Episode 206
May 14, 2021

For The Love of Content Creation

Aja Singer, author of the For the Love newsletter joins the show to discuss the process of writing weekly newsletters and observing trends. She, Phillip, and Brian discuss the beauty and pain of asking the right questions and how to make DTC media even better. Listen now!

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this episode sponsored by

Content Creation and Open-Ended Conversations

  • For the Love is a DTC newsletter covering mission-driven companies and aims to provide meaningful content for entrepreneurs and founders.
  • The trio shares the joys and pains of producing weekly content and how that informs their own understanding of the market.
  • Creating content is a means of learning and growing, and developing a cadence that requires you to get better over time.
  • “I don't think of myself as the authority on all of these topics. I am trying to learn about them. And so I'm having these conversations and trying to convey that as best I can.” - Aja
  • There is a lot of good conversation and community building happening in the DTC media world, but there is still so much room to grow in providing spaces for diverse voices to provide their perspectives. For The Love seeks to have conversations with founders about the things that help to build a more charitable and equitable brand community.
  • Aja aims to invite open-ended conversations from those she interviews to make deeper, more tactical information more readily available.
  • “Something needs to be meaningfully different to be relevant” - Aja
  • On innovation in DTC companies: “Can we provide premium product to people without a premium price tag? And I think that was the original intention of direct to consumer.” - Aja


Associated Links:

Brian: [00:00:18] Hello and welcome to FutureCommerce,the podcast about next generation commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:00:22] I'm Phillip. Hey, we have my favoritenewsletter author. Aja Singer is here and she authors the expertly written Forthe Love, and couldn't be more thrilled to have such an astute and establishedperson join the show because Lord knows we need some of that. Brian and I don'tbring that. Welcome to the show, Aja.

Aja: [00:00:44] Thank you so much. I'm excited to behere.

Phillip: [00:00:47] Thank you. And it's such a pleasure tohave you. We're going to talk about all things content creation and mediaoperation. It's something that Brian and I are trying to build for ourselves.But for those who don't know you, can you just give a little intro that'sprobably a little less of the self aggrandizing that I've just done for you?

Aja: [00:01:11] Yeah, in terms of the newsletter, asyou mentioned, it's called For the Love. It's about direct to consumer trendsand branding. And I focus specifically on mission driven companies. Mybackground is in direct to consumer. I'm a creative director and a founder ofbrands, mostly in the fashion space and currently working with direct toconsumer brands, helping them identify, figure out their brand identity andwith their content marketing.

Brian: [00:01:43] Very cool.

Phillip: [00:01:45] Yeah, and you have the pedigree of somerecognizable brands under your belt. These days, you're helping a lot ofdifferent brands. What drew you to eCommerce and direct to consumer in thefirst place?

Aja: [00:02:00] So I actually started my career in thefashion space in a very traditional business and in wholesale and realized howproblematic it was not being able to communicate directly with your customer{laughter} and how the chain of command between, you know, the person creatingproduct and the end user of the product was just so convoluted. And that reallygot me interested in direct to consumer and being able to serve the end user ofthe product in an effective way.

Brian: [00:02:39] That makes a lot of sense. And Phillipjust mentioned kind of your pedigree and who you're working with now. And soyou're doing a lot of consulting now. How do you feel like that informs thecontent you write?

Aja: [00:02:55] It definitely informs it in that I'mhaving a lot of conversations with a lot of different founders, whether it'scurrent clients or potential clients, and figuring out what their pain pointsare and where they need assistance and where they have questions. And the way Iapproach my writing in my newsletter is to create content that is useful forentrepreneurs and founders and marketers and people in branding. And to answersome of those questions that I and they have, so the many conversations I'mhaving with them are super helpful and inspiring newsletter content for sure.

Brian: [00:03:40] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:03:40] Yeah.

