Issue No. 261: Two Years Later | Part One


On March 22, 2PM begins its third year. The purpose of the 2PM letter remains the same. It’s a weekly (or 2x/week) rundown of news, intel, and commentary that shapes our industry. It’s humanly-curated (with extreme care) and each week, the balance of the articles is influenced by the most read links from past weeks. 

This project began as an initial letter sent to 30 industry friends with a simple philosophy: by studying adjacent industries, you can improve your own. As such, the letter has evolved into a trusted source of information and commentary for many of the brightest in media, commerce, data, and branding.

So with that, I’ve highlighted impactful storylines from the last two years. Part one of two will feature the first of five events, shifts, and developments that will influence your industry’s next three to five years.

10. Shopify solidifies its standing as a go-to for top 100 eCommerce.

Platform objectivity is really important here, there’s little evangelism here.Here are the most commonly seen options: custom cart, WooCommerce, Big Commerce, Magento, Salesforce (Demandware), or Shopify. I believe that established brands should build on the platforms that are best for them but the numbers are the numbers.

Based on some recent research, I’ve polled the most notable 110+ eCommerce brands and a resounding 40+% of them are hosted by Shopify. This has tremendous implications for the Shopify agency industry. Current leaders in that space: Bold Commerce, BVAccel, Pointer Creative, Wondersauce, Fuel Made, and Worn. I anticipate that one of them to be acquired by a top 25 brand in the next two years.

9. Affirm redefines consumer credit.

Early in 2015, I encountered Affirm for the first time (albeit late). I was constructing a luxury eCommerce platform for men and I was hunting down ways to bolster the site’s conversion rate. Affirm was one of the first company’s that I reached out to because the premise of the service was simple:

  • offer financing at eCommerce checkout
  • remove friction (long applications, credit checks)
  • keep interest rates low and honest

This process was perfect for the online retailing of higher end items ranging from $500-$10,000. Hodinkee executed this concept to perfection. And now, they are pushing “honest financing” into physical retail.

People can sign up through the website or at checkout on some web stores for financing from Affirm that’s paid off in monthly installments. On Monday, the company said it’s making the micro-lending program available through Apple Pay, letting customers tap their iPhones to pay in brick-and-mortar stores.

This essentially makes Affirm a credit card provider without physical cards or credit scores. The San Francisco-based company pitches itself as superior to traditional credit cards from American Express Co. or Visa Inc. because it’s transparent about fees and charges no interest on purchases from more than 150 retailers.
Julia Verhage, Bloomberg Technology

8. Walmart pivots towards a startup culture.

When Walmart acquired, the legacy retailer acquired a new direction led by Marc Lore. Many in the industry remain skeptical of Lore’s ability to bolster Walmart’s position in a market that’s deeply influenced by Amazon, Alibaba, and digitally vertical native brands. But to his credit, Walmart’s market cap is rising. In fact, it saw an all-time high on January 28, 2018. I’ve applauded his innovations. These innovations include his streamlining Walmart’s omni-channel operations, acquiring popular online retailers, and incubating native brands like their new Allswell.

From Member Brief No. 2:

The Allswell brand is strong, it’s independent, it’s inviting. It looks like a Silicon Valley-backed DNVB for bedding and mattresses. But most importantly, it appeals directly to upper-middle class women. If you notice, the “King” bed is now known as the “Supreme Queen”, a nice touch in an era (rightfully) dominated by the rhetoric of feminism and gender equity. Allswell is a play to capitalize on this cultural momentum.

7. Glossier forges a new path for content and commerce.

One of the core tenets of 2PM’s commerce beliefs is that to succeed, you must control both key levers: content and commerce. I’ve called this linear commerce. There isn’t an operation that is executing as well as Emily Weiss’ Glossier.

From the brand’s inception – which spawned from the hyper-popularity of Weiss’s beauty blog Into the Gloss – the beauty company has gone against the proverbial grain of the beauty business. Marketing a sense of authenticity and belonging rather than the beauty industry’s traditional fictitious glamour story, the female-dominant company (Dear Tech People reports 79% of Glossier’s staff is female) captured the love and attention of the coveted Millennials.

Janna Mandel, Forbes

From Member Brief No. 1

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.

6. Subscription media becomes the new standard.

Just ten years ago, paywall was a dirty word. And then the New York Times’ innovative commerce department developed a strategy that readers are willing to play for quality. In 2018, with the exception of Axios, Outline, and Inverse, there aren’t many examples of notable media startups who haven’t pursued subscription revenue as their focus.

