The brilliant Grant Owens joins Adam today to talk about turnover in brand. How the fail fast mantra has changed the way brands are approached and built by corporations, and the way they are considered or received by their intended customers. Finally an episode that didn’t start as a Twitter thread! Grant joins us from Critical Mass where he is Chief Strategy Officer.


Listen here:

Transcript by

Adam Pierno 0:23
Alright, welcome back to another episode of The Strategy Inside Everything. This is going to be a great conversation today. For once it is not borne of Twitter. So everybody listening should be happy. We’re getting a little break from that. But this is going to be exciting. I have grant Owens who is the Chief Strategy Officer at Critical Mass! Grant, how are you doing?

Grant Owens 0:43
I’m good, man. How are you?

Adam Pierno 0:44
I’m good. We’ve been we’ve been catching up this morning already in kind of trading stories and that we’ve been having almost too much fun to remember to start recording. So I know your calendars packed. I want to make sure we actually hit record and get going here.

Grant Owens 0:59
I appreciate it.

Adam Pierno 1:00
Hey, Grant, can you do me a favor and run everybody through the background, the high notes of your career and just tell them how you got to be where you are at critical mass?

Grant Owens 1:09
Yeah, of course. Happy to and thanks for having me again. I really appreciate it. So I guess I just entered my 20th year of agency life. came out to New York right from school, and started with a small design agency of about 50 people. And that was sort of the boom. And, and it rolled into a bunch of other companies a lot a lot larger agencies work for Euro RSCG for a time and then worked for Razorfish for 11 years. And this is just entered my fourth year with Critical Mass. And yeah, I’ve always kind of been on the digital side. And it was I really was a product of my time. When I came out in 99. I was doing some coding, doing an internship for Procter and Gamble, publishing, the Cincinnati Enquirer, the local newspaper online, and sort of got my hands on that. So like a lot of folks that came out of school at that time we moved into the digital space.

Adam Pierno 2:08
Yeah, it’s like right place right time.

Grant Owens 2:10
Totally. Yeah, very lucky.

Adam Pierno 2:12
I think for people that are coming into the industry now to not understand. I my first couple internships and things. They were still doing stat cameras, and board mechanicals. And, you know, then we started using the internet. Yeah, I don’t think people understand. If someone’s been in the business around 20 years. 99. Pretty much every company had a website. Well, maybe not. But the bigger ones all did. Yeah. And that an entry for for professionals into figuring out how the web is going to work is so much different shape and size than then what we have today.

Grant Owens 2:52
Yeah, it really we were I was just we were at the throes of that moment in time, at some people know this story. But when I was 19 years old, we were presenting to the CEO of procter and gamble on a project that we did as interns because you had a generation of executives wanting to learn what the next generation knew about digital. And, man, how lucky can you get to be without have that experience at such a young age?

Adam Pierno 3:18
Yeah, that exposure is huge. Yeah, it was. And you know, what’s, what’s funny is that I did not intend to do that segue, but it does tie right into our topic, because that level of exposure from you as an intern, and I had the same the same experience where just by being a little younger and exposed to the tools, I was brought into show some of the older, more seasoned people at the agency or at brands, how is this all going to connect? Yeah, that was still the kind of gatekeeper while the CEO grant wants to see you. And you get a chance you get 40 minutes to showcase what you’ve done in the context of this one project. Yeah, so you had a chance to knock their socks off or or not. But today, pretty much anybody with a with a phone gets that same chance for exposure, using Instagram, tick tock, whatever tools they want to use.

Grant Owens 4:17
That’s absolutely right. I mean, you I think I had a distinct advantage because I did a little HTML and, you know, you needed to know it, then to kind of knew how to know how it work, how it worked, and then how to how to apply it to things. You know, and we were kind of testing things. We had that environment and college in particular, where you had time to test things out, see how they work, play around with them, were companies that were doing their nine to five regular job, didn’t have the time on the side to figure those things out, necessarily. So we offered companies a chance to, as you said, and you did kind of look at a different angle and think about how it would affect the business.