Brian: [00:03:41] Phillip and I were just talkingrecently about sort of agencies and consulting and sort of the broad look itgives us into different, totally different industries and sectors and access tobrands and just being able to sort of see a broader view of things. And it'sreally helped us to be able to get a good sense of what's happening. Do youfeel like that, like sort of the broad nature of what you're doing now isgiving you even more perspective than maybe when you're working for a specificbrand?

Aja: [00:04:14] Yeah, a hundred percent. I totallyagree with that. I mean, when I was working on my brand, I was very focused onthat sector and that customer and that product, and while I was alwaysresearching and very curious and aware of what other people were doing, it'svery different peering in from the outside versus having that conversation withsomeone on the inside of the business, like so many different target customers,so many different products, so many different use cases. And each one isindividual and each founder solves problems in different ways. So getting thatsort of insider insight is invaluable. Makes it so much easier to identifytrends.

Phillip: [00:05:06] It's true. Yeah, you get this thisbroad immersion into what multiple sort of, what I would say, is likesimultaneous inspiration that happens in our community, that things sort ofcome online all around the same time. There's these multiple brands that areall launching similar products around the same time. And you always sort ofwonder, like, wow, these all started their journey down this path around thesame time many years ago just to bring a product to market. It's so interestingto see that. And certainly the same happens in the tech implementor space. Sowe have this phenomenon that has just fascinated me for the longest time.Remember, Elie Wiesel had this quote, "I write to understand as much to beunderstood," and that's something that constantly comes to mind when we'rewriting pieces. We write two pieces a week at Future Commerce, and it's like agrind. Brian can attest.

Brian: [00:06:16] It's a lot.

Phillip: [00:06:17] We've probably learned more in the lastyear in writing with such frequency than we've learned in years of interviewingpeople on the podcast. Do you feel like, did you set out to achieve somethingin particular when you started writing the newsletter or did you write foryourself? I'm curious how you sort of landed on For The Love as a way toexpress the things that were in your head?

Aja: [00:06:38] Yeah, part of it was because I hadpreviously been so heads down in my business and had all of these ideas andalso questions that I wanted to tap into you. And I wanted to get some practicewriting. That was just a {laughter} very practical reason to starting thenewsletter, and the consistency of it was important because I find it difficultto... And the accountability I would say too, because if I were just decidingthat I was going to set aside time to think deeply about these things for sixhours or 12 hours, however long it takes me in the week, I would be much lesslikely to follow through on that if I didn't want to publish the newsletter.

Brian: [00:07:27] I think that's so true, that disciplineand sort of the schedule. So you write on a schedule as opposed to like kind ofwhen you feel like it?

Aja: [00:07:37] Yes. I haven't been so good at it thepast month, but in general, weekly is is the goal. And there are someincredible newsletters, some of my favorites, where the authors just publishwhen they feel they have something to say. I find that really admirable. I justdon't think I would do it.

Brian: [00:08:01] Yes. Yes. It's really hard because youhave to feel like you want to get it right as opposed to complete it. Andthere's a real writer's challenge there. I guess that's the challenge prettymuch when you're putting out anything is like the done versus done well sort ofconundrum. When you're on a schedule, you have to get it done.

Aja: [00:08:25] I am totally a perfectionist and Icould work and rework something infinitely if given the opportunity.

Phillip: [00:08:33] It's true. It's true. I feel the same.Or what happens is we work and work and work on something, and then I realize,I kind of hate this now, and no one's going to see this. {laughter}

Brian: [00:08:48] Yeah. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:08:48] I've found every flaw there is to find.That means there's no work for anyone else left to do. I guess sort ofsubscribe to the Ratatouille, you know, sort of mentality around you... Forgiveme, I have two school age kids, and so my life is basically Pixar and Disneyprincesses. But there's this sort of the mantra "Anyone can cook,"and that just completely, I think that that mindset that anybody can write,anybody can communicate, especially today when it's easier to try to connect toan audience, with something like Substack, than it has ever been. Really itjust has everything to do with you just getting enough reps and having theaccountability to keep producing the content to become good, and you could. Youcould become a prolific writer if you have enough at bats, if you will. Anyway,a lot of mixed metaphors there, but I think anybody really can. And it'sinteresting. How long have you been writing the newsletter? Because I feel likeI only discovered it in the last five or six months.