I’ve cited TheSkimm, Skift, and The Information as innovators in this space.

The newsletter reports a 30% open rate. Since its launch, TheSkimm has expanded to offer podcasts, an e-commerce business and a paid app featuring a calendar of upcoming news and televised events. TheSkimm will use the new influx of money to build more subscription services, perhaps with the help of Google Ventures and Google, and enrich its video and podcasting options, along with plans for data analysis.

Melinda Fuller, MediaPost

In issue No. 262, 2PM will count down the last five storylines. If you have any feedback on 6-10, email me:

Read more of the issue here.

Issue No. 260: The Tiger Effect

Photo: Andrew Haynes, Gear Patrol

Media and eCommerce. Tiger Woods’ effects on media and commerce are astonishing to consider. When it comes to professional golf, he doesn’t just move the needle – he is the needle. In 2018, if you happen to watch Woods in contention on a Sunday afternoon, it’s a major event in media, branding, and eCommerce. Here is a focused look at what that means.

(1) Retailers will capitalize on merchandising.

Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 7.20.54 PM

Nike’s golf division had all but forgotten about Tiger before his return, earlier in 2018. Jason Day had top billing and Tiger Woods was present on the Nike Golf homepage for contractual reasons. That changed, this weekend. The Tiger Woods store front on was the tenth most viewed page. The SKU’s of the Sunday red collarless polo were of the Nike Golf brand’s best selling product over the final few days of the four round tournament.

JM on Twitter

@nikegolf what shoes are Tiger wearing? thanks

John Haley on Twitter

@nikegolf where can I buy the @TigerWoods Nike range ? The shirt he’s wearing today is superb👉

John Haley on Twitter

@nikegolf where can I buy the @TigerWoods Nike range ? The shirt he’s wearing today is superb👉

Much like team Nike, the merchandising team at the 2018 Valspar Championship was not fazed by the Tiger Woods buzz surrounding the tournament. Given that last year’s winner was not exactly a household name, the team coordinated with Nike once they were notified that Woods, Spieth, and McIlroy were to make appearances. It’s reported that the tournament saw a 400+% jump in on-ground merchandise sales on the ground.

But look no further than Barstool Sports’ content and commerce maneuver after yesterday’s event. In what can be considered as nothing more than SEO bait, they published this excerpt and a link to their Woods-inspired tees that paid homage to his Sunday red-look and his confirmed appearance at the upcoming Masters.

There’s nothing like Tiger Woods being in contention at a golf tournament on a Sunday. Everybody tunes in. That’s why the Valspar smashed its attendance records all week. That’s why the text chain you have with your buddies was full of Tiger talk. That’s why Twitter was on fire as everyone tuned into see what was gonna happen. It was the Valspar ant people were going nuts. People have said it before but Tiger doesn’t move the need in golf. He is the needle. He transcends. He proves it time and time and time again. Doesn’t matter if you love or hate him. You wanna see what he does.

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 12.20.32 AM

Barstool Sports

(2) Broadcasters will be thankful for him.

Let’s be honest, Woods has been through one heck of a ringer. His reemergence from the depths of public humiliation has been generally welcomed by fans and consumers. “He’s a completely different person,” said Notah Begay III, a longtime Woods confidant. “He’s gone through public humiliation. He’s gone through personal challenges. He’s gone through physical injury. He’s gone through technical problems in all parts of his game. He’s risen above it all.” Per the @GolfChannelPR account on Twitter, final round coverage on NBC was +28% vs. the final round of 2015 Wyndham (4.0), the last time Woods contended on a Sunday. Yesterday’s broadcast was +73% vs final round of The Honda Classic a few weeks ago.

Also, it was the highest-rated (non-major) PGA TOUR broadcast since the 2013 Players Championship (5.7). The final round on Sunday washe t highest-rated golf broadcast (outside of the Masters) since 2015’s PGA Championship (5.14). A Tiger Woods in contention is lightning in a bottle.

(3) Twitter will project Woods’ wide appeal.

In this small sample, you have: golf’s greatest player, a perennial All-Pro football player, a Women’s PGA Tour legend, one of the top 50 NBA players of all time, and a woman who’d be on American skiing’s Mount Rushmore.

Jack Nicklaus on Twitter

40 the new 20-something?! Phil Mickelson, 47, ends drought of 4+ yrs & now well done, hearty congrats @Paul_Casey, 40, on 1st @PGATOUR win since 2009. Fantastic 65 w/ just 21 putts at @ValsparChamp! And well done @TigerWoods! You’re getting there my friend. Sure it won’t be long!