Adam Pierno 4:53
Yeah. And how do you think coming in through Razorfish? I mean, you were there for over a decade, during a really crazy time. I mean, you were there during the the two point O era, the transition from brochure where digital through social.

Grant Owens 5:10
I’ve seen a lot I mean, the other the other really fortunate aspect of the time that I’ve worked in the agency environment as there is that there’s been so much volatility, so I’ve seen the ups and downs. I’ve seen the mergers, acquisitions, I, you know, for a period of time at Razorfish, we were owned by Microsoft. Right, one of the Stranger Things, and then owned by Google says, and so I’ve seen the shifts in the holding companies, all those experiences have. I mean, what a what a free education that I’ve been getting in how business works, because it has changed so much in that time, the shifts of, of the services we offer on the digital side, the growth of digital agencies and digital consultancies. Yeah, it’s been it’s been a good ride.

Adam Pierno 5:56
Yeah, I mean, to you, I remember going to I don’t know if it was Amazon, but some one of those early e commerce sites and thinking there’s no way I’m putting my credit card in this thing. And now it’s like, have a face ID you just paid for your coffee? I mean, I’m like, I take my social security numbers. Go ahead. Yeah, I know, you’re gonna I know you’re going to get hacked or or leave it, you know, published on the web somewhere in a server. And it’s like,

Grant Owens 6:22
all right, well, what do you remember? Yeah. And you? Do you remember the days when you used to cross shop for price? Yeah. Those are years ago. And that’s just like, well, you assume that Amazon, right, going to give you rock bottom pricing in there for us just hit Click, Click to purchase.

Adam Pierno 6:39
You think that’s a function of being older of just like, I value my time or where I’m say, well, it will be close enough for blues. If I if I order this, and I save $1 or spend an extra dollar won’t kill me. I mean, if there was a TV, it’d be a different thing. But for Yeah, I wonder,

Grant Owens 6:55
yeah, for a book or for some toothpaste or something? Maybe? I don’t know. I mean, I think if I look at all the ways that Amazon has gotten their claws into me, it’s, it’s unbelievably powerful. We’ve never seen anything like this. And industry, we’ve never seen anything and distribution and retail like this before. So I think there’s a lot of factors that play that. cause a lot of us to just click the purchase right away and assume that we’ve, we don’t need to do the cross shopping.

Adam Pierno 7:21
Yeah, I mean, especially for that for the Amazon brand that has ubiquity. And you know, 100% awareness. Probably I haven’t done a study, but I would imagine it’s it’s in the high 90s. Yeah. Well, let’s talk about that infrastructure, though. Because you were you were sharing some articles with me. And we were talking before about disposable brands, and how easy the infrastructure created by the Giants by Google by Amazon, if you have AWS, if you have a Shopify account for 12 bucks a month. Really, if you The hardest part is getting a following or getting the attention?

Grant Owens 8:00
Yeah, well, I think, as you were saying the barriers to creating a brand have dropped, decidedly, what it takes, you know, $1,000, drone and $1,000 de SLR and you have what feels like full production, company quality experiences, and we’ve seen that across multiple industries. So all these factors that play disruptors that are looking at old industries, and where they make a margin and how to how to eke out a margin from them, or how to interrupt them. And then taking you know, consumer grade tools that feel professional grade to, to the To the untrained eye. And launching a brand. It’s it’s really unprecedented what we’ve seen brands be able to do in such a short period of time.