Aja: [00:09:54] Not so much longer than that, maybeeight months or something like that. And to your point about anyone being ableto become a writer, actually English was my worst subject in school, and I wasconvinced I was not a good writer. And so part of me deciding that I needed toget this, this practice was kind of overcoming that hurdle of thinking that Iwas not a superb writer, but it does. It just takes practice and sort of justtaking that risk and leaping in. For me also leaving behind the ideas of whatwriting was in school, in high school, the rules around how you write an essayand how you write your thoughts. For me, it works better just to write as Ispeak and think.

Brian: [00:10:59] If English was your worst subject, I'meven more intimidated by you. {laughter}

Aja: [00:11:05] {laughter} I actually before I wentinto design and brand, I went to school for anatomy and cell biology. I waslike all science and math. I thought I was going to medical school and verymuch missed being creative and kind of switched my path after my degree.

Phillip: [00:11:32] Wow. I love this, the concept of like,it really just has to come down to like there's various mediums, but just comesdown to this thing Brian's been talking about quite a bit lately, which isdiscourse. And it's opening up a conversation. And there's something that Ifound in For the Love, and I certainly have seen in other publications. Anothersort of like infrequent published publication, Chips and Dips from Emily Singeris another one that I think is actually quite powerful in this way. You ask alot of questions and you're not necessarily giving a lot of prescriptiveadvice. And I feel like we have such an oversupply and an overabundance ofprescriptive advice. Do this, do X and Y will happen. Increase your conversionrate. Focus on retention. And I feel like I don't get a lot of that in For theLove. It's more like exploring the Y of something. Is that intentional? Is thatsomething that you set out to do? Are you trying to be more prescriptive?

Aja: [00:12:41] I don't think there is a right or wronganswer in describing being in brand, and[00:12:48] I think every company and every customer needs to be addressed inits own way. And so in the context of the topics that I am talking about, whichis like strategy, brand, community, those types of things, I don't thinkthere's necessarily a right or wrong answer. So I take the approach of here'ssomeone doing a particular thing very well, so how are they doing that and whatare some of the ways that could translate to other businesses? Yeah, I think inthose areas of a business, it's difficult to say "This will convert inthis exact way," or "This won't." And also the questions arebecause I am curious. I don't think of myself as the authority on all of thesetopics. I am trying to learn about them. And so I'm having these conversationsand trying to convey that as best I can. [00:14:02]

Brian: [00:14:04] That's really interesting because Ithink it does sort of playing to what Phillip was sort of referring to before,which is discourse and that is sort of sharing experience and sharing ideas andbeing able to say, "Hey, this is what we've seen," or "This isthe thought process that we've had." Or saying, "Hey, I'm seeing thisin this situation. What do you see about this situation?" And so beingable to express that is part of discourse. It's not just the listening, butalso sort of asking questions back and expressing ideas and sort of this isback and forth. And so I think you do that really well, to Phillip's point.Being able to not just say, "Hey, this is what works," but "Thisis something that we're seeing. What do you think about that and how it mightapply to you?" And I think that to Phillip's point, like currently in DTCmedia, this often isn't the case, you know, on Clubhouse and other places, itwas a lot of like, "Here's fifteen tricks about how to get your businessgoing or or to improve this particular part of it."

Phillip: [00:15:22] And there's a place for those things.

Brian: [00:15:24] Yeah, there is. There is. No, no, no,no, no.

Phillip: [00:15:26] We don't want to just dog on it. Butyeah.

Brian: [00:15:27] No, no, no, no. Absolutely. Andactually I mentioned that at the end of the article that we talked aboutdiscourse. There's a practical side of this. You have targets to hit and youhave to make your numbers. And sometimes you just need a way to get to the nextnumber. But no, but back to my point in sort of saying that is DTC media is afunny place right now and you're very much a part of it, Aja. What's your sortof take on DTC media right now? Who's got interesting things to say? Who isbeing missed by the general crowds and maybe not getting as much attention asthey should get?

