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Pop business for the intelligent reader. A publication from Medium.

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Trend Mill

The pandemic has hit checkout-aisle impulse purchases hard

Do you need to worry about how fresh your breath is when you’re at a distance from everyone around you and wearing a mouth-covering mask?

The answer is, no, you don’t. As the Hershey Company, one of the major players in the gum market, elegantly put it, “The functional need for breath freshening continues to be impacted by social distancing.”

The pandemic has seen many business winners. But for so-called “impulse products” like chewing gum, that rely on consumer impulse and well-positioned sale points, it has been a sticky period. These products sell best when targeting people at till points…


Off Brand

Brands rush in to help end the pandemic with vaccine doughnuts and other marketing stunts

A promotional graphic with a partially eaten Krispy Kreme doughnut above a Covid-19 vaccination card, next to the text “Show your Vaccination Card, get a FREE Original Glaze Doughnut”
A promotional graphic with a partially eaten Krispy Kreme doughnut above a Covid-19 vaccination card, next to the text “Show your Vaccination Card, get a FREE Original Glaze Doughnut”

Skeptical about the Covid-19 vaccine? Or too lazy to get jabbed even though you’re eligible? Well perhaps you can be persuaded by… free doughnuts. This is apparently the thinking behind a new promotion from Krispy Kreme: Present your vaccination card at its U.S. locations, the Wall Street Journal reports, and you’ll get a glazed doughnut on the house.

The Journal suggests this may mark a new phase in brands’ attempts to find the right pandemic-era tone. The time for caution and concern is fading into a mixture of optimism and cajolery — get your shots, consumers, so we can all…


Comment of the Week

Marker readers weigh in on the explosion of corporate merch drops

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…


A well-meaning Twitter thread goes off the rails

Oh, Burger King, you can’t “Have it your way,” when it comes to Twitter etiquette.

By now you’ve likely seen Burger King U.K.’s tweet (it’s since been removed) that said, “Women belong in the kitchen.” On any normal day, this tweet would’ve been considered a huge miss. On International Women’s Day, well, you can imagine the reaction.

But wait. Hold up. Burger King U.K. had a plan, one their marketing team must’ve thought was brilliant.

The tweet was a setup for two more tweets that would explain the scarcity of female chefs and that Burger King U.K. …


Why are massive brands and startups selling Tesla shorts, McDonald’s chicken nugget pillows, and Stouffer’s hoodies?

In May 2020, confronting a raging pandemic, fierce competition from a slew of new entrants in the alternative-beverage category, and a limited marketing budget to support the launch of three new drink flavors, Ben Witte, CEO and founder of Recess, a maker of CBD-infused sparkling water, did what the head of any up-and-coming direct-to-consumer brand might: He dropped a merch line.

Featuring a “last two brain cells” hoodie ($65), a “cool your horses” T-shirt ($35), an orange “on recess” beanie, and a pair of $18 “around the block” socks (“for going nowhere in particular”), the line was designed, says Witte…


The Nike sneaker-buying experience has been brutal for years. When will fans get too fed up to keep supporting the brand?

The demise of Blockbuster Video lives in my head rent-free. It’s the perfect parable about America’s brand of capitalism and what happens when people are given a choice that frees them from greed. Sort of.

Blockbuster thrived in the late ’80s and early ’90s because it scaled explosively, opening new stores and buying out competitors; in many places, it was the only way people could watch new movies that were just out of theaters. It leveraged its near-monopoly in predatory ways, charging people exorbitant late fees for movie rentals and even damaging people’s credit scores for not being able to…


Off Brand

DoorDash, Triller, and Robinhood are taking the field, while Budweiser and Pepsi sit it out

Logos of Fiverr, Coca-Cola, Doordash, Pepsi, Triller, and Budweiser as O’s and X’s on a football play
Logos of Fiverr, Coca-Cola, Doordash, Pepsi, Triller, and Budweiser as O’s and X’s on a football play

Super Bowl LV, coming this Sunday evening in Tampa, Florida, is going to be weird. Partly that’s just because everything has been weird for months, including sports events that are now an uncanny mix of fake crowd noise and cardboard-cutout fans, with players sidelined and schedules rejiggered by Covid infections. It’s particularly hard to imagine how this ultimate spectacle of togetherness — not just in a crowded stadium but in many thousands of crowded living rooms — will translate to this endless and isolated Covid-19 winter.

All of which is making things complicated for the real stars of Super Bowl…


Trend Mill

The fast food giant’s redesign proves you can jump on the latest design trends without losing the soul of your company

The “Home of the Whopper” just had its first major redesign in 20 years, and it somehow manages to both effortlessly play to customer nostalgia while embracing new digital-first design trends. On January 7, Burger King announced that it had made sweeping changes to its brand, from its logo and packaging to its menus, merchandise, and decor, right down to its social media, leaving not a single burger unflipped. It plans to launch this updated imagery worldwide over the next few years.

The company is seeking a more natural, old-fashioned look, with minimal noise and colors like red, brown, and…


The home of the Slurpee is now being supercharged by the pandemic

An illustrated gif of 7-Eleven signs popping up all around the world.
An illustrated gif of 7-Eleven signs popping up all around the world.

Let’s get something out of the way: You probably do not have the most positive memories of 7-Eleven. The weary-looking hot dogs and taquitos on mechanical rollers, the trauma of Slurpee brain freezes and parking lot heartbreaks past, the strange prominence of its stores in local crime stories. In many parts, 7-Eleven is practically shorthand for communal microwaves, American Spirits, and bland corporate sameness.

On a cultural level, it’s also tough to disentangle the chain from its less than stellar role in stoner comedies, horror stories, and, of course, an implicit link to The Simpsons (and its Squishee-peddling Kwik-E-Mart). Given…


What geopolitics couldn’t kill, runaway success just might

General view of the TikTok headquarters on October 13, 2020 in Culver City, California.
General view of the TikTok headquarters on October 13, 2020 in Culver City, California.

Perhaps no company better exemplifies the dualism of yin and yang than TikTok and its year of seesawing successes and headaches. Amid geopolitical strife and leadership turnover, TikTok’s platform community and corporate strategists continued to hit new milestones: The social video network has overtaken Facebook to become the top app downloaded worldwide as of December 2020. It’s also plowing forward with strategic decisions to bolster its viability as a business by launching multiple revenue streams.

This past fall, it struck a partnership with Shopify by debuting its ad platform, TikTok for Business, which makes it easier for Shopify merchants to…

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