Adam Pierno 8:51
Almost when you when you talk about consumer grade tools, and the untrained eye, I really don’t even notice it, except in cinema. cinemas The only time my critical eye cares. Yeah, watching the TV show, and I can tell that it was shot on digital. And maybe I’m like, Oh, I could see the edges. I could feel the digital edge there versus the film grain. I don’t care

Grant Owens 9:14
Netflix show I’m good with it. When I’m when I paid my 12 bucks to sit in a theater, I want to see our don’t want to feel that feeling completely. And I love the shifts that are happening. There’s a fascinating statistic. A couple years ago, I was sitting sitting through PwC presenting their media outlook report. And they shared that there were more films created in Nigeria than the US. So if you look it up, you’d be you’d be shocked to see it’s called Nollywood. So instead of Bollywood or Hollywood, it’s Nollywood. And you have people with, with access to technology now with you know, creative inspiration, producing films and and it’s really quite awesome what, what we’ve enabled

Adam Pierno 9:59
the average person to go do and create. But if you’re a brand, you know, there’s a downside to that. Because if you’re a legacy brand, you’re you risk getting displaced. Well, let’s let’s dive in there. Because what so you, you’ve been with the big guys, you’ve seen P&G from the inside, you were at a holding company that was owned by Microsoft. So you’ve you’ve been inside there, I’ve worked at Verizon and seen it as well, these legacy brands are now in this weird position where on the one side, you have influencers or creators or individuals, let’s just take influencer out of there, because I think it’s two teams, but individuals who have fashion sense or style, and now they have the capability to have reach capabilities. And the means for production are cheap and easy. And they can kind of essentially just piggyback on everything that already exists. On the other side, you have these giant legacy brands that always seem to be stretching this way towards towards the individual to try to steal the cultural import. How How should they be thinking about it without giving away the advantages they have? And do the advantages they have matter?

Grant Owens 11:20
The advantages, they have, I think matter less than less. And it’s just it’s proven out over time, I think it was, you know, in the mid 50s and 60s, the average tenure of a fortune 500 company was something like 60 years. And in 2015, the average tenure of a fortune 500 company I think was 10 or 11 years or or maybe 15 years. I mean, it’s we’re seeing globalization, we’re seeing access to creation, like like you were talking about, that has challenged everything that sort of legacy large industry had built had spent capital expenditures on getting this place or the chance of being displaced. So I think legacy brands have to do a little bit a little bit of both my my advice would be to work on both ends of that to work on the economies of scale. But also, you know, think big but but back small. And that’s what we see disruptive brands doing they act very small. And that gives them a an initial advantage.

Adam Pierno 12:25
Well, I think it’s a lot of the articles that we were reading there was you know, influencers who had an eye for style, and I for fashion began creating their own looks beyond creating their own product for themselves. And then essentially people would come to them and say, Hey, I really like that thing You created me I can I buy one for you? Can I have a piece for a show? Can I do X, Y and Z? Holy crap that is not unlike the executives at P&G coming to you and saying, Grant, I really like this website project you’re working on, would you come show it to the team? Because very similar and weird.

Grant Owens 12:59
Yeah, I mean, it is. Everyone is their own storefront if they want to be. And I think that’s what has shaken up. As you as you were content kind of disposability brands. And, and also, if you look at just how much data we’ve driven into evaluating or measuring the success of a brand, or product or even a campaign, we can measure almost in real time, whether something’s popping and culture. And if it’s if it’s not shut it down. So you could you could imagine a day where that we get to wear a brand’s lifespan is a week or a month, depending on whether or not it’s taking hold. Are you talking about?

Adam Pierno 13:42
Let’s let’s, let’s define the word brand. Are you talking about a corporate brand as part of a legacy brand or an upstart brand?

Grant Owens 13:50
Like a product brand? You know? Yeah, you know, Mars Company is creating Snickers the Snickers, you know, the the analog to a Snickers could come and go, if it didn’t take hold, and we’ve got sort of this short term thinking that’s been driven through industry from, from the street, and that quarterly focus that we have. And if if something’s not working, we have the means and the measurement to, to shut things down or throw gas on them if they are, and I think the speed at which that turnovers happening as is unprecedented.

