Episode 119
August 2, 2019

The Attention Economy

When brands like Outdoor Voices launch a new content platform it gets us thinking about retail-brands-turned-content-creators and begs the question: who is the winner in the attention economy? Do brands have what it takes to create engaging and timely content? Listen now!

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When brands like Outdoor Voices launch a new content platform it gets us thinking about retail-brands-turned-content-creators and begs the question: who is the winner in the attention economy? Do brands have what it takes to create engaging and timely content? Listen now!

Main Takeaways:

  • In today's brand economy, everyone is expected to be a storyteller and have content play a large part in their retail strategy.
  • Brian and Phillip use their own experience as a guide and describe the qualities it takes to be a successful content creator.
  • In some cases, content is dictating how product is being created so brands that master their content game are becoming majorly successful.
  • Strategy is an integral part of achieving your goals and it takes a specific skillset to combine strategy with brand development.

The State of Content: Everyone Has to Be a Storyteller:

  • Outdoor Voices is launching a storytelling marketing platform called The Recreationalist that is positioned around showcasing the fun in outdoor activities as opposed to most outdoor brands that focus on performance.
  • Brian states that we are at the peak content level period where every brand needs to be a storyteller and everything is content.
  • The way we are consuming content has changed dramatically in the past ten years and we are more willing to put our focus on content that is current and innovative.
  • Creating content consistently is a large commitment that extends past just being employed at a company.

The Lasting Content Creator: Avoiding Creative Burnout in A Demanding Climate:

  • Given their standing as "authorities" on the subject, Brian and Phillip describe the perfect combination of qualities that allows someone to be a consistent content creator. (Strangely it sounds like they're reading their own biographies. Imagine that.)
  • You can't have a strategy without a goal, and everyone on your team should know what that strategy is and have a clear direction on how to achieve it.
  • Creating content in a particular media takes a different skill set that might sometimes conflict with your ability to be a successful retailer.
  • If you're going to get into the content game, get in with both feet and don't just try to do it halfway.

The Shifting Tide: Content is King:

  • In the attention economy, most brands are competing for the same groups of content consumers so these brands must stand out from their competitors.
  • Brian recently heard a VP of Product at a large furniture retailer say that it's better to create content, see how that content performs, and then create a product that fits that content.
  • "People want to quantify that you're spending has a direct return but when you're creating content, what you're spending on is brand."
  • Aggregating the listeners or consumers of your content is a challenge because they are coming from such disparate places across all channels.

What's On the Horizon?: A Sneak Peek at the Future of Future Commerce:

  • Phillip is excited to announce that Gladly is now a sponsor of the show and to check out last week's episode with Charlie Cole and Joseph Ansanelli. (Welcome to the family!)
  • In the most recent issue of Chips + Dips, aperitif culture was examined and Phillip suggests that Future Commerce could be your retail aperitif. (That was a stretch...)
  • Brian thinks that the world is ready for a canned Gin & Tonic and has an entire five-year strategy for this plan.  (Well this episode derailed fast.)
  • Phillip teases that Ishani Gujral from Madrona Venture Labs will be making an appearance on the show soon to talk about how they approach ideation and how they help founders launch new companies.

Brands Mentioned in this Episode:

As always: We want to hear what our listeners think! How can you use content to identify a trajectory for your message and brand? Is outsourcing a content creator a good expenditure of funds?

Let us know in the content section on Futurecommerce.fm, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Linkedin.

Have any questions or comments about the show? You can reach out to us at info@futurecommerce.fm or any of our social channels; we love hearing from our listeners!

Retail Tech is moving fast, but Future Commerce is moving faster.

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Phillip: [00:00:00.00] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge a next generation commerce. I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:00:04.38] I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:00:05.42] And we had a crazy thought, as we usually do. And so we wanted to expound on that here today. But before we get into today's show, I have a favor to ask of everybody who is listening or watching this. I know that you love this show and you get a lot of value out of the show. And we want other people to get the same kind of value that you get out of this show, and the best way you can help other people to find it is... We want you to share it. So find one person on your Slack right now that you know that doesn't listen to Future Commerce. And share this episode out with them. And why don't you go ahead and leave a review. That would help a whole lot, too. Did you know, Brian, that we are the number one retail podcast in Sweden?