Aja: [00:16:11] Yeah. Thank you for saying that I'm apart of DTC media. I love that. That's great. {laughter} To your earlier point,I agree, especially on Twitter. I find a lot of people make this kind ofblanket statements. And because of the format of Twitter, you can get away withone authoritative sentence and nothing to back it up, and I often find thatproblematic, especially coming from people that maybe don't have the experienceto inform those types of decisions. That being said, there are so many peoplethat are sharing valuable things and work really hard to share valuable things.I think direct to consumer media, the direct to consumer space, is similar tomany others where it is often dominated by white men. And then there are alsowhite women and less so people of color. I think a lot of work needs to be donesort of everywhere, not just direct to consumer. Twitter is interesting for mebecause I really didn't use it until around the time that I started mynewsletter, and I had sort of an attitude about it where it was a place wherethere was a lot of negativity and just didn't seem interesting to me. And thenonce I started using it actively and connecting with people, I saw what anincredible resource it can be and how this discourse can happen andconversations have been sparked that have inspired my newsletter and thosekinds of things. And same with Clubhouse. It has its issues. But I have hadsome interesting conversations on there, too. And I think this kind of broadaccess to knowledge is generally a great asset. I don't know if answered yourquestion. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:18:32] Brian was trying to get you to namenames, but I like the way that you approached the... {laughter} I like the waythat you... Have you had media training? It's good. There's something to besaid about the brands that you choose to spotlight. Recently you coveredThousand Fell, which really stood out to me. I think within that same articleyou had a mention of For Days, and For Days was a brand that we looked veryclosely at that came up repeatedly when we were doing our Nine by Nine brandstudy last year. What an exhaustive report that was too. And we had this whole,we created an algorithm, a scoring mechanism, looked at over two hundred andeighty brands, we wrote eighty one pages of content around why these brands andwhy this list. And because who needs another top ten list of brands that dorandom things? So we wanted there to be a purpose as to why we would even putthis piece together. For Days like barely fell off the list. But when you lookat what the promise of For Days or Thousand Fell is, there's a hidden challengein there. You could be extremely, if you were reductive on Twitter, you couldsay, "Oh, well, you just need to have a closed loop supply chain and justmake products that are in a circular economy. That's what customers want."That's all? Oh, is that all? It's actually like an insane amount of innovationon the product side and in supply chain to actually enable that. And I think itcan be super reductive to say, "Well, why don't you just create a resalemarketplace? That's easy, right?" And that's where I think some of theactually celebrating the achievements of what brands like this have done, itjust falls to the wayside of like it's actually insanely difficult to do whatthey're purporting that they do. And it gets reduced down to a tweet. Right? Sothat's a thing that I think you do really well in the newsletter is sort ofexplain the why. Maybe I'm sort of teeing you up to maybe talk a little bitmore in depth about that and that interview that was with Thousand Fell.

Aja: [00:20:51] Yeah, I totally agree. I don't evenhave the bandwidth to dive into all of the things that deserve to be talkedabout. Even the logistics of figuring out how to get product to customers isone thing and then how do you get it back? How do you recycle it? There's somany steps to that process and so much complexity that it is not helpful totell a company you should "do this." And[00:21:30] something that I love about Thousand Fell and was really interestingto me is that they are developing, they're working through that supply chainand trying to help others. The intention is to help other brands do it as well.And I find that really interesting, like Allbirds developing these newmaterials and allowing other brands to access that technology. I think,especially in the space of sustainability. Thinking about it more broadly andnot just within the confines of how do I do this for my brand and my customerand just move myself forward and our company forward? How do we do that in abroader way? It goes along with another thing that I talk about a lot, and I'mreally interested in, which is community building and how do we create theseconnections and move society forward in a way that is positive and not only forthe purpose of profit? And I get very excited when I see a company doing that.[00:22:51]

Brian: [00:22:52] So do we. I think it would be reallyinteresting, I'd love to hear a little more about your thoughts on communityand with that, maybe it sounds like that's a theme that you explore when you gofeature a company in For the Love. And so maybe you could talk a little bitabout your process for like what you're looking to do when you engage withsomeone that you want to feature. Like, what does that process look like? Whatare some of the markers that you're looking to highlight? How do you go aboutcreating this amazing content that you create?