Adam Pierno 14:21
Yeah, that’s it, that’s part of the, the fail faster mantra, it’s almost become, you know, from P&G, or from Mars or, or a huge conglomerate, that type of failure, they would have done three years of market research to confirm that that new candy bar, that new food product would be successful. Yeah. But they’ve bought into the tech mindset of go, you know, fail fast break things. And we’ll just pull it off the market, which, which is not helping them in the grand scheme of things, because they’re creating gaps in the shelf for new brands to come in. You know, if you look at all the milk substitutes, yeah, it’s pretty wild each month to go in and see who’s still there the next month?

Grant Owens 15:01
Yeah, yeah, completely.

If you think of companies like Brandless, you know, creating a lot of those household CPG products, trying to take out the cost of marketing, although you could argue, it’s ironic that it’s called Brandless. And they have an aesthetic and all that. So it goes both ways. But the Yeah, the turnover in that. And the ability to enter a new product into the market. And see if it works is is something that, you know, I think it’s an awesome time to be a strategist or brand planner. Because there’s so much volatility, you’re constantly on your toes about, you know, if you’re working with a legacy large brand, how could it be displaced? If you’re working with a new startup, you know, what are the models that we could for, you know, very low cost entry into the market with? It’s a fun time to be doing this work?

Adam Pierno 15:56
It Yeah, it absolutely is, because you can rewrite the book, every single with every single project that you that you take on how important I we used to think of awareness, my understanding of awareness has shifted quite a bit. We used to think of awareness in the Anheuser-Busch, you know, 80s 90s, early 2000s era as a US citizens, adults, 18 to 34, 18 to 44. And we were shooting for this ubiquitous awareness, like we were just just talking about with Amazon, but it doesn’t, you only need awareness with your customers that really, which is why, you know, if you have a good Instagram account, and a good following, and I’m saying Instagram, but you have a good social presence, and you have your own storefront, you can still create a brand that matters to people and is relevant to them.

Grant Owens 16:46
Yeah, absolutely. I think the the fragmentation of product has has kind of paralleled the fragmentation of media. And, and yeah, you know, y’all I often think about that, really, they ship to entertainment and media. And you know, Will those big, you know, massive concert bands exist? anymore? Will the Beatles ever be replicated? Because of the fragmentation of our viewership and listening? And will monolithic brands ever be replicated? Will the one brand to rule them all in a category be replicated? I don’t know. It’s a fascinating, fascinating thing that it think about, and for a brand to make it to that level in this day and age is, is decidedly harder.

Adam Pierno 17:32
Yeah, we can say with 100% confidence that the Beatles will not be replicated but but but it’s harder and harder you see every year the Super Bowl can’t find an act that is big enough for the audience. And it doesn’t even make sense to have a band that big any other time during the year except that one February Sunday where they they need an act that will please you know, whatever the millions of people that are watching it, you mean around five didn’t do it for you. were five was fine. But they but they had to bring on some you did you see every time they have two or three different bands with you know, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have to be tried it out? Because there’s guys that are 40 plus that are like, Okay, I know that. That’s good. I don’t know who this Bruno Mars guy is. Right? And he he was great. But I hadn’t I was not exposed to him until them. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 18:18
yeah. Fair enough. Do you

Adam Pierno 18:19
think the you you just kind of blew my mind the way you just flipped through that idea of “Will we ever have another another Beatles,” Where my brain started going ‘What?’ Is it a function of business, potential capability, you know, our companies able to generate that sort of product and brand that are interesting enough? Or do as consumers as humans? Do, we just not care? And I’m not loyal. And it doesn’t matter, because Amazon will reward me with the next thing that will solve the task that I need or the emotional need that I have?

