3_TRENDS is an interview series with experts who have their ear to culture, identifying the overlooked ripples turning into swells.
Ben Dietz (BD) is a Brooklyn-based media executive, brand builder, and co-founder of the Culture Club Show. He spent the bulk of his career at VICE Media, and acted as GM of the relaunch of the new digital-first Departures for Amex. For fun, he edits the weekly [SIC] newsletter.
MK: Ben, what’s on your mind?
BD: Snowpeak is a cult outdoor brand in the states and publicly traded in Japan. But when you’re a two-shop chain that makes very fancy camping gear in a year when nobody can leave the house, what do you do? You convince them that they can camp at home.
That’s the lesson from the brand’s second annual “At Home Campout.” Sign up and Snow Peak will send you a guide to camping at home. Recipes, tips, games for the kids, even a little kindling to start your fire (outdoors please). Do any of it and you could call yourself a camper, no judgment. Get outside, even just a little. Plus there’s a little range of limited edition gear, at affordable prices (for Snow Peak), to benefit the City Kids Wilderness Project. Buy a little, help a lot.
It was all very cute and disarming, and damned if it didn’t get my family into matching At Home Campout gear for a photo op, gleefully sent back to the brand. (And my son hasn’t taken the sweatshirt off since.)
Lifetime customer relationships start with small gestures, and even the most invented holidays are easy to remember.
Not to mention that when it comes to camping, rule number one is get in where you fit in.
MK: This activation is such a trailhead for conversation...
Firstly, with experience working in outdoor apparel, the paradox of “luxury outdoors” is as confusing as lasting. This will sustain.
We often want what we can’t have — and for those in bustling cities, it’s access to the fresh, plush outdoors. For anyone with disposable income, outer- and activewear doesn’t just signal status (access), but fondness for nature (ethics) and one’s health (resources). It’s signal stacking. As our climate implodes, untouched greenery becomes limited. Air quality next. Scarcity begets value begets luxury. “Dystopian” is dependent upon paycheck.
A loud signal here is Collective’s $600/night Governors Island glamping grounds. For a price, you too can buy nature at convenience.
One report reveals the global glamping market size was valued at $1.8B in 2020 and is expected to grow +14% CAGR from 2021 to 2028. The pandemic obviously accelerated this trend. But look closer and it’s Wellness Tourism that’s particularly driving this industry.
What makes Snowpeak’s campaign so interesting is that it illustrates camping can 1. be luxurious, 2. glamping can also exist at-home, and 3. at home glamping sells. What a trip.
Crypto as Berghain
BD: The Berlin club Berghain is notorious for parties that go for days, literally. Jealously guarded by the hardest door policy in the world, once you’re past the ropes, time of day ceases to matter (so I hear, anyway). It’s a world to get lost in — whatever your trip is.
Cryptocurrency’s 24-hour trading cycle is the same; an always-on buffet of booming sounds, wild kink and suspension of rational behavior. It comes with the same dangers: intoxication, ego death, self-destruction — and the same benefits: notoriety, pleasure, and (stretching the analogy somewhat) material gains. Show up and blow up, everybody.
This is a good thing, generally. But it does beg some questions.
Why have clubs not always gone on 24 hours a day? What was the door policy there for in the first place?
Not to keep you out, really. To keep the club in, so that it could continue being the club.
A place to feel like you could actually go to the moon. Throw open the doors and a cathedral of nightlife is just a grain silo, in the light of day.
MK: Financial FOMO.
Party snaps and stock tickers are synonymous in our current social dilemma.
Pull to refresh on Instagram is cut with Robinhood checks. Not only do we want the dopamine #gainz, but we want to feel a part of something. To be with others.
This is about the collective experience. Miss out and kick yourself.
The banal Bitcoin rollercoaster analogy is also so apropos because it’s not just a thrilling, uncertain ride, but it’s one that’s shared with others. We’re trapped on the coaster, together. Crypto wouldn’t be crypto without it’s shared stories nor dreams. Crypto is a religion if there was ever one: a social-cultural system of designated behaviors, beliefs, world views, prophecies, and organizations relating to humanity. Buy the dip and transcend.
On line for the club or peering up at the coaster is an effective tease. There’s a reason why the line is maintained. It’s to sell the passersby in. Scrolling past gain porn is the “sell.” It works, hooking the naive. But the truth of the matter is, outside the club or with your feet on the ground is always safer. Just maybe, not as fun.
Tyranny of the Client
BD: Everybody’s aware the longstanding agency model is in trouble. Expertise is easy to outsource, simple to hire, and expected to be short-term. Beyond that, in-housing is the wave.
So it’s a shock to me that so many service companies, from agencies to media publishers, are hidebound to still using traditional models.
The readiest way to see this is in how so many continue to regard, and name their customers as “clients,” as opposed to by brand, or better yet... by name.
Words are important. Names even more so.
In the service business — especially as individual contributors become more salient — it behooves everyone to understand and appreciate the people on the other side of the table as people — not as monolithic. There’s no sense of personality otherwise — in a business increasingly driven by personalization. Nor is there no sense of mutual interest; you are you, we are we, they are “client.” The results of this non-personification are instant and deeply felt; instead of a partner or family member, the unnamed client becomes a counter-party at best, a foil or even a rival at worst. And beyond that, the monolithic treatment means that “the client” becomes a shield, a straw man or no-consequences way of explaining away poor performance, bad creative and even simple misunderstanding.
This is not to say “clients” don’t sometimes deserve the categorical definition — we’ve all met those that hire agencies to not only unlock potential their organizations don’t possess, but also to bring an intermediary between themselves and failure. But in a post-pandemic world where it’s simple and frictionless to aggregate smart, strategic thinkers instantly, and turn capabilities on and off at will, thinking of or referring to “the client” as such is the same as calling them “the meal ticket.”
MK: We’re so proficient at spewing this quip, yet integrating it, is seemingly mission impossible:
“It’s not B2C or B2B, it’s B2H... Human.”
Then why is it that every client is treated the same?
My hypothesis as to why clients remain “clients” is because 1. it’s easier that way (when nothing is certain, who wants to go above and beyond?), and 2. for those who learned the valuable lesson of bucking this trend and treating family as family, they’re not going off and preaching it into the LinkedIn megaphone. They’re practicing it and protecting it as their greatest competitive advantage.
For an industry built upon selling differentiation, wild it’s never been embodied nor reached the engagement itself.
Don’t get me started on billable hours and timesheets and I’ll fucking explode.