Brian: [00:00:47.46] Huh. Well.

Phillip: [00:00:50.24] It's true. We are number one on iTunes in Sweden. We're number one on iTunes in a bunch of different countries for retail. And we are consistently ranked at the top of pretty much every list for retail podcasts. We are three years in, and we want your help to reach more people. So go leave us a nice review at your podcast, host of choice.

Brian: [00:01:15.05] We are three years in in like a month.

Phillip: [00:01:18.77] Yeah, we're there.

Brian: [00:01:21.27] We launched on August 31, three years ago.

Phillip: [00:01:23.21] Golf clap for three years. Happy anniversary, Brian. But yeah, very exciting stuff. So that's how you can help us. We're always helping you. We're asking you to help us. {laughter} Hey, some very nice people have said things like, "I determine my retail roadmap and strategy by listening to Future Commerce, right?

Brian: [00:01:46.60] It's true.

Phillip: [00:01:47.90] It's true. We're not making that up.

Brian: [00:01:49.11] No, you're right.

Phillip: [00:01:51.19] Yeah. OK. So we had this idea. Brian, this was all you. We were chatting yesterday. You said... You shared a story with me about Outdoor Voices launching a content brand.

Brian: [00:02:01.70] Yeah, pretty cool. Well, it's a content platform.

Phillip: [00:02:06.56] Yes, sorry. Content platform.

Brian: [00:02:10.46] Which is interesting, like, content is clearly king right now. This kind of spurred some bigger thoughts. I was looking at an article about how the Hollywood blockbuster may have peaked. And I was like, oh, my gosh.

Phillip: [00:02:25.32] We're at peak Hollywood..

Brian: [00:02:26.40] We're at peak Hollywood right now.

Phillip: [00:02:27.75] Right.

Brian: [00:02:28.53] And then I was thinking about brands and how brands are putting out more and more content. And we're really kind of at peak content right now, in general.

Phillip: [00:02:39.73] It's a little crazy, right? Like every brand is sort of required to be a storyteller beyond just the, you know, the brand story. It's like we have to tell customers stories, too. And we have to weave communities together to tell broader stories. And it's not just content marketing. It's like we're creating media, right?

Brian: [00:02:56.95] Well, everything is content now. Everything is content.

Phillip: [00:03:00.72] Everything.

Brian: [00:03:01.35] Like products are content. Physical space is content. Everything. Everything. Everything has a story. So the question is, if... You have to be in the content creation game now, regardless of who you are.

Phillip: [00:03:17.08] Yeah.

Brian: [00:03:17.64] We have typically thought of movies and TV and music as like a primary source or type of content. But actually maybe it's easier to build a billion dollar brand. I mean, we think about End Game and it's you know, it made it over...

Phillip: [00:03:34.26] Avengers End Game, you're talking about.

Brian: [00:03:36.03] Yes. Avengers End Game. And it made a billion dollars worldwide. Maybe it's easier to get to a billion dollar valuation, at least, through building a direct to consumer brand. Maybe content is actually like, "We're tired of consuming content the same way that we used to forever. And now we're looking for new." This is why everything has to be content, because we're actually... The way we're consuming stories has changed significantly in the past 10 years. And so we're actually looking, as a society, North American society, Western society, to consume content as other things then we're willing to put money towards it, more money towards consuming that kind of content than we are towards the traditional movies, music, TV.

Phillip: [00:04:39.80] But what if it's not money? What if it's just attention? Right?

Brian: [00:04:43.99] Attention. Yeah. That as well.

Phillip: [00:04:45.57] It's the Attention Economy. Right? And you have brands that aren't just creating... Think about all the avenues that brands create media in now... they create content in... And so this actually how we started this conversation was, "OK, Outdoor Voices launched a content platform." But I think we could probably count five or six brands that have had this news in the past few months. We recently covered the fact that Mailchimp launched a content platform on one of our Monday updates that we put out.