Grant Owens 18:57
It’s a great, that’s a great question. I think one huge factor in product marketing that that I’m seeing is the factor of data, things like user reviews, ratings, here’s a thought do brands need to exist in their current form, when consumers have perfect information. So if you go back to like the freshman year economics class, and the idea of perfect information, if you had perfect information, the market would satisfy itself. And and customers would know exactly the best product to get at the exact best price. If you think in a way, you know, Amazon Basics or private label products with great user reviews and ratings are just that. And so that’s removing the equity that brands have spent decades trying to create, and just putting it out to the market to satisfy that that demand. It’s, it’s a fascinating concept to me. Because, you know, we see our clients, and we work with the blue chip clients spending money on building brand equity, that if they’re not careful, and in certain categories, particularly commodities, can be stripped out of the out of the out of the category instantaneously.

Adam Pierno 20:18
Yeah, and I’ve read different reports on those Amazon basic products and loyalty, sales numbers that it from most accounts, it does not sound like they’re highly successful, they are just successful enough to make it hard for their partners to sell at the levels that they need to sell out to make an Amazon venture profitable for them or is probably hit their goals, I should say. So that it really is an interesting thing. But because who, as a as a parent of two kids and trying to save 30 cents where I can like, I don’t really care if it’s if it’s Armand hammer toothpaste, or Amazon basics, I just need something to put in the drawer for when I reach for it.

Grant Owens 20:58
Yeah, I mean, imagine in certain categories.

Again, I was talking to a client the other day, and we were an Amazon comes up nearly every week in our, in our relationships, just talking about the effect that it’s having. If you go on Amazon, today, and you search for digital cameras, you get 60,000 results to Alibaba, you get 100 I think 220 526,000 results. So with that in mind, you know, then you then you start to sort by quality, and quality in that frame of reference is often reviews. Yep. And, and, and the algorithm kind of takes over. And I was thinking about how like if you’re Sony and three or four decades ago, you were pouring money into the equity of your brand that every Sony product is a quality product. You know, did that is that investment paying off in today’s day and age and it’s a challenge, I would argue

Adam Pierno 21:58
Sony is still live living off of the investment they made in the 90s. Yeah, into that brand halo, they’re only alive. Because of that money. They invested in the brands that people over 30 understand that it stated that Sony means quality or met quality. We just bought headphones, I bought a new set of running headphones, and I went to Amazon because that’s what I’m trying to do that. And every result was a brand I had never heard of. They’re all you know, we were talking about starting your own brand new euro store from from the point of like fashion and T shirts and style. But if you’re a Chinese factory, they are spinning up new brands and new products that are making pretty pretty good products and getting them here for dirt cheap. It was 20 brands I never heard of and then three that I had, you know, monster and beats and probably Sony was in there. And I was trying to be objective and say, Well, what if I let’s let’s try to get to perfect information. How would I do this? You know, and I started looking at reviews. It’s an insane challenge. You know, do I I only need brand. I don’t really care about brands, I ended up buying a pair that had good reviews and not a brand that I had ever heard of. I don’t even know what what it is. But I wonder going back to my toothpaste analogy, I kind of need crest to tell me what the value of the Amazon basics is. I need I need one. That’s a benchmark benchmark. Right? And like, I only know if key is the right car for me once I go see the Maserati and go like, Oh, that’s beautiful car, but it costs four times as much over eight times as much. Maybe it’s haven’t shopped for Missouri. But you get the idea.

Grant Owens 23:46
Yeah, yeah, completely. I mean, it’s almost like you know, the idea of retail footprint poaching it’s it’s these other brands that have created the benchmarks for us that we then go shop another brand that cuts it on cost or poor has proven out higher quality based on user reviews. That it’s it’s tough for legacy brands in that sense. You see the same thing in automotive, I worked worked in automotive automotive for quite some time. And even in automotive luxury, the Honda Accord is constantly cross shop, because it represents a benchmark for what 25 to $30,000 should get you. Right, and safety and performance. Absolutely. Yeah. So you know, it’s it’s it’s a known entity, it’s a known quantity of quality of price functionality. So people are shopping Mercedes and BMW and Lexus IS against the Honda Accord, just to your point to see where the where the benchmark is.

