The Retail Influence Story is a Flow from Pop-Ups to Pop-Ups

Walking down 5th ave in my Brooklyn neighborhood last weekend I had a moment of cultural economic clarity. The cadence of the shops, of different types and at different states of retail trends, told a story. There was a clear pattern, a trend wave that meandered from “new” to “staid” to “retro” and back.  There’s one particular block on 5th ave, between Union and Sackett that tells the story. On that block are both Brooklyn Industries and Goorin Brothers Hatmakers mixed in with the old and new shops. Both are “Local” style operations that channel the vibe of nostalgia for goodness and originality. These two operations are veterans of the “Local” style yet their growth mimics the path of well established “staid” brands.

Here in Brooklyn there’s a burgeoning  “local made” and “slow” movement similar to other cities such as Portland and San Francisco. Nearly all of these new local brands have the name “Brooklyn” as part of their branding in order to show their genuineness. I’ve also noticed a wave of “pop-up” and “food truck” style retail experiments this past summer. There’s a pattern happening. A connection of trends. Here’s a matrix I drafted to plot this pattern…

The X-axis defines where the items for sale are produced; offsite manufacturer is on one end…locally manufactured is on the other. The Y-axis defines whether the store is a temporary pop-up on one end…and a flagship (showroom for the brand experience) space on the other. I plotted a handful of retail brands within this matrix to map out the pattern.

The brands cluster on the matrix. At the top left are brands that are testing out the panache of having a pop-up experience. These are not focussed on sales as much as they are creating local instances to showcase their brands. At the top right are the true “pop-ups” who choose the pop-up space to sell their goods, relying on the agility and panache of a pop-up presence to lower costs while still reaching their market. At the bottom left are the staid brands who are building flagship style locations. Just above them are the new wave of brands that are seeking to have similar coherent successes. At the bottom are new brands, creating truly locally manufactured items with a strong element of “place” infused into their products. Thus why so many have “Brooklyn” in their brand names. Some have stores, some have store-hours at their “factories.”

I labeled these clusters based on their tone and style. At the top left are the “Distributed Flagships.” These pop-ups are seeking to create local brand awareness by appearing locally and temporarily to create buzz and awareness. At the top right are the “Agile/Lean” businesses, the start-up, who require a pop-up livelihood to build their brands. At the bottom left are the “Anchors of Stability.” This group seeks to further install themselves as the hegemonic international brands. I added the seemingly upstart brands such as Goorin Hats and Brooklyn Industries to this group as both are seeking national expansion and adoption. They are keeping the “Local” flavor while aspiring to become national brands. At the bottom right are the brands that embody the “Slow Food” movement which is being adopted by other categories other than food. These brands could be the “Slow Manufacturing” or “Slow Brand” movement. When mapped together, the trend wave becomes clear:

The story goes like this…The energy and innovations of the pop-ups are becoming manifested in the “Slow Brand” movement which is the next generation of the “Local” movement. These Slow Brands are influencing the earlier wave of “Local” brands who have now moved on to attempt to become hegemonic brands. These new brands are rushing at the gates of the hegemonic brands, inspring the hegemonic brands take new risks; by trying out the style and tone of the original pop-up movement, but in the way they know how…by re-creating pop-ups as flagships.

Thats the cultural economic story. The pop-up and slow movements are influencing the hegemonic brands to take new risks. Let’s apply this story to “The Map.” (If you’re unfamiliar with the ACE Map read this post)

When added to the map the impact roles of these clusters of brands becomes clear. What does this mean for you? For one, if you’re seeking to influence this category, you can define your tactics by understanding where these groups sit within the flow of influence. If you’re seeking to create influence and impact from your own agenda, see if you can locate yourself or your target influencers on this map and compare your path to the retail path identified in this post. What would you change about your program? What can you do differently now?

If you want to see the retail trends that will eventually live within the anchor brands, go visit the pop-ups. If you’re interested in seeing this next-wave in a more mature state, go visit the Slow Brands.

