Issue No. 134: A failure in men’s tech fashion

Last Word: Why Kit and Ace is Failing

Just this morning, news of Kit and Ace’s failures hit Columbus, Ohio. The Vancouver brand’s one and only storefront closed down just meters away from where one of the tech fashion industry’s pioneers – Mizzen+Main stood in it’s early days.

So, what did Kit and Ace do wrong:

I walked into my first Lululemon showroom in 2008 with my wife and Olympic bobsledding gold medalist – Steve Mesler. Considered an elite ambassador, he introduced many in the upscale area of Houston, Texas to the brand. Between 2008 and 2012, Lululemon benefitted from a surge in sport from elite fitness practitioners (though the brand was focused on yoga lovers). The ambassador circuit, both elite and otherwise, was a very powerful conduit for influence marketing. The explosion of CrossFit as a consumer culture amplified the Vancouver brand throughout North America.

In 2012, Reebok (who realized what CrossFit was doing for Lululemon) signed an exclusive licensing deal with the functional fitness company and almost overnight, Lululemon’s market cap began to stumble, ultimately peaking in 2013. And of course, Reebok began it’s change in fortunes.

This is the Cliff Notes version of things, sure. But as the Kit and Ace brand rolled out, many of the same tactics were employed.

        1. Smaller showrooms, reminiscent of $LULU’s U.S. takeover in 2008.
        2. Hiring “artsy, well-connected, cool kids” who have connections with urban promoters. In Lululemon’s model, these were fitness instructors.
        3. Expensive clothing, no discounts.
        4. In-store community events.

The product based retailer erred in judgement was five fold.

        1. Chip Wilson has never once acknowledged that the growth of his first company received a 70’s skateboard era, Vans-like boost by an unexpected consumer segment. If I recall correctly, he discouraged further adoption.
        2. The shirts were ‘tech cashmere’ but the 50/50 blends were inferior to existing startups who manufacture technical button downs.
        3. There was a need to wear Lululemon in their early days, the clothing was superior for those who move and sweat. There was no need for Kit and Ace’s approach to technical wear.
        4. The rollout was much too fast. And apparel wars are never won by speed; they are won by superiority and longevity.
        5. The gray / white / black tops were so distinctive that matching them with non-K&A apparel was very difficult for early adopters.

By 2PM Reader: LeanLuxe:

As we’ve already covered here at Lean Luxe, even the most ambitious modern luxury firms, Warby Parker and Everlane, to take two examples, are fully focused on building out their North American retail presence first. But even Neil Blumenthal et al understand that too many stores too quickly poses a huge risk. Warby Parker has 37 stores in the US and Toronto to Kit and Ace’s 60 worldwide. (Plus, many of Warby Parker’s are shops within preexisting boutiques, rather than stand alone Warby Parker stores.) Everlane, fanatically focused on online sales, just opened its first location this summer, having been firmly opposed to opening any permanent bricks-and-mortars up to that point. Both Everlane and Warby Parker will celebrate their seventh anniversaries in 2017. Nearly a decade old, they’ve taken a gradual, methodical approach to physical retail. So it’s odd that at just two years old, Kit and Ace has felt the need to do the opposite, especially given the proven power of online sales.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 131: An uncool move by Nike?

Last Word: It’s not cool if you call it “cool.”


BRAND: Let’s face it, Nike’s latest experiment the HyperAdapt shoe (self-lacing shoes) is a emitting early signs of perceived failure. The design of the shoe would be panned if technology wasn’t the draw and on certain blogs, that is the case. In one four minute ad (featured on WIRED) we hear the following words: “changes the game” (1), “amazing” (1), “the future” (1), “cool” (2). It marks the first time in a long while where Nike has had to talk about the shoe to sell it. The brand’s modus operandi has always been to sell culture or the bigger picture, the shoe itself was often secondary. This is the Apple Watch of shoes but on the brighter side – they’ll sale quite a bit of them, regardless.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 37: The World’s Most Valuable Brands



As the general election heats up, so will digital marketing spend. Every four years, brands tune into political campaign seasonal data to reengage brand loyalists or to harvest new brand ambassadors. With the data available to brands and media outlets, we will see a summer ’16 spike in targeting based upon our location, political affiliation, and our estimated median household income.