JJ Watt on Twitter

Has any one athlete ever moved the needle for an entire sport like Tiger for golf?! Maybe MJ, Serena… idk. Man that’s crazy.

Michelle Wie on Twitter

Let’s goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo 🐯!!! @TigerWoods

Scottie Pippen on Twitter

@TigerWoods from deep! What a putt. So great to see him competing like this on a Sunday.

lindsey vonn on Twitter

Let’s go T!!!

(4) Sponsoring brands will have the week of their lives.

The tournament was founded in 2000 as the Tampa Bay Classic and in its eighteen years, no title sponsorship has shaped up to be as effective as Valspar Corporation’s 2018. Signed in 2013 and extending through 2020, the championship event is seeing more search traffic than it ever has. This, on the heels of the most material evidence of Wood’s comeback in five years. Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 10.25.24 PM

(5) His performance inflates ticket prices.

The Masters’ odds are changing by the day and the better Woods’ odds, the more expensive the ticket prices in Augusta. Tiger Woods is the now the third favorite to win The Masters at 10-1. He is ranked 388th in the world. The betting market’s irrational hope for a Woods return has led to an absolutely insane secondary market for tickets in Augusta. And this is a boon to IBM (the title sponsor) and the broadcast partners: CBS and ESPN.

Screen_Shot_2018_02_27_at_6.57.58_PM (1)

In the last few years, we’ve learned how the sports world reacts to various degrees of Tiger runs. A nice drive at a random tournament in the Bahamas in the winter gets a roar, a second place at the Valspar gets an explosion. If Woods ever competes on Sunday at a major, let alone Augusta, the entire country will look like post–Super Bowl Philadelphia.

Maybe that will never happen, but what we learned on Sunday is that anything could happen. And that’s all that’s needed right now.

Kevin Clark, The Ringer

Tiger Woods, at peak performance, is unlike any phenomenon in sports. His performance can reflect an immediate spike across all areas of 2PM’s coverage: brand, media, eCommerce, data. If by chance his Masters performance is anything similar to this weekend, you can expect a revision to this article.

Read more of the issue here.

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.

Read more by signing in. Not a member yet? Learn more 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. 250: 🗣 Listen up!

The 2PM community is a vibrant one of thousands of smart, curious, and polymathic-types who lead in professions to include: branding, commerce, data, and digital media. covers the many ways in which these industries converge and where there is disruption or opportunity.

After a few months of lobbying by my wife (and great feedback from subscribers), 2PM will begin releasing a weekly podcast that will recap news and developments. In addition to recaps, there will be a scripted deep dive into one retail touchpoint each week. If you’re a member of this community and you have something to contribute, expect an invitation to join the pod.

The format will be 20-25 minutes per week, with a link to the audio in your inbox at 2PM EST on Monday. The pod will be direct, succinct, and digestible – just like these letters. Expect more news on format and partners in the final few issues of 2017’s letters.

This is the opinion of Web

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 249: The definitive white paper


A last word: too big to ignore 

Here is the link to the definitive white paper on Amazon’s advantages in commerce, media, retail brand growth, and ad tech.

Key excerpt:

Unlike Facebook and Google, the eCommerce giant is in the business of selling products to shoppers, not selling inventory to brands — a subtle, yet important diference.

Advertising executives are talking to Amazon’s reps about supply chains and inventory as much as ad copy or keyword strategies, which Jason Hartley, 360i’s national head of search and paid social, admitted “is very different and challenging, but absolutely necessary.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 247: Welcome Back

Opinion: DNVB’s must become luxury brands

There are a great many tidbits in this essay, in addition to the original infographic above. The notion of moving a brand up-market is one that I believe very strongly in – not only as a price-anchoring function but as a product differentiator and brand builder.

This is the first essay that I’ve featured by the New York venture capitalist but it’s a worthwhile one. It’s lengthy but it’s worth your time.

Excerpt: Building a luxury direct-to-consumer brand is easier said than done, but take comfort in the fact that it can be done. Every generation has its share of holdover brands from the last, but millennials, like our parents before us, have a cadre of all new logos and experiences we want to be seen in, on, and around. Unlike our parents, we care about the experience of the purchase as much as product itself and are willing to pay serious premiums for individualized VIP treatment. Use that to your advantage. Provide a level of service your competition won’t, and tack that additional cost to the end of the price tag.

Read more here.

See more of the issue here.