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. 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. 252: 10 to Observe in Content and Commerce


She who controls supply and demand will rule the internet. Publishers are recognizing that they must become whole ecosystems to thrive and commerce is a key component (again).

The ‘content and commerce’ movement was supposedly dead when Ben Lerer (Thrillist) and Jason Ross (JackThreads) chose to part ways. With this failure (hint: it really wasn’t a failure), it emboldened many in publishing to proclaim that commerce didn’t work.

Across newsrooms, from coast to coast, many publishing executives ignored investing in eCommerce between 2014-2017. Affiliate marketing teams were prioritized over ad sales teams and as a result, well-written articles went from literary showcases to collages of products to purchase.  As ad sales continue to dwindle and affiliate sales remain on shaky ground, many of the healthiest digital publishers had a paradigm shift of sorts:

  • How do we gain independence from platforms like Facebook?
  • How do we hedge against falling ad sales and a weakening affiliate market?
  • How do we foster community within our readership?

For many non-subscription and subscription digitals alike, merchandising has been used to address each of these questions. By building community, publications become a destination. Digiday covered this phenomenon, “The story behind that New Yorker tote bag.”

The must-have signifier of urbane sophistication in 2017 wasn’t Yeezys or torn jeans. It was a tote bag that The New Yorker gives to new subscribers.

The bag itself isn’t new — it’s been a gift the glossy has given out since 2014 — but thanks to Donald Trump and an iconic design, the bag became a hit. The magazine’s marketing department has distributed over 500,000 of them to new subscribers and existing ones, who soon started asking for bags of their own.

Continue reading “Issue No. 252: 10 to Observe in Content and Commerce”

Issue No. 244: A rare argument.

An argument for brick and mortar

Below are two examples of digital properties that’ve invested in brick and mortar success. As flagship stores and pop-ups have grown in popularity over the last several quarters, data is finally helping to explain the appeal of leaving the digital-only model behind.

Excerpt one: 


And it’s not just Amazon that’s noticing this development. Aerie‘s brick and mortar presences are having a profound effect on digital consumers, as well.

Excerpt two: 


Issue No. 238: Inclusivity has many forms.

The Launch of Cotton Bureau’s Blank

I first mentioned Cotton Bureau in Issue No. 203, where I expounded on what I found fascinating about the Commerce startup (and fourth fastest growing company in Pittsburgh). Most recently, their focus has been on sizing inclusivity. In Issue No. 217, I wrote:
Cotton Bureau is one-step closer to filling a void left behind by American Apparel’s bankruptcy. They’ve begun manufacturing a new type of tee for all shapes and sizes. It’s called “Blank” and it has the potential to solve a gaping sourcing issue in a major fashion segment.Women and men needed better, more accurate t-shirt sizing. 

From this simple assessment,Blank was born. From the now-successful Kickstarter for the project:

You see, finding a wholesale t-shirt manufacturer that fits all our criteria has been…challenging (to say the least). We need a brand with modern fits, a wide range of colors and fabrics, ethical manufacturing, reliable quality and consistency, always-available stock, and it’d be reeeeal nice if it was made in America. Finding a brand that checks all those boxes and oh yeah also fits women is damn near impossible. If you can find a women’s brand that comes in our preferred colors and fabrics, it’s only available in mega-tiny junior sizing. If it’s sized to fit most women, the cut is awkward, the fabric isn’t anywhere near our standards, and it comes in whatever color you want…as long as that color is pink. It’s frustrating for us as a company, and every bit as frustrating for you as our customer.

In a recent conversation with a Senior Editor of a lauded men’s publication, the gentleman posed the question to us: “but what’s the angle to cover for men?” He asked this un-ironically but in doing so, it established why I believe there will be a successful product market fit for Blank’s offering.
Sizing woes can illicit a sense of embarrassment or even shame from consumers – especially men. Men seem to be more ashamed to seek a solution to sizing inaccuracies. But this is nothing new, it took a decade of female consumers lauding performance fabric sportswear for men to do the same. Now, athleisure is leading the industry in product innovations and companies like Lululemonand Outdoor Voices are widely accepted by all.