Brian: [00:05:20.43] So whether you're an ESP or a retailer or whomever...

Phillip: [00:05:26.57] Right. Everybody is creating content. And they're not just creating... Some are creating podcasts. Pretty much every brand is trying to launch a podcast at the moment. Look at us. We're three years in. Good luck. By the way, I have a new thing where I think that podcasts are the new blog, which every single brand thinks that they're able to launch a podcast, but they'll podfade quickly. And as someone who's been doing it for five years, you know, creating content every single week and content that people want engage with and having a growing audience who take up and give you very generously an hour or so of their attention every single week... That's pretty hard. So it's kind of cute that you guys are all starting this. And let's hope that you can keep it up because you weren't able to do it with blogs.

Brian: [00:06:13.44] Podfade... Podfade?

Phillip: [00:06:14.25] They're gonna podfade real quick, I think.

Brian: [00:06:16.56] Oh, my gosh. No, but I think you have a point actually, just as a tangent here... If you're a retail tech company or even a retailer, think carefully about how you approach your audio strategy, right? You're totally right, Phillip, doing content consistently is a commitment that honestly, probably spans past employment at that company.

Phillip: [00:06:43.48] Oh, for sure. Oh, a hundred percent. Yeah.

Brian: [00:06:45.61] So what you need to be careful of, retailers and retail tech companies and even agencies, whoever, is that if you get someone on who establishes a voice... First of all, that alone is a challenge.

Phillip: [00:07:03.09] Yeah.

Brian: [00:07:05.20] But once you do that, you're creating something that has an end date associated with it.

Phillip: [00:07:14.74] Oh, I see what you're saying. You're saying that those people, if they're not like ownership or they're not... If the brand wasn't built on a personal brand of someone who, you know, is visible in the company, that all bets are off at some point that person might leave. So how do you create a consistent brand voice that transcends the host of the content show that...

Brian: [00:07:37.10] That is compelling.

Phillip: [00:07:38.43] Right.

Brian: [00:07:39.25] Yes.

Phillip: [00:07:39.88] Yeah, I get it. Precisely. I know this all too well because I live this every single day.

Brian: [00:07:47.68] So if you have any questions about that, talk to us.

Phillip: [00:07:50.17] Let us know. We know how to do it. And I know that we've done... We'll continue on the train of self aggrandizement. It is that is that the right way to pronounce it?

Brian: [00:07:59.44] I don't know.

Phillip: [00:08:01.86] Self aggrandizing? I'm curious if brands understand that what we're talking about, what we do on this show, is from the point of view of practitioners. We build e-commerce and direct to consumer e-commerce every day. That's what we do. We've helped many, many, many companies over a combined 20 some years of experience between the two of us to grow and create strategy. I've been on this thing recently about you can't have strategy without a goal, right? We need a goal. So what is the goal? You need to be able to state your goal, and you have to know what it is. And everybody in the company should know what your goal is. Right? So you should have a big goal. And the strategy that you adopt will help you meet that goal. And the tactics that you employ help you achieve the goal via aligning with the strategy. And you're not gonna have tactics without having some KPI, some key performance indicators, to tell you whether you're doing that or not. And none of that matters if you don't know actually what you're doing. None of that matters if you don't know how to set goals and achieve goals. And in the world of creating retail experiences, you and I do it every day, there are people in our space, especially in journalism and reporting, who are knowledgeable and know the oral history, but they're not practitioners. Right? And I have the same sort of feeling and sense that brands who want to tell a story and create content are also not storytellers, and they're not content creators by nature. They make products that are useful. And they've created brands, which creating a brand requires some storytelling capability, for sure. But creating content in a particular medium takes a different type of skill set. And it's not easy. And sometimes being a content creator can be in conflict with your ability to be a successful retailer.