Aja: [00:23:31] So sometimes it will just be I thinkthis brand is interesting, I want to talk to the founder.

Brian: [00:23:38] Nice.

Aja: [00:23:38] And it's a super open endedconversation. And, you know, I kind of then through asking questions andlearning about their business, see what part of it could be interesting or helpful.I try to ask questions through the lens of like, "How could this be usefulfor my readers who are founders in the venture capital space, in branding andmarketing?" So I try and get information. For instance, let's takecommunity, as you said on Twitter, you could be very... I could be, you know,sort of very blunt about it and say, "Yes, every brand needscommunity." But that's not helpful to anyone. Then the question is, how doyou build community? Why should people come here? How do I make a space thatpeople want to engage with and will be excited to be part of? So those are thequestions I try and ask. Something that's a little more tactical. And, youknow, how did you do this and how do you think other people could do it aswell? And why do you think this is working?

Brian: [00:24:57] It's really good.

Phillip: [00:24:59] What's great is this comes from a placeof experience and your own experiences are informing the way that you're, Idon't want to say critiquing, but the way that you're examining this sort ofthe why a brand should exist. Again coming back to the series that Brian's beenwriting about in Future Commerce Insiders, which is the sort of philosophy andpsychology of a brand and sort of the philosophical implications of theanswering the why something should exist. So what about your own experience? Orlike let's say in your past life and working as an operator in direct toconsumer, is there an element of you writing for who that person was, who Ajawas then, and sort of the thing that you felt like would have been necessary orsomething you would have told yourself in that place? Or is that tooexistential?

Aja: [00:26:01] No, it's totally accurate. I feel likea lot of the information available about direct to consumer companies is aroundfundraising. And you can find the playbook for how to go about fundraising, whoto reach out to, and that kind of story line is told again and again. But asfar as sort of more tactical information and deeper information, it's not readilyavailable and would have been very useful for me at that time. And I thinkanother thing is that I came from a small company with a very small team. So Ihave experience in a lot of areas of the business and had my hands in everyarea of the business. So that has made it easier for me to ask the rightquestions, to understand how certain things impact other areas of the businessand whatis actually impactful.

Brian: [00:27:12] That spurs another line of thinking forme. Phillip, go ahead and ask your follow up question. I'll pursue this nextthread after you're done. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:27:18] I was going to switch gears and justask, OK, if now you have this experience where you've been in a lot of roles asan operator in a brand, you've worn a lot of different hats, so to speak, nowyou have the benefit through consulting lens to see a bunch of differentbrands... I'm curious if there is something that you see like the mistakes orlike a blind spot? That's the word I'm looking for. Like blind spots that yousee that you immediately go to to try to help other brands and operators avoid.Like what are some of those things that you look for? What are the things theyfind are pretty challenging for brands today that are a commonality or a commondenominator across all of them?

Aja: [00:28:07] Well, I think firstly, when you are afounder or part of a small startup, it can be very myopic. Like you arethinking very specifically about your business and your customer, and it'sincredibly helpful to have insights from other brands. So I think that thatalone was certainly a blind spot of mine, and I think probably a lot of otherearly stage founders. And then a lot of the work that I do now is reallydefining who the customer is and defining very clearly what is the problemyou're solving and how you are solving it, and then translating that into everysort of outward facing element of the brand. And I think, again, when it iskind of your baby, you have this specific idea of what you think it should beand what you want it to be. And, you know, sometimes the customer that youthink you have is not the actual customer that you do have. {laughter} So it'shelpful. It's helpful to have someone like myself or another consultant to comein and kind of bring that outward facing perspective.