Adam Pierno 24:41
Yeah, and at that point, it probably kills Honda, because they go well, with if I go and look at the three series or the you know, the entry level of each of those luxury makers, I go well, for another seven grand, I can drive and have that logo on my car. That’s pretty sweet.

Grant Owens 24:55
That’s right. And And on the flip side, if you if you take that analogy of you shopping for headphones. Well, okay, so I see the Sony ones for, you know, $40. But for the same quality of user, according to the user reviews for the same quality, I can get those other ones for $20. Right. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s quite eroding two brands.

Adam Pierno 25:18
Yeah. And when you buy one of those products, and I’ve done I’ve tried this a lot, when you, when you buy one of those brands you’ve never heard of the first thing when you open the box is do you like these go leave a review. And sometimes the English is not translated, well, sometimes it’s beautiful, and, and really well done. But it always is doing that. Whereas if you go and buy a product from legacy brand, it might be in there now in 2019, but it is probably third or fourth, you know, the Quick Start kit is on top and, uh, you know, register this product. And then third or fourth thing might be, leave us a review. If you have time, please.

Grant Owens 25:54
Yeah, the other the other factor you find there, and we’ve seen it in a couple of our client categories. brands, I can’t I can’t name but the counterfeit problem is extremely real on Amazon. Yeah, we had a client that whose product was being sold counterfeit on Amazon, it was such a close assembly of the real product that the people would call in to their own customer service. And if it wasn’t working, ask for a refund. And then the client had to sit through a couple hours of effort, figure out that it’s not actually a real product of theirs, and tell the person that they have a counterfeit. And just imagine the cost to the genuine brand of doing that level of business and customer service for a counterfeit product. It’s outrageous.

Adam Pierno 26:43
Yeah. And it still hurts their brand. Did they experience that customer got is still reflected on the brand and not the counterfeiter.

Grant Owens 26:49
Yeah, that they can’t get the get counterfeit product off the shelves. And you know, I think, not speaking out of turn here. I think a lot of customer categories or or company categories with Amazon’s doing a good enough job policing that. And I know they’re trying. But it’s a very real issue. And in this in this world you were describing with all those products available to you.

A lot is getting eroded because of that. Yeah,

Adam Pierno 27:13
it’s breaking down everything.

Grant Owens 27:15
Yeah, totally

Adam Pierno 27:16
fair is the story going around. There was another an Instagram star who had started her own line and kind of follow that same trajectory that we were talking about earlier, where she decided to create her own line of T shirts. It’s called era. And I think you’ve heard this story. She has 2.6 million followers, but she failed to sell 36 t shirts. I think the timeframe that they were quoted was two weeks. And it was considered a fail. And you know, social media went crazy critiquing this girl and making fun of her. And one of the questions that I haven’t seen an update on the story. But why is two weeks the threshold? Like why is so she she has 2.2 million followers? That’s great. She sold 36 units. That’s terrible. But I guess she at some point, she said, Well, I guess isn’t going to work. The media call that a wake up call here on Business Insider. Like, so it how disposable are we talking about when we’re talking about brands is is that you know, she ordered these t shirts, and they didn’t sell immediately, and she wasn’t on The Ellen Show. And so that’s it, she should retire from cleaning products, or what? That doesn’t sound quite

Grant Owens 28:30
right. I don’t know if I’d encourage her to quit altogether. But um, but yeah, I think that is the speed at which we’re we’re often moving. What pops and culture pops for a matter of hours? and goes away? Yeah, do you? Do you remember? Have you heard of the Amazon coat? Like if you say to someone in New York, particularly so a woman between the ages of 20 and 50? Hey, do you have the Amazon coat? They wouldn’t know exactly what you met. So it’s this coat that, and I have no idea what the brand is. It’s a it’s a it’s a no name brand. But it started selling just because the look of it, the design of it. And it became so popular last winter, that I couldn’t walk to work without seeing it. This scene 10 of them. Yeah. And my wife would be ashamed that I’m telling you telling this on a podcast, but she got one after seeing how after a friend of hers got one because she liked it. And it kind of took over it was it was a viral phenomenon. And she stopped wearing it because it became so common in in a fraction of a season. That’s it was like it was like a mayfly. It had like a one a one week lifespan and Manhattan.