Here is a look at home the median household income stacks up by candidate and how terms like: working class, middle class, and upwardly mobile are being redefined by political affiliations.

via FiveThirtyEight

But the definition of “working class” and similar terms is fuzzy, and narratives like these risk obscuring an important and perhaps counterintuitive fact about Trump’s voters: As compared with most Americans, Trump’s voters are better off. The median household income of a Trump voter so far in the primaries is about $72,000, based on estimates derived from exit polls and Census Bureau data. That’s lower than the $91,000 median for Kasich voters. But it’s well above the national median household income of about $56,000. It’s also higher than the median income for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters, which is around $61,000 for both.

Several party apolitical inferences can be considered here. I’d love to hear your thoughts by tweeting them to @2pmlinks.

See more of the issue here.

Issue No. 21: @Shaft, AirBNB, the emoji, Skimm, and The Undefeated




I first noticed it during the promotion of Future’s latest mixtape – Purple Reign ☔️. And then I noticed it during DJ Khaled’s legendary Snapchat run 🔑. And then the hit song, “Panda.” 🐼 And now, Beyonce’s upcoming album in conjunction with an HBO feature called “Lemonade” 🍋.

The emoji has long been a staple in millennial generation and, particularly, hip hop culture. But it is quickly emerging as a viable promotional tool. Entertainers are launching their own emoji kits (see: Kimoji) by the boatload. The reality TV star and avid entrepreneur actually raked in “a million a minute” during a stint in Apple’s App Store.

But it’s the regular old, plain jane emoji set that intrigues me. Entertainers are using simple phrases that, joined with emoji context and promotion, seem to have a viral effect on sales. It’s another marketing channel to consider in the increasingly-complex digital age. But it’s a marketer’s role to master what’s out there.

Read: The Birth of A New Language

See the rest of the issue here.

Issue No. 11: The Chat OS, $10M, the NFL, and Burberry


Chat services have been dominating the news as of late. From WhatsApp’srecent more to end-to-end encryption, to Slack’s $3.8B valuation, to luxury advertisers betting big on Snapchat – the writing is on the wall. The NFL is the latest to bet on chat with a (cheap!) $10M sale to Twitter for the rights to ten Thursday Night Football games. Wait, wouldn’t that be Twitter betting on the the NFL? Only partly. Remember, Yahoo paid $20M to stream one awful game, earlier this year. The NFL basically gave the rights away in exchange for increased global reach.

Chat is the new Operating System and services, commerce, and a new form of television will continue to emerge out of formerly text-only services. The media and eCommerce companies who will win the future will do so by capitalizing on chat messaging as a platform for brand growth. You’ll see more of:

  • eCommerce Slackbots
  • Event-centric, interactive Snapchat filters
  • Customer-service powered by chatbot
  • Branded content-generated and scheduled to coincide with Twitter’s streamed events.

Content-mavens like ESPN’s Darren Rovell are about to become a lot more valuable.

See the rest of the issue here.

Issue No. 9: Elon, our new Steve


Let’s be honest here, the innovative starship that was once Apple Computer is in a lull. It’s not dead or anything, per se. It’s actually a great business. But it no longer captures our imagination in the way that Steve Jobs did when presenting a PC that looked like a bubble gum vending machine or a pocket juke box or an in-pocket personal computer that made phone calls.

What many of us saw from Elon Musk’s late night presentation was the type of subtle mastery that we wish that Tim Cook exuded. But he never will. And so, we should embrace the awe-inspiring, publicly traded, founder-led electronics company of our present rather than the one of our past.

See the rest of the issue here.

Issue No. 4: “Hyundai v BMW” and Snapchat Wins?


A new platform that I stumbled upon, Index combines public information on business contacts with private information on relationships to tell you who knows who and how well. Index uses metadata from emails without ever accessing its content. This new service can address who you need to reach to make the best attempt at a warm introduction. The goal is to reduce the number of cold emails that you attempt, improving the odds of a warm welcome.

See the rest of the issue here.