Phillip: [00:29:49] Validate assumptions and challengepreconceived notions, etc..

Aja: [00:29:56] Exactly.

Brian: [00:29:57] A lot of what people are looking forwith fundraising. {laughter} Interesting. I was going to ask a really similarquestion, Phillip, but sort of the flip side of that. So you're getting reallybroad perspective. And as you were talking just a few minutes ago, I started tothink you have a really interesting spot that you're in, because I think you'vebeen out on sort of the front line of commerce, having been a part of a reallysmall brand and having this broad view now of many brands and with the profilesthat they do. Innovation is the word that was pretty hot for a while. Andobviously this is Future Commerce. We talk a lot about what is next and what'scoming and like where things are headed. And so oftentimes I think about peoplethat are going to go fundraise and what they say differentiates their brandsand why they should be invested in. And I would be curious what you feel likeactual, like meaningful, next steps are for brands right now. Like where arethings headed? I think we see a lot of like similar aesthetics these days andthere's some clear trends there. And is that actually innovation? Like whatactually sets a brand apart and what will set a brand apart coming up?

Aja: [00:31:35] Yeah, this is a great question andsomething I think about a lot, because I actually love being a founder andstarting a business. So I have been always sort of curious as to what maybe mynext business will be. {laughter} And I agree, like [00:31:52] something needs to be meaningfully different to berelevant. I don't want to spend my time building something that is just anotherproduct that maybe looks a little different. So I think we spoke before aboutmaterial innovation and supply chain innovation. I think those are meaningfulthings. Or a product that is either different from what's out there or moreaccessible. Something that's very interesting to me is that there are so manygreat, especially food and beverage brands right now, and so many reallyinspiring direct to consumer brands that are all kind of vying for the samecustomer and are all around the same price point. And something that would beinteresting to me is a brand that is more accessible to a larger population ofpeople. [00:33:01]

Brian: [00:33:06] Yes!

Aja: [00:33:06] The people that are underserved. Andespecially when it comes to food I don't even I never see commercials anymore, soI don't know why I saw a commercial the other day, but it was for McDonalds anda full Happy Meal was like four dollars. And I was like, "You can buy twoapples for four dollars? How do we get better product and more nutritionalproduct people at that price point?" And that is a huge problem to besolved and in so many different ways. That's another area I'm thinking about.

Brian: [00:33:49] Think that's really, really insightful,especially in the place that we're in right now, you know, coming out of thepandemic or hopefully coming out of the pandemic. It looks like my state mighthead back, we're backsliding right now potentially, hopefully not. But [00:34:07] coming out of the pandemic where we'vebeen looking at this K shaped recovery, something we've talked aboutsignificantly. What that means for experiences and products and brands rightnow is that I think there's a lot of stuff that's targeting sort of the upperend of the middle, and a lot of innovation has happened there over the pastfive years, especially in DTC. Looking at brands like Parade, who we had on theshow not long ago, who are like calling themselves DTC 3.0 or whatever thatmeans, I'm still figuring that out. But I think what I really, really likedabout Parade, and I'm really interested in, is making sort of premium brandsthat we've seen in the past be more accessible to a broader audience of peopleprice point wise. And so I do believe that you're absolutely on something rightnow for the next wave of innovation in DTC. It's broad market appeal. I thinkthat's huge. [00:35:12]

Phillip: [00:35:12] It's the mall brand, right? It's theresurgence of the mall brand. If Parade had been launched, if Cami and Jack hadlaunched a Parade in 1992, it would be Wet Seal. And I mean, now they'll tellyou that the story is fabric platform, Lululemon, overseas ship. There's a lotof interesting ways that they've sort of positioned the brand. I think it isactually pretty interesting, but at the end of the day it's like affordable,intimates with inclusive sizing and incredible inclusive marketing and really Ithink differential influencer strategy. I think those are the things that...People are seeing those things and not the fabric innovation. That's the thingthat they're gleaming onto is like, "Oh, I can afford this." I mean,I don't know if forty dollars for four pairs of underwear is affordable, butit's more affordable than what we've seen from the likes of say like Lively. Soit's definitely heading in a certain direction. I don't know if you have anythoughts about that, Aja.

