Member Brief No. 3: The Attention Stack

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Successful commerce companies and vertical brands want to know how to generate authentic happiness with their customers. A customer kept > a customer gained. The attention stack is a buzz phrase that you’ll hear quite a bit about as brands try to solidify their standing in a quickly evolving market.

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Issue No. 259: Walmart’s Next Acquisition


Over the weekend, 2PM released the first executive member brief. It covered quite a bit of ground in an in-depth report on Walmart v Amazon eCommerce called Walmart Ventures.

Here is a small excerpt:

The competition between Walmart and Amazon has never been stiffer. Consumerism has always been about the heart, until Amazon made it about efficiency and logic. But for items as intimate as what you wear and what you sleep on, is logic enough?

Walmart is betting on the heart again by focusing on brand affinity, representation, and reinvigorating consumer faith. By using eCommerce as the tip of the spear, their brick and mortar presence will innovate along with it.

It’s no secret that I tend to believe in Marc Lore’s vision for a modern Walmart. In my recent report, I focused on Walmart’s brand-equity growth by means of DNVB acquisition (Modcloth, Moosejaw, Bonobos, etc). And 2PM Executive Member Taylor Holiday called me on it:

Solid stuff as always Web. The question I have that this post ignores a little is related to logistics power. You touch briefly on the convenience element that Amazon focuses on and I wonder how Walmart will seek to combat this? The thing I believe would be super super interesting would be Walmart could combine the DNVB style slick brand launch with convenience of a logistics super power. Imagine Allswell style brand with Same Day Delivery. Now that would be interesting.

Taylor Holiday, Managing Partner of Common Thread

In my report, I made two tables available: (1) Walmart’s existing acquisitions and (2) Walmart’s target acquisitions. To Taylor’s point, in discussing Walmart’s appetite for acquiring sexy DNVB’s (or building them from scratch), it’s easy to overlook that they’ve also acquired Parcel (2017). Walmart is working on building that logistics super power. And if they can’t finish the job, another $1B+ acquisition is on the way.

Walmart on Parcel’s acquisition: 

New York City is the top market for both Jet and, and because of the density of the area – along with the proximity of our fulfillment centers – it’s the perfect place for high-impact innovation. Born and bred in New York City, Parcel has developed unique expertise delivering to customers in a distinctly challenging and essential market. This acquisition allows us to continue testing ways to offer fast delivery while lowering our operating costs. We plan to leverage Parcel for last-mile delivery to customers in New York City – including same-day delivery – for both general merchandise as well as fresh and frozen groceries from Walmart and Jet.

As further proof that logistics is on the minds of Walmart executives, look no further than last night’s Oscar’s campaign.

The star of each 60-second spot is the same as for Walmart’s current ad campaign – the retailer’s signature blue shipping box – a nod to corporate priorities in the battle to catch Amazon in e-commerce. 

Jack Neff, AdAge

And if I had to project Walmart’s war room strategy, a Postmates acquisition comes to mind. Nationally, it’s one of the most trusted of the last mile platforms and it’s proven that it can operate in many of America’s largest markets. Couple this with the company’s recent emphasis on grocery delivery and you’re looking at quite a bit of shared virtue. Walmart’s grocery business is of its highest priorities.

Assuming that Parcel’s acquisition was a test, the Postmates acquisition could be the beneficiary of Walmart’s single-market experiment. After DoorDash’s recent $535M raise, this is an acquisition that makes sense for the gritty and resourceful Basti Lehmann and company. And it’s a purchase that is in Walmart’s price range. Paging Marc Lore.

Read more of the issue here


Member Brief No. 2: Walmart Ventures

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Amazon v. Walmart. It’s no secret that the two behemoths are investing heavily in eCommerce growth, what may be a secret is the basis for how they are approaching it. For the sake of this member brief, 2PM will focus on eCommerce brand and platform development, specifically the differences between the two competitors.