Brian: [00:10:19.45] Yeah, this gets back to that idea of unselfish content that we've talked about on previous episodes. I think this is... I think you're making a really, really strong point here. That is, if you're gonna get into the content game, get in with both feet. Don't try and do it halfway. Cause you're not going to be able to succeed.This is something that you need to either go find some talent that's outside your organization or go find talent in your organization. But you need to set aside resources to invest in this and do it the right way because think about how much competition out there.

Phillip: [00:10:59.59] Yeah.

Brian: [00:11:00.25] You've got Outdoor Voices putting together their own content platform. It's not just putting out content, it's a content platform. This is where I think it's really, really important right now, especially with the saturation, being at peak content, if you will, that you consider your steps before you just throw down some audio on an iPhone and call it a podcast or go do a photo shoot at the beach and call it a, you know, a storybook catalog. Whatever. I don't know. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:11:39.43] I think it takes a commitment to knowing what it is you're trying to do and then executing on that. But it takes a lot of money. All right. It takes resources as well, and talent. And, you know, for what it's worth, Outdoor Voices seems to have a lot of both of those things. So they have... They secured 34 million, I think, in 2018. And so, you know, they've got some money on the table. Also, they're really doing a great job, at least at their first at bat, if you will, they're branding very heavily their content to create a lot of different channels or shows. There's a recurring profile, I'm reading from Adweek right now, but there's a recurring profile of which they're calling like a franchise. One is called Doing Things With and another one's called Take 10. And it so it's 10 questions with people that inspire a community and then doing things with Chip Wilson, who is the CEO, the former CEO of Lululemon... He's featured and they're also going to have people from Chef's Table. And it seems like it might be a really interesting way to highlight how... It's a clever way of doing content marketing to show how an apparel brand can have appeal to people that aren't necessarily just, you know, outdoor enthusiasts. It's...if Patagonia were to do this, they'd have vignettes of of, well I said Wall Street last time...of Silicon Valley.

Brian: [00:13:17.68] That's the opposite of what they'd have, I think.

Phillip: [00:13:19.38] No, but if they were to do content marketing based on the people that wear and identify with, like the brand values of Patagonia, you would have to incorporate the people that are known for wearing it. And I think that's what people who don't know who Outdoor Voices are will need to see to understand that Outdoor Voices is a broad brand. I think it's a really interesting strategy, takes a lot of money and commitment to make it happen. If anyone can do it, I think it's them. But they're not the only ones creating content right now. Every single retail founder and every DTC is being asked of investors to become content creators and storytellers. Yes, I think therein lies the problem because then in the Attention Economy, to your point, I think we're at peak content in that most people are vying for the same consumer segment's attention and some are going to win out and others will be laboring in vain.

Brian: [00:14:11.75] Yes.

Phillip: [00:14:12.53] And think about the number of channels you have to be in to be successful. It's not just podcast, it's YouTube, it's IGTV, it's you freaking TicTalk. It's everywhere. And you have to create content that's engaging for all of those platforms. That's not, you know, something that's just stamped and repeated and cloned into every... It's not just one piece of content feeding a hundred channels. It's 100 unique pieces of content that are appropriate for those channels. And you understand that because you're a retailer and that's what you do every day.

Brian: [00:14:44.18] I recently heard... I think I've said this on the show before. I heard a V.P. of product at a large furniture retailer recently say that right now it's actually better for him to create content, see how that content performs, and then create products that fit the best performing content.

Phillip: [00:15:07.40] Oh, yeah. It's a great strategy, right? That's a great strategy.

Brian: [00:15:12.70] Yeah. So if this is not a big party strategy right now, if your your direct to consumer brand... I mean, I actually see this extending into B2B eventually. Just...

Phillip: [00:15:26.29] Now you're sounding like Gary Vaynerchuk.

Brian: [00:15:30.41] Is that bad or good?