Aja: [00:36:19] Yeah, I totally agree, I think it'salso we are now seeing Gen Z founders... How old is Cami?

Phillip: [00:36:31] Twenty three or twenty four.

Aja: [00:36:33] Early twenties. And I think there is areal desire to make things that their people's friends and contemporaries canactually buy. And accessibility is much more a priority now. And even on themost superficial level, you take the millennial Instagram aesthetic, which isvery polished and aspirational versus TikTok, which is just realistic andsometimes ugly. And I think that that mindset translates in a lot of ways whereit's like more realism is what people are looking for now and what people want.And it's not cool to spend more money than you have just to look like you haveit. Whereas 10 years ago, like that was the goal.

Phillip: [00:37:31] Well, to your point, Aja, too, is theMillennial HENRY really to be considered a high earner when they're spending 40dollars on truffle hot sauce and 350 dollars on candles? {laughter} You'rebasically back in the lower middle class in the way that direct to consumerspending has co-opted most of your income, which is, I think, itself like awhole other topic of conversation.

Brian: [00:38:01] This is worth an article. This is worthan article. {laughter}

Aja: [00:38:05] I agree. And I think, I don't know if Iread this or if it was part of a conversation, but part of that is that a lotof millennials have decided that homeownership is just not even nearlyattainable and are not saving for those types of things. So you might as wellspend money on things that you can actually enjoy and purchase, which makes alot of sense.

Phillip: [00:38:29] Like Dogecoin.

Aja: [00:38:30] Right. {laughter} Exactly. But I guess [00:38:34] what makes more sense is can we providepremium product to people without a premium price tag? And I think that was theoriginal intention of direct to consumer. And then when digital advertisingbecame less affordable, that dream kind of drifted away and founders are sortof re-looking at how to solve that problem now. [00:38:58]

Phillip: [00:38:59] Isn't it so funny that something I'vesaid on Twitter a lot, but I don't know if I've ever said it on the show.Brian, correct me. [00:39:06] The originalpromise of eCommerce and direct to consumer in the early aughts was likeproducts cost more because there's so many middlemen. Right? And it's likewe're removing the middleman, which made so much sense to a consumer. It's like,"We ship direct from the factory. We don't go through distributors.Doesn't have to go through a retailer. There's not people adding margin alongthe way. It's a more efficient way of doing business. So we pass the savings tothe customer." eCommerce in the 2020s is literal only middlemen. Likethat's the whole story. Shopify... Middleman. Stripe... Middleman. Four layersof shipping labels. Shipping rates. The carrier. It's like only middlemen allthe way down. [00:39:54] It's kind of fascinating.

Brian: [00:39:57] So instead of like three, we have likeone hundred.

Phillip: [00:40:01] Yeah. There's actually more middlemennow. People are saying like retail stores are the better way to go. Like if youwatch any of these people on Twitter and they've come all the way around tolike, "No, no, no, wholesale is where it's at. Wholesale strategy is whereit's at."

Aja: [00:40:16] Right. Yeah, yeah. It was like I feellike the Warby Parker guys at the beginning where it was like, "We wouldnever have a brick and mortar. That's like ridiculous." And then they werekind of the first to be like,  
"Maybe we'll give this a try." But it's marketing, and it is framingthings through a different lens. And things have changed a lot sincetraditional retail and traditional brick and mortar were successful, and we'veseen a lot of businesses go bankrupt, not necessarily primarily because of thepandemic. This shift is necessary. But again, it's not being prescriptive. Noone has the answer. Everyone is trying things and figuring out what works forthem.