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Member Brief No. 1: Linear Commerce


This brief is an example of 2PM’s member-only content package. Learn more at the bottom.

Linear commerce. If you’ve built a great product, you’ll need an audience. And if you’ve built a captive audience, you’ll need a great product. Here’s a timely tweet by Founder Collective’s Director of Content. Notably, the three biggest areas of focus for eCommerce executives revolved around influence.


Businesses in the digital economy want to exist along a line, not a point. A point marks a position in space. In pure geometric terms, a point is a pair of x, y, or z coordinates. It has no mass at all. If two lines intersect, they form this point.  Outside of that point, little else is defined. For the sake of this metaphor, a point of intersection lacks commerce significance because the two lines (x = product and y = media) are missing the breadth (or in another measure: critical mass). In geometry, a point can be insignificant and most often it is.

A plane is a flat surface extending in height and width. This plane has breadth.  So when two planes intersect, the intersecting planes form a line. And a line is an infinite series of points (i.e. opportunity). In this metaphor, a line represents the content x commerce goal of many businesses in today’s digital economy. Even companies like Airbnb are operating along two planes. The goal? A captive audience that is in tune with your product offering.

This is how I see content x commerce. Building a breadth of influence in supply and demand may be a requisite for success in this new digital economy. There are examples of this all around us. But there are few that understand this space better than the Jenner / Kardashian family.

Most young companies operate at a point, lacking breadth in the planes of content influence or product commerce. But some businesses covered in today’s member brief have achieved that proverbial line. And when Kylie Jenner tweeted this (whether she knew it or not), she was essentially stating that a proponent of her influence plane (i.e. Snapchat) was losing its breadth.

Reducing Kylie Jenner to a young reality star is short-sighted here.  She’s the 100% owner of two very sizable Shopify Plus-enabled eCommerce brands, including a top 50 store in the beauty CPG space. Kylie Cosmetics may be the crown jewel of Brand Value Accelerator’s portfolio of eCommerce clients. And rightly so, the brand was rumored to earn upwards of $400,000,000 in 2017.


It’s that proverbial line that represents an optimization of publishing influence and product offering. In many ways, the aforementioned Jenner embodies that line. It’s this optimization that many product-based brands and publishing-based outlets attempt to accomplish. While it’s easier to discount the collective from which she belongs, that family understands that content and commerce balance like few others.

At press time, Kylie Jenner is the eighth most followed person on Instagram and of equal or greater import on Snapchat. For more conventional commerce businesses, those two channels have proven to be to two of the most powerful sales drivers. Here’s a look at how powerful of a content generator she is:

Via TechCrunch:

Kylie Jenner is just about as influential a celebrity as they come; many of the product advances of social media companies like Snap have been borne on the backs on influencers like Jenner, who have hundreds of millions of followers across these platforms that she uses to push her makeup products and lifestyle onto culture.

Via Bloomberg:

Shares of the Snapchat parent company sank 6.1 percent on Thursday, wiping out $1.3 billion in market value, on the heels of a tweet on Wednesday from Kylie Jenner, who said she doesn’t open the app anymore. Whether it’s the demands of her newfound motherhood, or the recent app redesign, the testament drew similar replies from her 24.5 million followers. 


Sanchez noted that Jenner’s comment speaks to the demographics of its users, which could put the stock in hot water. “[But] of course the group that uses it, which is the 18- to 24-year-olds, they’re going to hate that. They have the attention span of a gnat,” she added. “I think it’s going to be challenging because they’re going to have to move into an older group and I’m not sure that’s going to work. I think that’s a risk.

As these member briefs continue, we’ll discuss more instances of these concepts with practical examples.

Rapha is at center stage again. This time, as a great example of  why brands build belonging. The cycling brand understands that when you buy a brand, you’re choosing a club. The paradox in merchandising success is that depth of audience matters more than size of audience. Brands / publishers have traffic, very few have captive audiences.

The smartest brands are focusing on customer retention, lifetime value, and consumer happiness by investing in community. And it’s this type of belonging that keeps you coming back.