Phillip: [00:15:32.99] I don't know. It seems to be working for him. But you're right. I'm curious how many people... The other challenge that you have to solve is the same challenge you're trying to solve in reaching your customers. But there isn't really lead back for podcasts at the moment. Like everybody's really retargeting, and getting attention for your direct to consumer brand, you have a few key partnerships and technology partnerships that reinforce display ads, that sort of thing... Like there's a playbook for that. Good luck trying to find an audience and creating content because some of the same methods are going to be employed, but they have less of a tie to return on investment. And I know because I've heard people say in the past, CAC, or customer acquisition cost is a drug. And people want to quantify that what they're spending has a direct return. When you're creating content, what you're spending on is brand. It is brand. It's soft. It is... It is no more aligned to direct revenue than creating blogs has ever been. And in fact, it's soft more so because we know, you and I know, it's really hard to get a handle on who your audience is when it lives in so many different places. And aggregating that listener or our customer's journey, that's become a really hard thing for us to quantify, because, at least in the world of podcasting and YouTube and IGTV, there's no way to roll up all of your audience mechanics into one report, to get one total view of who your engaged audience is. It's like retail, digital retail, 10 years ago. This how it most often feels. And we know better than anybody. I know we keep saying, and we rarely take all this time to pat ourselves on the back. But I'm just saying, we know how tough it is. At the same time, we're not trying to actually be retailers too, yet.

Brian: [00:17:37.29] {laughter} Did you just say, "Yet?"

Phillip: [00:17:37.51] I said yet. You never know.

Brian: [00:17:40.68] Man, that's not on our roadmap. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:17:46.16] Definitely not on our vision and mission... yet. So, yeah, it's an interesting... It's an interesting...

Brian: [00:17:52.70] You sound like me right now. You sound like me.

Phillip: [00:17:54.38] That's true. That's true. Always leaving the door open like Brian Lange. That could be one of our content franchises. "Leaving the Door Open...with Brian Lange"

Brian: [00:18:03.14] Oh, I like that.

Phillip: [00:18:04.91] I like that, too.

Brian: [00:18:05.69] It's like an open ended stream of consciousness show for me.

Phillip: [00:18:10.07] Speaking of franchises, you know, we are launching a couple new content...

Brian: [00:18:20.01] Wait. Are you announcing this now?

Phillip: [00:18:20.12] No, no, no, no, no.

Brian: [00:18:21.04] Okay.

Phillip: [00:18:21.80] I'm teasing.

Brian: [00:18:24.02] Teasing. Ok. Cool. Cool.

Phillip: [00:18:24.49] Yeah. This is the small taste. It's an amuse bouche, if you will.

Brian: [00:18:31.37] Well be listening soon because I think one of our most exciting collaborations is about to come out.

Phillip: [00:18:36.44] Yeah, we've got a couple in the works. We're really glad to see new partnerships onboard, too. We want to welcome Gladly to the Future Commerce family, so thank you for being supporters of the show. And we want to keep creating content with people who are doing differential things in the world of retail.

Brian: [00:18:53.48] Which, by the way, Gladly is dope.

Phillip: [00:18:57.65] It really is, actually. That was a fantastic interview that we did with them, which by the way, was not a paid interview. That was not in any way whatsoever. Having people like Charlie Cole, from Tumi, to come on and talk about their brand's story and their approach to luxury is wow, that's awesome. Having a partner like Gladly who we can acquire through those types of retailer conversations... That is the trifecta.

Brian: [00:19:29.01] I really is. There are so many good soundbites from that interview. I just want to chop that whole interview up and, like, spit it back out again. It's so good.

Phillip: [00:19:42.92] Well, we heard about an aperitif culture from Emily Singer via Chips and Dips, by the way, I'm pronouncing it correctly this time. I have to say, I have to apologize. A couple episodes ago, I said Chips and Dip. It's actually Chips and Dips. So but the most recent, or one of the more recent issues of Chips and Dips, which is a great newsletter, you should subscribe to it, I was talking about aperitif culture and this idea that, you know, there's all these direct to consumer sort of liquor and beer and wine brands that are sort of launching. Super interesting though.

Brian: [00:20:19.26] Low-ABV. Low-ABV used to be looked down on and it was like, you know, the wine coolers, right? Everyone was like, "That's just cheap." But now, like low-ABV, low-cal type, the sparkling alcohol of the world... It's Lacroix with a little vodka sprinkled in. Actually, you know what I think. Sorry. Finish your thought.