Phillip: [00:41:06] There's this criticism that was leveledat Google for the first ten years, which is, you know, every Google product hadbeta on it. I don't know if you remember that era. I'm old enough to remember.Everything. Like even Google search was beta. And for a modern enterprise backin those days, it was like, "Well, we don't use Google anything becauseit's not a real product yet. They're still a startup. How can we rely upon itif it's a startup?" And I think startups have become so pervasive andcertainly world changing in the world of tech that we forget for a second thatwell Away is a startup and Outdoor Voices is a startup. And these are startups.And it's really hard to depend on them when they haven't really come, I mean,for all intents and purposes, out of beta yet. They're still finding productmarket fit. They're still finding the message that resonates. And what workstoday may not work tomorrow. And for a consumer who puts their trust in aparticular brand or product, maybe it helps to remind yourself from time totime, "Hey, this company has been in business for three years. They'restill figuring some things out, too."

Aja: [00:42:12] Yeah, I think all the marketing andspending behind them sometimes convinces consumers that it is a well oiledmachine when in fact it is not yet. But power to them for making people believethat.

Phillip: [00:42:30] It's funny when you speak. Brian,there's a pretty stark contrast between a founder that will have on the showthat's just come out of fundraising mode and how aspirational they speak andhow large the opportunity is to the bootstrapped founder. And they're andthey're very, extremely pragmatic. And it's all about slow and taking theirtime. And there's no bombast to it. It's actually, if anything, you want themto be a little more optimistic about the trajectory of the business. And Ithink that's just a like you said, Aja, it's part and parcel of sort of the waythat finance and capital has sort of shaped the way that this industry has sortof become. Brian, I'm sorry. You were about to say, and I cut you off.

Brian: [00:43:30] No, I have no idea. That was a reallygood comment. {laughter}

Aja: [00:43:36] {laughter}

Phillip: [00:43:37] Aja, I'd love to bring you back on theshow for just a normal sort of news roundup episode. I'd love your perspectiveon the world around us. What are the things that caught your eye recently?Anything that you're keeping an eye on? Do you own any Dogecoin? What are thethings that you're thinking about as you write your next issue of For The Love?

Aja: [00:44:01] Well, there has been so much discoursearound the new Roaring Twenties, and so I have been... I don't have any answerson this yet, but I have been thinking about how that translates to brandingspecifically and how maybe aesthetics will be moving forward after this time ofsort of seriousness. And as I said, community is consistently interesting. Iwas speaking to this founder the other day and an upcoming article will beabout all of the ways that she has really integrated customers into herbusiness and how they have become employees and have informed so many parts ofthe business and that is super interesting to me. And very much, very much inthe price mindset. I'm really looking for companies that are targeting adifferent type of customer and what that looks like and how they do it. Sothose are some things that are on my mind right now.

Phillip: [00:45:19] Where can people subscribe to thenewsletter?

Aja: [00:45:22] At AjaSinger.Substack.com.

Phillip: [00:45:26] We'll link it up in the show notes aswell. Such a joy to have you on the show. Thank you.

Brian: [00:45:31] Absolutely.

Phillip: [00:45:32] Thank you for joining us.

Aja: [00:45:33] This has been fun.

Phillip: [00:45:34] We promised we would team up. It onlytook three months to happen, but we finally got it on the books. And I hope itdoesn't take another three months to get you back on again.

Aja: [00:45:42] Yeah, for sure.

Phillip: [00:45:44] Thank you so much, Aja. Thanks forlistening to FutureCommerce. Remember, you can get this wherever podcasts arefound. More episodes of the show and our sister show Stairway to CEO are foundat FutureCommerce.fm. And would you take two seconds, it will take two seconds,I promise, and give us a five star on iTunes and leave us a review. That willhelp us out and help more people find the show. And we've got a new quarterlyreport coming out in partnership with Gladly and Stella Connect. It's calledService is the New Store Front. It will be out in about a week's time. And hey,how can you get on the list to make sure you're the first to get it? Go toFutureCommerce.fm/Subscribe and sign up for notifications, so that you don'tmiss when our new research drops. Thank you for listening to Future Commerce,and we'll see you next time.

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