Fast Company: Why would a for-profit brand put so much work into building belonging? The simple answer is because of the deep brand loyalty it engenders and the commercial opportunities it creates.

The longer answer is: The commercial opportunity exists because we need belonging at a fundamental level . We have a crisis of belonging–and great brands will step into the vacuum created by social isolation.

Airbnb is moving upstream and into more traditional hotel servicing, this includes traditional loyalty programs. This makes sense as the brand is extremely valuable and traditional real estate will help them to sidestep regulatory worries in certain markets (i.e. New York City).

The Verge: As part of the overall push to higher-end accommodations, Airbnb plans to introduce a luxury tier that is more expensive than Airbnb Plus, called Airbnb Beyond. The company plans to launch the tier in the spring, using the expertise and resources gained by its acquisition of Luxury Retreats last year. Airbnb Beyond will include “custom-designed trips of a lifetime” at the “world’s finest homes, custom experiences, and world-class hospitality.

Let’s give credit to CB Insights for this November 2017 gem:

Airbnb Select homes are inspected by the company and cosmetically improved. Both efforts come as part of a broader push to improve the company’s accommodation inventory.

As of now, it is unclear whether Airbnb Lux will be integrated into the core Airbnb platform or continue to live in the Luxury Retreats property. Both options come with risks, and the former could possibly alienate Luxury Retreats’ core user group, muddy its branding, and (if non-exclusive listings were included) forfeit the platform’s exclusivity.

eCommerce: Porsche moves towards an online retailing future. Given that their first electric design debuts in 2019, this could be another signal that the high-end market is adjusting to Tesla’s online-first style of business by adapting to it themselves.

Retail real estate: Amazon is in the brick and mortar business for several reasons and here are the most important ones:

  • serendipity
  • honing retail technology as IP to license to other retailers (AWS 2.0?)
  • building loyalty
  • driving Amazon Prime sign-ups

Recode: Amazon spent four years crafting a system — dubbed Just Walk Out Technology — that allows shoppers to scan their phone upon entrance, grab desired items off a shelf, and automatically get charged the right amount after exiting without the need to stop at a cash register to pay. (Here’s a photo tour of the first Amazon Go store.)

Lean Luxe is the industry-leading modern luxury publication. The indie media company is also 2PM’s go-to for perspectives on modern luxury companies (MLC) and how they appeal directly to the consumer. This short interview was done by Hero, a company at the intersection of eCommerce and physical retail.

When you listen to this short interview on innovative MLC brands consider that incumbent brands are taking pages from their playbooks to stay relevant. While Jeff Bezos is no stranger to the credit of retail innovation, consider Amazon’s brick and mortar strategy through the lens of what these young, innovative brands are doing to reshape efficient commerce. Does this tried and true MLC physical retail strategy sound familiar:

The store is going to be used less as a major point of sale and more as a showroom and physical place for these online brands to present their brand in a physical way. 

M. Paul Munford, Editor-in-Chief of Lean Luxe 

Glossier is the type of direct to consumer brand that keeps incumbent CEO’s up at night. It is also a great example of the linear commerce.

TechCrunch: The New York-based company — which evolved out of the popular blog Into the Gloss by founder and CEO Emily Weiss — began selling its own make-up at the outset but has more recently added body and fragrance products, too, bringing its total number of offerings to 22. One of the company’s most popular products is a mascara-like eyebrow filler called Boy Brow. Among its newest: a solid version of its fragrance, You.

Let’s look at Glossier’s two sites in January 2018: a) influence plane and b) commerce plane


Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 10.38.14 PM


Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 10.38.40 PM

Digiday:For example, Glossier has noticed a frequent customer behavioral pattern: An Into the Gloss reader will open an article on mobile, click a link to shop a Glossier product mentioned in the article, add it to the mobile cart and then move to desktop to finish the transaction. It’s now using its new database to follow that pattern, and link the user across sites on both mobile and desktop.

