Comment of the Week

‘Dunkin’ Donuts joggers and McDonald’s chicken nugget pillows are selling out within hours’

Marker readers weigh in on the explosion of corporate merch drops

Image: Tim Robberts/Getty Images

Over the past year, all manner of companies have been selling stuff with their brand splashed all over it. A Peloton “kitchen sink tote” by Oliver Thomas will set you back $150. A collectible bottle of Tesla Tequila is going for $250. And Stouffer’s, of mac-and-cheese fame, is selling an adult sweatsuit (we kid you not) that can be yours for $95. Welcome to Merch Madness.

Since when did every company become a merch-hype machine? It’s a question that writer Adam Bluestein investigates in his recent feature in Marker, “How Supreme-Style Merch Drops Took Over Corporate America.” “The same boredom economy that has driven skyrocketing sales of cannabis, baking supplies, gardening gear, Etsy crafts, and meme stocks also gave us the KFC-branded Crocs that someone just bought on StockX for $100,” Bluestein writes.

Some Marker readers were as fascinated as we were with merchonomics and the very big business of drops: “As someone who’s been following hypebeast culture for a very long time, it’s been fascinating to see everyone from big corporations to startups to YouTubers tap into the ideas behind artificial scarcity and jump into the game,” comments reader Nathan Graber-Lipperman. “What happens when the hypebeast mentality starts to seep into other facets of life past merch from trading cards (TopShot), NFTs (digital artwork), to even politics (AOC selling branded hoodies)? This isn’t going away anytime soon, and I believe that the brands and individuals that are able to harness the power of our current zeitgeist are the ones that will see major success in the 2020s.”

Marker reader Julie-Anne Chong expressed concern over all this branded merch leading to colossal waste: “Where is the raw material for the merch coming from? Most of these are going to be throwaway items in a few months. Then they’ll end up in the waste pile, most of it not recycled,” she writes. “Consumer/buyer: Why is this a popular way to express yourself? By aligning yourself with a brand? What has the brand ever done for you that you willingly become a walking billboard for it?”

Reader Mick Theebs echoed Chong’s point: “But why though? Why do people PAY for the opportunity to be a living billboard?” Have you seen the Ritz cracker sneakers, though?

More about how the worlds of business and culture collide:

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