Getting to consumption

It was delightfully ironic. Turner Novak spoke with Patrick O’Shaughnessy and said:

“There’s ideas of TikTok for X, but TikTok can already do that. If you want to watch sports in a TikTok like setting, just go on TikTok because it will know you want to watch sports.”

…on an episode where Patrick led off talking about Bottomless, a smart scale subscription service.

I want to say one word to you, just one word. Are you listening?

The Graduate


Thanks to technology (like podcasts!) there’s been a shift in getting to consumption. In the past, we’d consume if we were told. Locality mattered a lot. In 1995 a friend said I should get Dookie. I went to K-Mart. It was out of stock. I heard Green Day on the radio, went back to the store, bought the album, didn’t like it that much.

In 1995 there was a lot of what David Ogilvy called reason why advertising. “Imagine that you’re at a dinner party and the woman next to you says, ‘I have to buy a new car, have you any advice to offer to me?’ And I tell her that I think she should buy a Mercedes Benz. She says, ‘Why a Mercedes Benz?’ Well I don’t try to put a mirage up, I give her rational reasons.”

In general, said Ogilvy, the more you tell the more you sell.

There was nothing special about 1995 other than I was thirteen and that Green Day album is my first consumer memory. If anything, the era of being told about something (at least at the macro level) was tapering off.

Being told worked for a long time because we were mostly told things by groups who we trusted. There’s always been word-of-mouth, but brands are trustworthy. If a company could advertise it showed fitness. That was information.

Then we got the information superhighway.

The internet allowed people to shift from being told to searching out. Rather than using advertising’s availability, we shifted to other forms. The internet allowed reviews, questions-and-answers, stars, ratings, lists, rankings, and more. We asked Google ‘What is the best…’.

Screen Shot 2020-07-16 at 6.17.40 AM

If you do get an air fryer, opt for the bigger basket.

In 2020, we can search and be given ‘reasons why’. In 2020, we use Amazon, Google, and Instagram.

In 2020 time, we’re also seeing the rise of prediction. Bottomless predicts when you need a refill. TikTok predicts what you’ll watch. YouTube suggests next videos. Netflix has always done this.

In 1999 Reed Hastings spoke to Sarandos about Netflix. The company, Sarandos recalled to Katie Couric:

“Was about a marketing move. Back in those days, studios argued about digital distribution; who is going to pay to retrofit theaters for digital? But the cheapest thing a studio does is mail prints around, what really costs a lot of money, and is inefficient, is marketing. If we can get tasted-based merchandising of ‘You’re going to love this movie!’ And you dont’ have to spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing, you can change the P/L of every studio in the world. Taste based picking has been at the core of the business from the beginning.”

In 1975, film critic Roger Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Consumers were informed.

In 1983 Sarando enrolled in his MBA and Film School program at “Arizona Video Cassettes West”. People came in the store and they were informed, they searched, and they were suggested by Sarandos and his staff.

In 1999 Hastings noticed Pixar’s problem of profitability and wanted to change the equation.

Broadly it seems like there are three paths to consumption: being told, being sought, and being delivered.

Being told. Advertising. Billboards, Facebook Ads, and so on. In Retirementville Florida one friend says that the weekly newspaper ad brings in more business than she can handle.

Being sought. Can the right people find your product? Search Engine Optimization and Content Marketing.

Being delivered. Can a business act with ethics?


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