Glossier / Into The Gloss has achieved that proverbial line, the result of two planes intersecting to form infinite opportunity. Glossier is operating similarly to Kylie Cosmetics, but in a way that could be more sustainable for the well-funded D2C brand.

The majority of Glossier’s influence referral comes from their blog while the majority of Kylie Cosmetic’s influence referral traffic comes from Jenner’s Instagram and Youtube accounts. While Jenner’s influence is currently stronger, Glossier owns their influence plane.

By. Web Smith, 2PM

These briefs will be part of a members-only email, curated and delivered each Friday. You can subscribe to executive membership here.  

Issue No. 257: Snap Inc. and eCommerce


Snapchat, Nike, Darkstore and Shopify teamed up to pre-release the Air Jordan III “Tinker” on Snapchat with same-day delivery. There are a few implications to consider here.

In the United States, eCommerce is dominated by consumer search. Product discovery still lags behind. While Amazon continues their efforts to insource a tried and true discovery mechanism that is currently outsourced to digital publishers (in exchange for affiliate revenue), the hole in the system remains. So, leave it to the embattled media company known for discovery to attempt the leap.

Perhaps Snapchat is attempting to lean into this role? There might just be a product market fit.

Snapchat’s push into eCommerce is a long time coming and it couldn’t happen at a more appropriate time for the Los Angeles media company ($SNAP). Here’s what Jason Del Rey noted about the the partnership between Shopify and Snapchat for Nike’s Jordan brand:

Over the All-Star weekend, Nike hosted a special concert in Los Angeles, the host city of the game. Attendees were guided to use the Snapchat camera to scan a code displayed on a basketball-hoop backboard to view the new Air Jordan III “Tinker” sneaker in the app.

Guests were then able to purchase the sneaker right within Snapchat with the help of technology from the e-commerce software company Shopify. And most of the kicks were delivered to customers on the same day, thanks to a logistics startup called Darkstore.

@DelRey, Recode (read here)

May 2016’s 2PM Issue No. 46 was entitled “Snapchat, the eCommerce Giant.” It was titled as such because it featured a now-noteworthy article by Maya Kossoff that preceded much of the conversation that you will read about Snapchat’s recent experiment with Shopify and the Jordan brand.

The ability to buy tickets without leaving Snapchat is the biggest coup for Snapchat and Twentieth Century Fox, which placed the ad buy, and it suggests the company is making serious moves toward expanding into the e-commerce space.

@MeKosoff, Vanity Fair (read here)

Snapchat’s potential to combine advertising campaigns with ease of purchase sets itself apart from Instagram who has yet to develop a partnership with Stripe or Shopify. I was excited about that direction before Snapchat focused on their Spectacles campaign. But even with Spectacles, Snapchat began honing the ideas that we’re now seeing.

Here’s what I wrote in 2PM Issue 191 (2017): 

The most successful marketing campaign that Snapchat has led in the last two years wasn’t through traditional advertising, it was through traditional retail and eCommerce. […]  There is a virtuous cycle in modern digital media and eCommerce that shouldn’t be ignored. Consumers want to go where they are influenced to act. And advertisers would be smart to create content in those same spaces.


With Jordan, Snap is dipping its toe into the possibility of monetizing just about anything via app-integrated sales channels. Snap openly classifies itself a camera company, rather than a social media app. That’s why it’s explored products like Spectacles, which turned sunglasses into a video camera. And while right now, Snap is only selling one limited edition sneaker drop for Jordan through a live event, it’s easy to imagine Snap leveraging the close relationship that its 187 million daily active users have with its camera to any number of third-party brand partners.

Mark Wilson, Fast Company (read here)

Facebook has done a marvelous job of iterating around Snapchat’s original ideas, all but trouncing the high flying Snap, Inc. Only time will tell if this flavor of content x commerce is another one of those ideas that we’ll find reimagined for Instagram.

Read more of the issue here.

