#46: The 2019 Study Guide

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Office Hours broke 500 subscribers a few weeks back (I AM SO EXCITED AND LOVE YOU ALL) and to celebrate, today’s newsletter will feature some of the best gems from Office Hours interviewees this year. I’ve included the original question for proper context. 


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One of the main reasons you know what the “Yee-Haw Agenda” was and cultural analyst Bri Malandro on owning your creative concepts:

When I reached out to you, I mentioned that I really wanted to talk to you about this trend now vs waiting until someone else stumbles on the concept and tries to take credit for it. Before we get started, do you have any thoughts about how the marginalized or people of color can get compensated as the "creators" of trends like this one? It’s so hard to take credit for a concept or trend getting hot.

I'm still figuring that part out myself but I think the most important thing is to not give too much away too early. If you have plans to build a brand or content you want to release, keep it to yourself until you have all your ducks in a row because you never know who's watching and what they'll take from you without acknowledgment. When I started using this phrase though I had no idea people would run with it the way they did. I was just having a good time with my mutuals.

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Writer and trend forecaster Ayesha Siddiqi on the way we live now: 

You've said a few times now in articles and on Twitter that we're living in "Bush-era redux". For those of us who aren't hip, what does that mean going into 2019?

More war, more violence, more denial and suppression of those realities by the ruling class of the United States, and subsequently more aesthetic trends formed by that suppression escaping in visual motifs, clues to the global mood.

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Designer Joe Freshgoods on how brand narrative affects his creative output:

You once said in an interview that you like to “tell stories through clothes”. What did you mean by that?

I start thinking about the story before I start thinking about the clothes, most people do it the other way around.r. Like if I’m doing a partnership, I take a notebook and I think about the brands history and then life things with me and my own brand history. I then figure out how to tie these things together. 

I used to want to be a writer. This was like early on, like grammar school. Writing helped me learn the power of engagement because I learned to be very descriptive. I learned to pretty much inject my soul into writing too, like figuring out how to cause an emotion from a person that's reading something. As corny as this may sound, it reminds me of Instagram. Like, I think sometimes people don't understand about Instagram is that it's all about the caption. The storytelling that goes into the picture is more important than the picture itself. I don't look at myself as the person that makes the most superb goods quality-wise, but if you can create a story about your clothes and make the people feel like they're a part of it, you’re onto something. I tell my story through my clothes and my customers honor that.

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Trapital’s Dan Runcie on why rappers need to focus on winning over core fans: 

Nipsey Hussle has been on my mind every day since he died a few weeks ago. While a loss of any community leader is impactful, I truly feel Nipsey was a shining example of how the direct-to-consumer distribution strategy should be a bigger lane for musicians (and content creators overall). You recently wrote about Hussle and his DTC strategy, saying "Big name artists can rely on distributors and succeed. And DTC rappers like Nipsey can serve customers directly and succeed. The artists stuck in the middle are the ones to worry about.”

Those artists stuck in the middle…what can they do to make the current state of the music business work for them?

It’s all about focus. Artists can easily get stuck in the middle when they pursue options that don’t align with a particular strategy. Just because Sicko Mode was on Spotify’s RapCaviar playlist for six months straight doesn’t mean that every rapper needs their hit single to do the same. If an artist knows their fanbase and its specific niche interests, then the artist should focus on attracting fans directly. RapCaviar should be a welcomed bonus, not a prioritized goal.

On the other hand, RapCaviar and other playlists should be goals for artists who rely on the exposure that comes from mainstream publicity, promo runs on mass media outlets, commercials with major brands, and other mass marketing opportunities  These type of artists would leave money on the table by focusing too narrowly on a specific niche.

It’s pattern-matching, honestly. Luckily, there are plenty of successful examples on both ends of the spectrum. The hard part for artists is bypassing tempting financial offers that can steer them away from their intended strategy. 

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Author and sneaker industry analyst Chris Burns on why Nike keeps winning: 

In your book, it feels like you agree with my loose thinking and lay it out pretty clearly that owning content creation has been an intentional move: “Nike understands the importance of content creation for the next generation of sneaker consumers. This is why they paid Ronaldo so much money. This is why Nike is the only major sneaker company to actively launch several Content Management System-based websites like SNKRS and Air.Jordan.com” 

What do you see as the future for sneaker brands making content?

…Do you know in the time since I finished the book that almost every brand in the space has launched some form of CMS? When I wrote in the book that every brand has to be a media company, I meant that. I didn't just say brands however... any business has to be a media company. As far as sneaker brands and content, the future is a three pronged attack of vlog, blog and social that doesn't give away so much to social media. As far as content, brands need to create their own ecosystems for their content where the potential customer consumes content on their channel and they are able to purchase within that channel. Everyone understands the social aspect, but neither brands or retailers understand the gravity and importance of search. The future is actually the past. While the world is excited about Instagram shopping and hitting the consumer where they are, the world was excited about Facebook shopping a few years back and what happened there? When a brand or company gives away their power to third party they are creating a slow road to a loss in margins. What's more important is that the brands and retailers are giving away their power. My entire goal now is to gain a higher ranking in search. I understand that the majority of traffic to a website is from direct and search. I don't think brands understand this completely, but they are beginning to get it. Nike has already shown they understand this. Inside of their digital apps they earn 3X as much per customer. Nike has chosen an approach that gives their brand a perceived authenticity because of their investment into content. Nike has long been an advertising company, everyone else is catching up, but they aren't there yet.

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Trillionaire Vintage’s Chase Gilbert on branding:

I'm a small business owner who needs help with my branding in 2019. What is one thing I should do tomorrow to move in the right direction?

Treat your audience like human beings. Small businesses make the mistake of behaving like big ones, and likewise. On social media, people care about relatability than aspiration.

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We’re increasingly mistaking visibility for power…” If you’ve never watched Ayesha’s 2015 talk, it’s eerie how early she was about a lot of the stuff that happened from 2016 - now.

“Colin Kaepernick is the black Grinch for those who dream of a white America”

I have never felt smaller and broker until I read this story a few years ago about the war between the Dupont corporation and the Chinese government over THE COLOR WHITE.



I’ve been on Spotify for 10 years — shout out to good friends and a trusty VPN who held me down before the service came to the US in 2011 — and it’s been really interesting to see how all the data I’ve given the company over the decade has been spit back out to me. Like I’ve discussed before, the only way to fight cultural fossilization is to dive in on stuff you've never engaged with that’s the complete opposite of what you’d normally gravitate towards. I’m of the opinion that the algorithms we use every day are direct contributors to cultural homogeny and lead to culture looking and sounding the same. The only way to stay ahead is to get out of your comfort zone.

While we’re feeling nostalgic, I’ve updated this playlist 11 times in the last 3 days because it’s so fun, hope you enjoy!

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Office Hours with Ernest Wilkins is created and owned by Ernest Wilkins.

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