What cool means today

💡 The Big Idea

In 2020, it’s cool to care. And the changing nature of cool is affecting what shoppers buy, who they follow, and how companies behave.

Here’s the TLDR to our field guide on the new meaning of cool.

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Author: Quartz Staff

With “Wonder Woman 1984,” Hollywood is trying a new marketing technique: honesty

WarnerMedia announced yesterday the superhero movie Wonder Woman 1984 will be released on its streaming service, HBO Max, as well as in theaters on Dec. 25. The company took an unconventional step to announce the big news: It had its CEO blog about it.

Jason Kilar, the former head of Hulu who became CEO of WarnerMedia in May, took to the publishing platform Medium to explain to fans why the company decided to make the film available to HBO Max subscribers at no additional cost. (A subscription to the service runs $15 per month.)

“We see an opportunity to do something firmly focused on the fans: give them the power to choose between going to their local cinema or opening on HBO Max,” Kilar wrote.

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Author: Adam Epstein

The unlikely partnership between pop stars and Crocs

Two years ago, singer and rapper Post Malone teamed with Crocs for a special version of its signature foam-resin clogs. It was an unusual deal for a pop star, but Post Malone, with his offbeat style and face covered in tattoos, is a bit unusual himself. By then the company was already gathering a following with US teens, and the collaboration worked well enough that they’ve released several more special-edition shoes since.

Crocs hasn’t rested. Since 2019, the company has released products with country singer Luke Combs—with more just announced—put out a line with Korean rapper Psy, and debuted a new partnership with Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican trap and reggaeton sensation. Most recently, it teamed with Justin Bieber on a clog it released in select markets around the world.

Unlike sneakers from big sports brands, Crocs aren’t the sort of footwear pop stars would traditionally attach their names to. Originally created for use on boats, the shoes are known for being comfortable but also remarkably unattractive. It’s given them a subversive cool that Crocs has leveraged to partner with some of music’s top stars.

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Author: Marc Bain

TikTok is a sleeping e-commerce giant

TikTok is still relatively unproven as a business, and remains challenged by a major geopolitical hurdle. But that hasn’t stopped advertisers from investing heavily in the social platform. Its future has that much potential.

Marketers say TikTok—which still faces a potential ban in the US—presents a massive opportunity for businesses to build awareness for their brands as the app begins introducing a second monetization model: e-commerce. Today, TikTok makes money exclusively through advertising on the platform. But by the first half of 2021, it’s expected to integrate the buying and selling of consumer products into the app experience itself, harnessing the purchasing power of its growing Millennial and Gen Z audience.

“It occupies a space in media that’s unlike any other platform,” said Aaron Goldman, the CMO of Mediaocean, a popular ad sales platform. “There’s opportunity for TikTok to get to Snapchat-like revenues just on the back of a standard advertising offering. But it has a chance to leapfrog Snap and other social networks if it can get past advertising and get to integrated commerce.”

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Author: Adam Epstein

If everybody hates wokewashing, why do companies still do it?

In 2017, Pepsi made a big mistake.

An ad starring Kendall Jenner had the model join a stylish, multi-ethnic crowd that had taken to the streets to rally for an undetermined purpose, at once exploiting and erasing the Black Lives Matter protests on which the scene was based. (“Join the Conversation,” a prominent sign blandly reads, the subject of said conversation entirely unknown.) Jenner strides up to a police officer and offers him a can of soda, which he drinks, prompting the crowd to break out in cheers. The problem, whatever it was, is solved forever!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwvAgDCOdU4

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Author: Sarah Todd

Flush with cash, India’s sports fantasy startups are gaining ground

Priyank Pithwa, a resident of Surat in the western Indian state of Gujarat, claims in a promotional video, that he has won a whopping Rs1.2 crore ($163,424) playing fantasy cricket on an online gaming platform, Mobile Premier League (MPL).  

He isn’t alone. With the Indian Premier League (IPL) in full swing, cricket fans in India are flocking to the online sports fantasy league apps, lured by hopes of winning big cash rewards.

The surging popularity has also translated into strong growth for these startups. The revenue of the fantasy sports industry in India spiked by 3 times to Rs2,400 crore in the financial year 2020.

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Author: Prathamesh Mulye

Flush with cash, India’s sports fantasy startups are gaining ground

Priyank Pithwa, a resident of Surat in the western Indian state of Gujarat, claims in a promotional video, that he has won a whopping Rs1.2 crore ($163,424) playing fantasy cricket on an online gaming platform, Mobile Premier League (MPL).  

He isn’t alone. With the Indian Premier League (IPL) in full swing, cricket fans in India are flocking to the online sports fantasy league apps, lured by hopes of winning big cash rewards.

The surging popularity has also translated into strong growth for these startups. The revenue of the fantasy sports industry in India spiked by 3 times to Rs2,400 crore in the financial year 2020.

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Author: Prathamesh Mulye

Is Zoom on the road to genericide?

It’s almost hard to remember it now, but before the pandemic, Skype was a more popular way to Zoom than Zoom was. Now, as millions of people continue to stay at home, Zoom is how we work, learn, and socialize. It is a noun (“I have a 10 am Zoom”), an adjective (“We’re having a Zoom wedding”), and a verb (“Let’s Zoom”). It has a gerund (“Zooming!”) and, of course, an endless stream of memes.

Having a product that people depend on in an unprecedented crisis is a pretty good business model. In its most recent quarter, Zoom brought in $663 million in revenue, a quadrupling from the year before. The market value of the nine-year-old company, which went public in April 2019,  stands at $102 billion and briefly was higher than IBM’s.

But when a brand becomes so ubiquitous that it turns into a generic term for any type of similar product, it can lead to the loss of trademark value and hurt the ability of the brand’s owner to distinguish itself from the market.

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Author: Michelle Cheng

Louis Vuitton—yes, that Louis Vuitton—has created a pro skate shoe

Louis Vuitton, the jewel in the crown of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group, is venturing into new territory. The company, founded as a trunk maker in 1854 and known today for its high-end handbags, has created a pro model skateboarding sneaker.

Virgil Abloh, creative director of Louis Vuitton men’s, revealed on Instagram yesterday that Louis Vuitton had signed “the first skater deal of this type” with professional skateboarder Lucien Clarke of Jamaica, allowing Clarke to design his own pro skateboarding shoe. The first ad featuring the tie-up will appear not in an upcoming issue of a major fashion magazine, but in skate bible Thrasher, according to Abloh. Clarke also posted shots of the ad and the shoe on Instagram.

The deal, while unusual, may not be as surprising as it initially seems. Abloh’s greatest value to Louis Vuitton lies in his ability to create excitement around the brand and help it appeal to a younger, more diverse audience—a growing priority for luxury companies. Skate culture offers one way to do just that.

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Author: Marc Bain