Issue No. 255: The Drum Major Instinct


Let’s save the outrage for a moment and look at Chrysler’s Ram ad for what it is, a valiant effort and a missed opportunity. Their ad utilized a speech on what MLK called the fall of the Roman empire. Chrysler and their ad agency deserve applause for being gutsy enough to use this as their source material.

Because nations are caught up on the ‘drum major instinct.’ I must be first, I must be supreme, our nation must rule the world. And I am going to continue to say it to America. Because I love this country too much to see the drift that it’s taken.

Martin Luther King, in the same speech.

In an NFL season that was heavy on the politics, Super Bowl advertisements generally held American politics at arm’s length. It’s clear that there has been social activism fatigue. But this Ram Trucks’ ad attempted to be all things to all people and frankly, only courage can convert a valiant effort into a meaningful outcome.

There are levels to consider here and it begins with the framing of the advertisement:

  • Ram wants to sell trucks. This is the only reason that you pay $5M for an ad on the world’s biggest stage.
  • Chrysler outsourced this concept and direction to High Dive, a boutique agency in Chicago. Their attempt was likely well-meaning.
  • February is Black History Month.
  • Martin Luther King is a safe American hero.
  • Both the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots fielded activist players in the 2017-2018 season.
  • Chrysler is leaning on the President’s approval rating to make a statement that they felt most reasonable Americans agreed with.

This particular creative agency would likely identify as liberal. And it’s also likely that they felt that this advertisement was an opportunity to do more than move products. Ram’s agency has an interesting mantra on their homepage:

Screen Shot 2018-02-05 at 5.30.44 PM

This likely motivated their approach here. The juxtaposition of the famous MLK Drum Major Instinct speech, exactly fifty years prior to the biggest game of the year, was too much to pass up. This, even though the speech’s context makes little sense when you consider what they chose for the advertisement’s imagery.

The above agency requested permission from the King Family Estate to use his likeness in the ad. And upon receiving that permission, we can infer that there was a battle between the creative agency and the in-house marketing team at Chrysler.

Martin Luther King was obviously a great man but for context, by 1968 he had grown weary of the Vietnam War. He’d also taken up the mantle for America’s poor (of all ethnicities). He’d publicly called for an end to American corporate greed. His popularity was at an all-time low by then. With the “Drum Major” speech, he established a few basic tenets of the American far left platform that endured for decades. This ad was an attempt to juxtapose his words with our times.


I’d venture to guess that the creative agency wanted imagery of a player kneeling. Because, of course they did. The Ram team at Chrysler likely objected and compromised by allowing High Dive to include the 1.7 seconds of a team of African-American high school football players kneeling for their pre-game prayer. It’s imagery that’s vague enough to be a political non-issue in an ad about trucks that targets 25-35 year old men in towns like Cookeville, Tennessee.

The real appeal of using this MLK speech was his re-defining of the word “great” – an argument against the current administration’s “Make America Great Again” motto. With an approval rate in the 30’s, this was a safe calculation. The Chrysler team latched on to this politically-centrist approach because it is inoffensive to the right and (assumably) endearing to the left.

In so many words, the ad in a sentence was:

America is great already and it’s because we are a nation of servants who believe in helping our fellow man. Ram is the vehicle for those who serve.

I completely understand this collective thought process. If you don’t, consider that no sport delved deeper into the world of social activism than the NFL’s small band of players – one of whom was starting for the Philadelphia Eagles.  The other of whom was banned from playing the game. Neither of whom were involved in the advertisement and for obvious brand demographic reasons. The stage was set to execute one of the most meaningful ads of the past year.

But the ad fell flat. And this is where a diversity of opinion and background is handy in creative environments.

Throughout 2017, there was quite a bit of cognitive dissonance. Many NFL fans, commentators, politicians, and our President damned those men who took part in peaceful protest. This while uplifting and honoring the man who originated it. In this way, Ram inadvertently highlighted that cognitive dissonance and set off quite a nerve on social media and beyond.