Adam Pierno 29:46
And that’s a successful brand. Totally. So so the opposite. You know, this this example I was giving you didn’t sell. This poor company has a hit on their hands. And they’re going to be next year trying to figure out what they’re going to do because no one’s going to want damn Jackie, because now everybody has one.

Grant Owens 30:02
Yeah, I mean, if you just do if anyone does a Google search for the Amazon coat, it will immediately appear and you will see dozens of articles about this massive phenomenon that happened. And in a couple weeks time span.

Adam Pierno 30:19
I live in a place where we don’t have coats. So I’m not familiar with the fair enough. Trust me they were everywhere out here. I will I will add a link for sure.

Grant Owens 30:30
Today, though. It’s 93. In New York today, so Oh, yeah. Okay. Amazon CO is put away. For good.

Adam Pierno 30:36
Yeah, I think that’s probably that’s probably right. Well, do you think brands that, you know, we’ve for a long time, we had media burnout or overexposure? And you know, you still you still think about that a little bit? And that Amazon code story? Can that be true of products to like, I think of going back to headphones, I think the beats where everybody had the same over the year pair of headphones, and kind of beats became too popular, too common. So now there’s 10 other varieties of things that are almost identical to beats, but they don’t have to be on them.

Grant Owens 31:11
Yeah, I think there’s a very real thing happening and a lot of categories is not just a parallel, but certainly that’s that’s one where it happens. And it’s it’s sort of it’s part and parcel to that industry. But I do think that, you know, brand over exposure. Is is a challenge. And brands I think are constantly marching that line between being, you know, being exclusive enough to feel special. But not so special that everyone has to have one, right? Yeah, I guess I got brands that can do that. I mean, I you know, you look at it an apple as an example, of course. And their ability to sort of democratize premium products. Is is pretty a pretty impressive. It’s amazing.

Adam Pierno 31:57
Yeah, it’s absolutely amazing. And then I look at Burberry, and taking that pattern, and, you know, be going from being an exclusive, you know, couture brand. And putting it on everything and essentially licensing it across everything almost to the point where you go through target. And you’ll see that that pattern. Yeah. And now it’s faded away again. Yeah. And so I don’t know what place that holds and culture. Is it now a luxury brand again, or they’re trying to go back to exclusivity? And it’s now a do I look? I kind of look at it almost like as a cop out like what you tried to cross the line. It worked for two seasons. And now, what did that do to the brand and the long term or I don’t know what the long term even means anymore, maybe two years as long term.

Grant Owens 32:39
But you you raise a good point, another factor that I’ve seen in licensing, you know, it’s like the perfect storm of timing, with brands, legacy brands, say from the 60s 70s 80s 90s that started licensing, and then the rise of digital consumerism.

I’ll tell you a quick story. An example of this.

My brother in law was shopping for a riding lawnmower. And I had always we were talking about it. And I’d always had in my mind that john deere riding lawn mowers really retain their value. So and it’s true. If you go today, and you look for us, john deere, it’s often three, four or five $600 more premium used, then the next closest brand or a mystery brand. They’re just considered quality. So we were looking at them and he was going to buy a new one. And I said, Well, hey, you know, you might pay a little more for the john deere. But if you ever want to sell it, it’ll hold that hold its value. Turns out there’s actually two types of john deere riding lawn mowers in the world right now. There are those that are licensed, and they have a Briggs and Stratton motor inside of them. And they’re sold through Lowe’s and Home Depot and others. And then there’s the true drop john deere, right? You have to go to the dealer, the john deere dealer, you have to go the dealer. And and it’s and it’s you know, it’s john deere through and through, if you will, and with digital consumerism, that’s been found out. So the the idea of perfect information, the idea of access to the reviews, the idea of knowing what’s on the inside, because we are more informed as consumers. Bad timing, bad timing for a brand like john

put a non john deere motor in that thing, right?

