Strategy Roundup | 2.5.21

Zackary Hendrickx

This week’s been a whirlwind! Hot takes include Jeff Bezos stepping down, a 78-year-old internet prophet, Nike’s latest advancement in inclusive sneaker design, and the beautiful collision of data and professional wrestling.

You can’t escape the Attention Economy

Michael Goldhaber might not be a name familiar to most, but the 78-year-old theoretical physicist turned internet prophet was one of the earliest predictors of the trappings of the Attention Economy. As far back as the mid 1980’s Goldhaber was recognizing the trends — access to information, entertainment and opinion was growing beyond the bounds of human attention — and his predictions of where that would lead us have proven to be eerily accurate: rampant polarizations, alternate versions of ‘reality,’ and the elevation of extreme personalities and points of view.

You’ll see the parallels between this piece and the book Don’t Waste My Time the strategy team wrote back in 2019. In it, we focused primarily on the impact of the attention economy on the individual, but how do we expand that thinking to take into account the societal impact?

“Our ability to pay attention is limited. Not so our ability to receive it,” Goldhaber wrote. In a world without focus, it’s often the loudest and most shameless attention-seekers that are able to command one. “It felt like an expression of a world in which everyone is desperately seeking their own audience and fracturing reality in the process.” Nuance, modesty, and rational discourse just can’t compete.

How do brands factor into this dynamic? Instead of competing for smaller and smaller slivers of our attention in more and more intrusive ways, how can we help our brands earn that attention? How can brands create space for their customers to be more intentional with their own limited focus?

Jeff Bezos steps down as CEO and what that means about the future of Amazon

After a year of explosive, pandemic-fueled growth by Amazon, Jeff Bezos announced he was stepping down as CEO and moving to an Executive Chairman position. It was a move few saw coming, but his replacement tells a lot about where Amazon’s future growth lies.

Amazon has spent years building a massive audience of users who’ve grown increasingly dependent on the low prices and free 2-day shipping, but the margins on that model are razor thin. The real profit driver is AWS. In the latest quarterly earnings report, AWS brought in $12.7 billion in revenue — only roughly 10% of Amazon’s total, and yet it accounted for over half of Amazons profits. AWS has been called “the backbone of the internet,” so it should be no surprise that the person tapped to step into Bezos’ shoes is Andy Jassy, a 24-year Amazon veteran and longtime head of AWS.

Was this all part of their master plan? Since the news broke, Amazon’s stock price has barely budged. A new leader is in place, but the relentless march towards world domination continues.

Nike takes a big step towards inclusivity

In 2015, Nike launched their FlyEase line to design athletics shoes more accessible to those with disabilities. Traditional laces were replaced with straps, zippers, or even app-controlled self-lacing systems. This week Nike launched the next generation of those efforts, the Go FlyEase, an entirely hands-free design with an innovative midsole hinge that allows wearers to simple step in and step out of them without the use of hands. And they’re damn good looking, too.

Props to Nike for continuing to use their considerable design and engineering resources to push the needle on adaptive footwear, and a reminder to all of us that inclusive design is an iterative process, not a one-and-done effort.

You Can’t Argue w/ Data

Just for fun, please enjoy the greatest use of data analytics in WWE history, Courtesy of our resident wrestling superfan Marty Mercado. “The numbers don’t lie!”

Picks of the Week:

Watching: Tiger, HBO’s 2-part deep-dive into the rise and fall of Tiger Woods, and the forces that shaped his life.

Reading: Uncomfortably Happily by Yeon-Sik Hong. Recommended for any of us in the creative world who’ve dreamt of escaping to the mountains and living the simple life.

Listening To: Collapsed in Sunbeams, the beautiful, raw and remarkably honest debut album by 20-year-old London-based singer-songwriter Arlo Parks.