ESPN’s Darren Rovell in a message to 2PM:

A company really cant use that speech to sell something. It just feels dirty. I at least had that reaction and everyone on Twitter seemed to have as well. Just like the Prince projection, when we bring back the dead, we have to be so careful. I think Dodge got caught up on the 50 years idea. But didn’t fully think through how the crass commercialism make it hard to use the speech as a device to better sell.

I am not upset by the advertisement, itself. The King family’s estate approved it and the creative agency likely did the best that they could with some mighty restraints.

I am upset that the opportunity was wasted and even the smallest tweak to the visuals could have eased the uproar.

There was no stock footage of Ram trucks serving others in times of need. There was no archival footage of peaceful protestors jumping out of the bed of a truck to meet their friends at the front line. There wasn’t even that reconciliatory visual of a service member (who serves) and the athlete / political activist (who serves) both coming to terms with each other’s efforts.

MLK’s sermons were so powerful because they made us think about our own human flaws.

But perhaps next time, agencies and in-house corporate teams can possess the courage to take a step out of their comfort zones, leaning in to authentic messaging. Even if it’s not tidy or politically correct. This, too, is a form of service. 

This is the opinion of  the editor. The 2PM Parse pod is devoted to breaking down advertisements like these – the good and the bad. 

Read more of the issue here.

Listen to the entire MLK speech here. At the time of publishing, this ad was viewed 14x more than Ram’s lauded viking ad.

Issue No. 253: Seven city-dwellers who should root for Amazon


Amazon’s HQ2 campaign is a Rorschach test for your personal politics. But as with anything in politics, there will always be an upside to accompany the downside and vice versa. Here’s what a recent policy article in CNN had to say about the Disturbing part of Amazon’s HQ2 Campaign:

But, there’s one part of Amazon’s HQ2 competition that is deeply disturbing — pitting city against city in a wasteful and economically unproductive bidding war for tax and other incentives. As one of the world’s most valuable companies, Amazon does not need — and should not be going after — taxpayer dollars that could be better used on schools, parks, transit, housing or other much needed public goods.

Perhaps there is truth in this. But in accepting that one of these cities will be home to 50,000 new jobs at an average salary of ~ $100,000, there are tremendous positives to consider. Here are the seven people that you know who will love the HQ2 in their city:

The urban homeowner | Face it, Amazon is likely to move to an area where the housing market is affordable-yet-appreciating. This person’s home will appreciate with the influx of upper-middle class homeowners and the investments into their city to support thousands of white collar professionals.

The residential developer | We all know a person who spends their days buying abandoned multi-units at Sheriff’s auctions and turning them into $2,000 per month rentals. If this friend can find the cash flow to do it, her business will expand quite a bit.

The city’s income tax department head | This one is self explanatory. Salaries in excess of $100,000 are very important to growing cities, as these citizens are less likely to receive tax returns. An influx of this demo means more money to spend on infrastructure.

The area’s MLS team owner | Big three sports rarely have economic crises. But for a Major League Soccer club, adding hundreds if not thousands of new season ticket holders and general fans could make their investment more viable.

The elite independent school administrator | With urbanization comes a stark reality, most urban schooling systems are failing. And charter schools in most of the top 20 cities aren’t much better off. Given the demographic of a well-off millennial, the ones with kids will likely invest in private school education.

The local state school college graduate | Congratulations to this young person for increasing their odds of finding that great, technical job right out of school.

The branding agency senior manager | What most don’t know about Amazon is that they are one of the largest advertising businesses in America. By some estimates, Jeff Bezo’s ad business is larger than that of Twitter’s and Snapchat’s. Expect Amazon to poach talent from local agencies as they continue their takeover of the digital advertising market.

Amazon’s campaign for a new home city is a risky bet for the policy-maker who determines the incentive package. But if Amazon delivers the goods, as promised, one local government will be set for the next 5-7 years. It just so happens that delivering is what Bezos does best.

See more of the issue here