Adam Pierno 34:16
Yeah. Well, the on the one hand, I say, Well, if they have half of their probably more of what’s on the I was gonna say on the street, but more of what’s being used is the inferior product. And almost that makes me feel better about the quality of the brand in a weird way, because they’ll be out. But if I get the original one, that is still the gold standard of riding mowers

Grant Owens 34:35
saying, Yeah, that’s an interesting way to look at it. That’s a very informative viewpoint. It’s a very overthinking viewpoint. I would

say, I guess the question will be in 10 years, when when my brother in law, he didn’t buy into buying that one, by the way. But when the person goes to sell that john deere, does it still command a premium? And if the answer’s no, right, they’ve got a problem on their hands.

Adam Pierno 34:55
Yeah, it’ll have to erode. And maybe if you’re john deere, you’re saying we don’t want a healthy resale market it we want to go into forced obsolescence like tech, because we want to sell more new units and move more units through Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Grant Owens 35:08
Yeah, which is gross. If you look at a lot of those categories, we were shopping for outdoor furniture recently. And it’s the same product with five or six different labels on it. Yes. So you can find it in five or six different stores, all said to be designed by a different designer. Yes, that same?

Adam Pierno 35:29
Yeah. We love doing the thing where you go to waste there. And then you try to see if you can find it through image matching on like, Target or Walmart, you can almost always find that between the big box stores, you can find it at three out of seven of them. Exactly. Every single product, and it’s all by 10 bucks, depending on your zip code, essentially, you know,

Grant Owens 35:48
yeah, totally. I mean, companies, manufacturing companies aren’t doing themselves any favors right now in a volatile but brand environment.

Adam Pierno 35:55
No, they’re trying to cash in, in the same way that I think this a lot of the influencer stories are where we can make money now. Let’s try to strike while the iron is hot. And it’s not that they’re not thinking about the future, it’s that there is no future to consider like this. We only have two weeks to make our mark. Let’s go make it and then we’ll move on to the next thing and figure out what that is.

Grant Owens 36:18
Yeah, that’s true. And, you know, I think we’re going to go through an era of brand erosion for all the reasons we’ve been discussing. But at some point, and I don’t know when it’ll be maybe it’s a decade maybe it’s too we’ll come back, we’ll come back to what what connotes quality. What connotes unknown entity, because I think there is going to be you know if there’s 125,100 25,000 digital cameras available on on Alibaba. It’s paralyzing. And we do need I think as a as a consumer base. We do need the brands that we know we know and trust, but they’re going to have to clean up things like licensing their gonna have to clean up things like counterfeit, they’re gonna have to clean up things like partnership deals that have gone too far stream from what they’re normally what they normally do. And stand for something again. Yeah,

Adam Pierno 37:13
I think that’s a great place to to leave it. This is a fun this was a lot of fun chatting about this. Yeah, same really appreciate it. Thank you for making time on this hot 93 degree day. I know you won’t be seeing any Amazon coats today.

Grant Owens 37:29
We will not but do a search you’ll find it.

Adam Pierno 37:33
Where can people find you online?

Grant Owens 37:34
Mostly Grant Owens on Twitter you can find me @GrantOwens That’s probably the the easiest.

Adam Pierno 37:43
Awesome. Well, this has been a lot of fun. And once again, I really appreciate you making an hour for me.

Grant Owens 37:49
Hey, thanks a lot, man.

Adam Pierno 37:50
All right, very good.

Grant Owens 37:51

Transcribed by