Long before American Apparel exacerbated the sizing issue by marketing their products as exclusionary, this practice was found in tween retailers. Many can remember being a normal-sized kid while needing to purchase an XXL tee from A&F or American Eagle. In a normal world, XXL would be worn by an NFL tight end. Today, you’ll see the same practices at Hollister and other retailers who target teenage and young adult consumers.

For adults, sizing in t-shirts hasn’t improved either and the product shaming has only increased. American Apparel set this market trend, years ago. Though it’s now owned by Gildan, producing a wider offering with accurate sizing would still be viewed as detrimental to the brand.
By the conclusion of our chat, that Senior Editor recognized that there was, in fact, an industry problem and he welcomed the solution. I have a feeling that many consumers will welcome Blank, just the same.

This is the opinion of Web Smith.
See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 235: Is that Kevin Hart doing a box jump?

A last word: The Shift from Athletes to Influencers

Last issue’s most clicked story was on Adidas’ use of models and influencers over athletes. A particular passage stood out:
According to Rorsted, there have been a few keys to Adidas’ success. Among these are new products designed specifically for women, such as the PureBoost X running shoe; better store displays; and importantly, the realization that the way to reach female customers isn’t through star athletes.
Do we strive to be athletes anymore? The answer is an overwhelming no. With the growth of the athleisure market has come a desire to look the part without the commitment of an athlete’s arduous lifestyle.
Speaking of, the lifestyle sector of sporting brands has grown at the expense of technical performance products and we’re seeing it manifest in new ways. Just today, I noted via Twitter that of the ten most popular searches on, Gigi Hadid outranked the first athlete by four positions. This search data was especially interesting given that one of Reebok’s prized media properties (the CrossFit Games) concluded, yesterday, in spectacular fashion. The search for “CrossFit” ranked ninth on the list.
In a statement to, ESPN’s Darren Rovell:

Nike has done the least of any big company in regard to non traditional, non pro athletes. I think it has affected them as the trend towards a more genuine interaction with stars of social has taken off.
Search for any athlete outside of Lebron, Ronaldo, or Jordan on and you’re more likely to find a photo of Kevin Hart than you would a photo of Ashton Eaton, the world’s best athlete. On, you will see Pharrell Williams before you stumble on a photo of a sponsored athlete.
Via Digiday (June 7, 2017):

For Adidas, influencers are likely to become more crucial to its plans over the coming months as it 
shifts more of its budget into digital. What intrigues those at Adidas most about the medium is how without any marketing support for Glitch and a mobile-only approach it was able to build a business around a community, albeit a small one.

Is this shift a result of American sports losing its luster on Madison Avenue? It’s more likely that for once, consumers feel the lifestyle of an influencer or a celebrity is more aspirational than a basketball star’s or soccer player’s. And with athleisure and lifestyle “streetwear” being the go-to for many, dressing the part has never been more accessible.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 217B: Blank


One step closer to becoming a DNVB. Last covered in Issue No. 203, Cotton Bureau is one-step closer to filling a void left behind by American Apparel’s bankruptcy. They’ve begun manufacturing a new type of tee for all shapes and sizes. It’s called “Blank” and it has the potential to solve a gaping sourcing issue in a major fashion segment.

Led by Michelle SharpCotton Bureau is inching closer to launching their Kickstarter and they are welcoming apparel testers and participants in their upcoming video shoot with the team at Sandwich.

Started from the bottom, now we’re…somewhere in the middle.

If you’re interested in helping the Cotton Bureau team’s launch into manufacturing, let me know. I am huge fan of their growing, Pittsburgh-based team and the more that you learn about them, the more you’ll say the same.
See more of the issue here.