​The Britton Digital Update—Week of December 4, 2017

​Five minutes to get you up to speed on this week’s digital, business, social media, entertainment, and marketing news

There is a bit of irony for me in the fact that I write a weekly column that includes the latest in digital-technology news. In many cases in my life, I find myself taking the role of an old man set in his ways, not far from being the guy who yells, “Get off my lawn!” I was slow to jump on Snapchat and Instagram, thinking that Facebook could accomplish all my social media needs. I also was slow to jump on Myspace and Facebook, thinking that I could just email or text my friends. And yes, I was slow to join the texting world, too.

It was 25 years ago this month—December 3, 1992, to be exact—that engineer Neil Papworth sent the first SMS text message (it said “Merry Christmas”) from a computer to the cell phone of Vodafone’s Richard Jarvis. I didn’t like texting early on, for two reasons. First, having to hit a number key multiple times to get the letter you wanted was a pain. Yes, kids, this was prekeyboard. After all, it was the lack of a keyboard—along with teen laziness—that led to the texting shorthand that parents are still trying to figure out. It was years later before autocorrect helped us to finish sentences with full-length words. Of course, that brought on its own communication problems.

I’m slowly getting better. I’m not the last person in the world to get an Amazon Echo or order ahead through the Starbucks app, but that doesn’t mean that I will stop yelling at  the Generation Z kids on my lawn. The good news is that we can both stay up-to-date on the latest digital, business, social media, entertainment, and marketing news each week in the Britton Digital Update. From Grinch bots and Patagonia’s social stand to 2017’s best and “you in review,” we’ll get you informed in just five minutes. Enjoy!

Taking a Land Stand as a Brand

While most brands are counting cash after online sales increases during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, one isn’t even showcasing its products. Instead, Patagonia’s home page contains the headline “The President Stole Your Land.” The outdoor company is doing what our current president often does—doubling down on its beliefs. The retailer is encouraging its customers to learn more about the recent decision to reduce the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, and to take action on social media by tweeting President Trump.

Patagonia Has Built Its Success on Encouraging Customers to Think, Not Buy,” reads our Britton Blog case study on the company’s corporate social responsibility. Patagonia understands that its customers like that it takes a stand on social and environmental issues. In fact, according to Retail Dive, Patagonia “donated 100% of its Black Friday sales to grassroots environmental organizations” last year.

For Patagonia, it is not about sales. There have been several studies that show that many customers—especially millennials—want to give their hard-earned dollars to brands that exhibit corporate social responsibility. They want to support brands that share the same ideals and causes that they do. Supporting causes has paid off big time in the past for Patagonia, and it’s a bet it will take any day of the week. In fact, supporting a cause “is not in conflict with running a successful business,” said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario.

Grinch Bots

While there is no Who hash or roast beast, some analysts say the Grinch bots are trying to steal Christmas—or at least raise the price of it. Some of the hottest toys of the holiday season are being snatched up faster than Tickle Me Elmo, back in 1996. In many cases, bots are to blame.

Basically, the Grinch bots will “scrape” the website of a retailer, grabbing information about a product about to go on sale. As soon as the item (like a Nintendo NES Classic Edition) goes on sale, the bot orders it, filling out billing information faster than you or I could. The result is that many of the hot holiday gifts sell out at retailers and are then placed on reseller sites, like eBay, for many times their original price.

While it is next to impossible to police, Consumer Reports said that some manufacturers, like Adidas, are fighting back. It has launched an app, Confirmed, that lets shoppers reserve sneakers online before picking them up in person. As for the bots, there doesn’t seem to be an answer—at least for now. Well, unless the Grinch-bot programmers’ hearts grow three sizes one day.

Physical Activity

There is an interesting shift happening right now in retail. We have retailers shutting down stores in droves, filing bankruptcy, or reorganizing. If you have read about the overbuilt brick-and-mortar environment of America, you know that this isn’t expected to end anytime soon. The other end of the spectrum involves online-only brands adding physical-store locations. We saw this earlier in 2017 when Amazon purchased Whole Foods. The online retail giant also struck up a recent deal with Kohl’s to sell Amazon products (such as the Echo or Kindle) in stores, and use the Kohl’s locations as return spots. You can now add successful clothing retailer Everlane to that list of online going physical.

“There is a set of customers that wants to touch product before they buy it, and that’s not something that we can change, no matter how much social media we do,” said CEO Michael Preysman in a November Washington Post story. The newspaper reported that Everlane believes “many customers want to make returns and exchanges in person” even when they prefer to purchase items online. This is a pretty big shift from just a few years ago, when online retailers—including Everlane—swore off brick-and-mortar locations as an unnecessary expense.

Everlane officially opened its first physical store in New York last week, selling many of the company’s bestselling fashion items. This February, a second location will open in San Francisco. Much like Patagonia, Everlane works hard to show transparency with its products when it comes to fair labor and environmentally friendly factories. As Preysman said, “Our brand has become about more than just our products. We’ve created a community.”

You Review

I’m not a big fan of following the herd. That could be part of the reason (as stated above) that I was slow to join the texting and social media worlds. Facebook frequently likes to use the power of peers to its advantage. For instance, it suggests that we unify by profile picture (in times of tragedy or a social movement) and through video (in times of memory, like a birthday or the new year).

Well, the new year is not too far away, and it’s that time when Facebook suggests that I post my year-in-review video every time I hop online. It’s also that time that my news feed is filled with every friend who has posted their video. I suppose this could be Facebook’s way of making up for not showing you all of that content throughout the year. Also, I wonder if Facebook would show us our most engaged post if it were actually Russian-backed fake news.

Yearview Mirror

Why is it that publishers are so quick to look back at “the year that was”? How can they say something was the top post, song, video, movie, or whatever of the year when 2017 still has a few weeks to go? How do they know that a song won’t suddenly become popular and be streamed nonstop for the rest of the year to become the top-streamed song of 2017? How do they know that Star Wars: The Last Jedi won’t break records and knock Wonder Woman from the top spot? What if someone makes up a word that literally everyone uses in December, and it becomes the word of the year? Sometimes it feels like people (or in this case, publishers) are so quick to write history before it even happens.

If keeping track of the recent past is your thing, here are some of 2017’s best—still subject to change, of course:

Next week, we’ll look back at “the future of 2017” and review our predictions made back in January for 2017 regarding digital media, new technology, retail, social media, and more.

For the rest of the news this past week, here’s a compilation of the best news stories that we don’t have time to expound upon but that you should probably take notice of:

If you liked this, check out our previous Digital Update posts or the Digital Update on Flipboard.

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Photos: BMDG

Dave Goode

Dave Goode

My name is Dave B. Goode (yes, it is my real name). If it sounds like a radio name, it is—well, it was. I had a 22-year radio-broadcasting career as a brand manager and morning-show host. I’m an amateur photographer. I love to cook. I am obsessed with social media. I have come to the realization that Chia Pet seeds do not work on a human head and that it is OK to be bald.

Meet Dave Goode