complicity in providing access to increasingly abusive content.
The Papers serve as an astonishing example of employees raising the alarm, only to be ignored. While Mark Zuckerberg has attempted to downplay Facebook’s role in domestic and global conflicts empowered by the platform, employees have felt abandoned by their leader who refuses to accept accountability or seemingly work towards their vision for developing a healthier, more responsible platform. While it looks like their requests will fall on deaf ears for the time being, Facebook did manage to follow through on one thing… its rebrand.
After a week of people placing bets and making suggestions, Facebook finally revealed its new name: Meta. While we find the name a bit presumptuous (likely by design -- it is Zuck after all!), it’s nothing if not straightforward for their new vision of bringing the metaverse to life with digitally immersive experiences for users. The company’s new projects going forward will all exist under the Meta name, while popular social media apps -- Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp -- will keep their names as-is.
In the immediate wake of the news, other companies joined in on the fun, joking that they too were looking to rebrand with more apt names. For a moment, Facebook (or is it Meta?) received the very distraction from weeks of bad publicity that they were looking for in launching the rebrand. But Patagonia’s CEO’s scathing rebuke didn’t let it last long.
Additionally, the rebrand failed to satisfy those who believe Facebook’s main issue lies with a certain Harvard dropout. In one of the NYTimes’ new subscriber-only newsletters, tech journalist Kara Swisher asks the question everyone wants to know: Who is going to replace Mark Zuckerberg as CEO of Facebook? She writes, “Moving Zuckerberg out of harm’s way is perhaps the smartest strategy, since he has, like most founders, become the personification of the problem. We need time to forget his shortcomings (many) and rediscover his attributes (also many).” No answers as to when we can expect him to step down, but we do know that many will be virtually celebrating in the metaverse when he does.
Naming rights aren’t always forever - especially in a time where the “great” can fall from the heights of their public status.
After the U.S. Center for SafeSport revoked Alberto Salazar’s coaching eligibility, Nike finally agreed to strip his name from his namesake building on the Beaverton, Oregon campus. The building will be renamed Next%, after its running shoes.
Salazar was banned from coaching first temporarily, then permanently, for sexual and emotional misconduct as well as bullying and abuse of female Nike Oregon Project runners.
This isn’t a first for Nike - two other scandals have resulted in renamings, including the Lance Armstrong Fitness Center (for his U.S. Anti-Doping ban) and the Joe Paterno Child Development Center Armstrong (for his role in the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case at Penn State.)
🏆 BRAND WIN OF THE WEEK: Spirit Halloween 🎃
We all know it’s getting close to spooky season when retail resurrection giant Spirit Halloween pops up in stores that shuttered their doors after death-by-Amazon. This year, there’s even a Spirit Halloween in the skeleton of Barney’s, once known as the most sophisticated department store on earth.
“We are not body snatchers. We are bringing life, we are creating an experience,” CEO Steven Silverstein says on their real estate strategy of taking over empty spaces. 2021 projected Halloween spending is up to $10 billion, up $2 billion from last year, and Spirit Halloween is by far the biggest Halloween retailer.
📡 ON OUR RADAR
Would you let a robot do your makeup? How about eyebrow tattoos or lash extensions? Unassisted robots might just be the way of the future, and brands like Dyson, Shiseido, and Procter & Gamble are diving into the space to prepare for a slightly less human beauty experience.
They say history repeats itself, and in New York City’s MTA’s case, it appears to be true! The MTA is releasing “new” subway maps that simplify and more clearly communicate information about subway routes, though the design bears a striking similarity to a short-lived iteration of the map from the ’70s. Clarity, it appears, is not absolute, and what is perceived as easily understood fluctuates with time.
Babies and toddlers might not care much about brand values and cool packaging, but their parents do. Today’s new kids’ brands are meeting millennial parents’ expectations with easy-to-digest branding and storytelling and pops of visual language mirroring the pastel colors, sans-serif fonts, and minimalist designs of other DTC brands.
Attention marketers: The delicate balance of being ahead of, but not too far ahead of, cultural trends just got tougher, as California has instituted a law mandating that some toys be positioned as gender-neutral. That translates into expenses in packaging, positioning, and sales assets, determined not just by consumer demand by also by law. Will we see similar trends in other gendered products, like clothes and consumer packaged goods?
“As seen on TikTok” is the new “As seen on TV.” From “BookTok” sections at Barnes and Noble to Amazon’s “Internet Famous” section, retailers are bringing the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag to life. One British cleaning brand, The Pink Stuff, even made the hop across the pond to launch in the US this year after finding viral success on the app.
From memes to the New York Times, Dune is everywhere. The film has pitched itself as more than a sci-fi story and turned itself into a story about anything and everything. Denis Villeneuve knows how to transcend his lane.
Branding gone… wild? B.J. Novak, best known for his role on The Office, is now the unofficial face of colognes, electric razors, and ponchos around the world after a public domain mishap with a photo of his face.
In an attempt to attract younger demographics, cities like Topeka, Kansas and Tulsa, Oklahoma are ramping up their strategic advertising along with providing monetary incentives. For instance, Tulsa advertising has been spotted on Morning Brew and other popular media platforms for young professionals, while the “Choose Topeka” program is gaining attention with its $15,000 incentive for remote workers to relocate to the city.
Everyone’s a podcaster now, and that’s not hyperbole. Amazon is building a new app that could enable any and everyone to create and distribute a live audio show. From a communications perspective, it’s unclear what to make of this ubiquity of influence. On one hand, the internet has given rise to an era where everyone has a voice, this is just an extension of that phenomenon. However, this trend has also given rise to dangerous ideas receiving a platform that has now been amplified to a concerning degree. Regardless of the outcome, it’s safe to say that we’ll be listening as the story develops.
In the New Yorker, Tad Friend explores why we're drawn to MasterClass, why the online learning juggernaut is thriving, and what its success says about our relationship to the internet in an era of information abundance. MasterClass, for all its refined marketing, is basically a YouTube lecture series produced with a $750,000 budget. More than a class, they’re selling the potential for self-improvement, and that’s something that everyone wants to buy, apparently. They’re valued at $2.7 billion.
Following this summer’s approval of their NIL profitability, Nielsen has released The Nielsen Impact Score (NIS) to help young athletes who are looking for insights on how valuable a collegiate program might be for their marketing value. While the scoring program is very much in its early stages, with it being private data and only incorporating the schools who have signed up (yes, schools have to charge to be included), we can’t help but wonder what this program has the potential to turn for the advertising world into if made publicly available.
Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the psychologist who coined the concept of flow (the state of focus and enjoyment people experience when they're fully immersed in a task) died at 87 this week. His research is a foundational part of how we think about work and efficiency today.
A real shocker alert… A new report issued by law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink concludes the NCAA spends more on male athletes than female ones on average, especially when men's championship events are perceived as more lucrative, like with basketball. The inequalities extend to broadcast agreements and the firm estimates the NCAA is "severely losing out on additional, crucial revenue that can improve treatment for female athletics." The NCAA claims they are reviewing the report and are taking steps to alter budgets and business models.
As Barack Obama continues to position himself as a cultural influencer for “hope,” he’s attempting to reach the youth of America with… a coffee table book? The book is a follow-up to his podcast with Bruce Springsteen, in which they share a conciliatory tone of hope towards America - one that many feel has run its course. Unfortunately, they’ve missed the mark to do something interesting and instead are forced to rely upon the age-old saying… if something doesn’t work, try try again, or in this case, see if it works in a different format.
We’ll see you here next week! 👋
The fine print:
This newsletter was brought to you by BJ Novak’s face.