Phillip: [00:20:45.55] Yeah. Just the thought was, you know, having an aperitif in the retail space, maybe Future Commerce could be your aperitif. It could be the... It could be that graceful, post heavy analysis... You guys consume a lot of content, I'm sure. We want to be the palate cleanser for you. We're excited to play that role. And I have no idea what I'm talking about at this point.

Brian: [00:21:13.25] Oh, my gosh. Well, you know, that's a spurt of thought that I had recently that I messaged you about. And I was like, man, this probably already exists. I don't even look it up before the show, but I feel like the U.S. is wide open for I canned G & T. I think it's wide open for...

Phillip: [00:21:32.75] So for our transcriptionist, he means canned gin and tonic. That's what I think he's trying to say.

Brian: [00:21:38.57] Yeah, aperitif culture coming to the U.S. soon. Canned gin and tonic gonna win?

Phillip: [00:21:44.36] I mean, if Brian were to start... If you were going to start... Let me ask you this. This is completely out of left field. And I think we're winding down at this point.

Brian: [00:21:52.37] Are we winding down or are we winding up?

Phillip: [00:21:54.68] If you had to start a direct to consumer retail play right now, what would you launch?

Brian: [00:22:03.02] I have too many ideas.

Phillip: [00:22:05.75] Give me one idea. You already said canned gin and tonic.

Brian: [00:22:08.76] Yeah. Direct to consumer gin and tonic. Gin and tonic in a can in grocery stores everywhere. Also available online.

Phillip: [00:22:16.93] Yeah, that's a... You have the whole like five year strategy right there.

Brian: [00:22:20.84] Man, I want to do a whole episode on this because I have so many other ideas, and I was not prepared to talk about them today.

Phillip: [00:22:26.72] Oh, that's... We will tease out, we are going to have a guest on the show pretty soon.

Brian: [00:22:32.13] Yes, thank you.

Phillip: [00:22:32.77] So we did an ideation session at Madrona Labs, a few weeks ago. You might have seen it if you're on our Instagram. And so we'll be expounding on that pretty soon. And so Ashwani Gujral... I'm terrible with names. I'm sorry. Ashwani will be here to talk about how they approach ideation and how they help founders launch companies. And they've had some really interesting, if you look up Madrona, they have some interesting investments. Very, very notable names.

Brian: [00:23:09.73] Uh, yeah.

Phillip: [00:23:09.83] Are we allowed to say the names that they've been...?

Brian: [00:23:13.05] Well whatever is publicly available.

Phillip: [00:23:14.78] What is publicly available, do you know off the top of your head?

Brian: [00:23:17.01] No, I don't know off the top of my head. Yeah, they've been involved in a lot. They're one of the top VC companies here in the Seattle area. So yeah, I'm really excited about that interview coming up. And ideation is such an important part of commerce.

Phillip: [00:23:36.21] Of innovation. Any innovative...

Brian: [00:23:38.59] Future commerce... So, yeah, we'll get into some ideas there. I mean, Phillip, you said, "Yet." I don't even know if I want to give away our best ideas because we might get to them someday.

Phillip: [00:23:48.97] Yeah. Yeah, that's true. But one quote that I loved that Ashwani mentioned is that ideas are cheap.

Brian: [00:23:55.47] Ideas are cheap.

Phillip: [00:23:56.18] Ideas are cheap. It's the execution that matters. And that's why you listen to Future Commerce because we help you execute. Our ideas are not cheap. No, we help you execute. And just as a reminder, please go leave to feedback. Share the show. And I don't know. This feels like it's in a really good spot. Should we end it here?

Brian: [00:24:16.29] Let's wrap it here. This is a good place to wrap it. I'm not going to do a "Wait, one more thing."

Phillip: [00:24:21.02] Yeah, you're not going to Steve Jobs me. I appreciate that. Thanks for listening. And as we always say, retail tech moves fast,

Brian: [00:24:28.40] But Future Commerce is moving faster.

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