Please let me know your questions. -JM


Here’s a list of all retailers mentioned…

Fresh Pop-up Truck:

H&M Pop-up in Miami:

Nordstrom/GQ Men’s Pop-up:

Target/Missoni Pop-up:

Benetton’s Pop-up:

611 Lifestyle:

Brooklyn Industries:


Goorin Brothers:



Ralph Lauren:

Brooklyn Watches:

71 Pop:


Cut Brooklyn:

Outlier Clothing:

Seagull Bags:

Brooklyn Machine Works:

Brooklyn Tailors:

Rickshaw Bagworks:,2817,2351890,00.asp

Applied Cultural Economics “Map”

When I produce my Applied Cultural Economics work, I use a set of tools to help determine what tasks I need to focus on. One tool I use frequently is the below “map.” This tool allows me to identify where a client’s efforts reside on the map and what steps I need to take to help them be successful.

Below, through a few “white-board” drawings, I’ll illustrate the flow of impact through the map. Each circle represents a role, a behavior of a person or organization that creates and has influence on the impact. Simply, impact moves from left to right.

In an ideal Cultural Economics flow, the impact starts all the way at the left and flows all the way to the right. To keep it simple, I label the “thing” that needs to be guided across the map a “spark,” but in most cases a spark is a piece of creative content. These sparks could  originate throughout the flow, and there are unique strategies to ensure these sparks create impact based on where they originate. In the ideal, these sparks originate at the “Trailblazer” layer as this allows the spark to be infused with the most momentum as it travels across the map. The spark can catch a fire, be homogenized, or it can fizzle out quickly.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the roles labeled in the map (these roles are updated from an earlier post I did on this topic found here):

Trailblazers: These are the fiercely innovative individuals and organizations who are inventing the next “thing.” Their greatest concerns are for newness and innovation. They are the artists of their specific disciplines, the cutting-edge. They aim to bring new ideas (or new combinations of ideas) into the world.

Futurists: These are the discoverers of the cutting-edge who eagerly seek to share their findings with their audiences. The result/rewards of this sharing is more about social capital and the value of their sharing than financial.  Their goal is to gather their findings into insightful, thought-leadership bundles before anyone else does. They amplify and provide trajectory to the life of the spark, often modifying the initial spark to map to their own agenda.

Pundits: This group sifts through the happenings of the Futurists to identify which sparks would resonate with their audiences. The pundits work to reconfigure the sparks within their own brand for personal or organizational gain. They are reliant on the futurists to do the initial filtering, but take it the step further to create ingestible, adoptable packets of information for their markets and audiences. The Pundits layer is where a spark can become a revenue driver.

Think-Sharers: This is currently the most active group on the map and where a spark can gain the most boost. Think-Sharers are the new “word-of-mouth” layer now with greater strength through the power of social media. People who play this role are actively sifting through the “firehose” of social data (news, links, thoughts) and sharing and/or re-sharing the sparks that resonate most with them and potentially with their audiences. Think-sharers are also powered by social-capital (like the Futurist) versus financial gains. Think-Sharers are seeking to gain recognition by the sparks they share.

Consumers: This is the largest, yet passive layer. This is the dense-middle that sparks have to traverse to remain relevant. Consumers are typically the last stop for a spark as they are ones who consume it, typically for pleasure, leisure, or intelligence. In many cases the initial spark has been corrupted/assimilated from its original form in order to become adopted by consumers. In unique, and potentially ideal, cases the initial spark remains mostly intact.

Late Adopters: If a spark is successfully consumed, there will be a group of late adopters who will eventually consume the spark as well. In some cases these Late Adopters can breath new life into a spark, like a reverb effect.

Lurkers: This layer is the very last stop for a spark. The most passive of all roles the lurker chooses to engage with the spark after its greatest relevance has passed.

Let’s walk through a spark scenario. I’ll use the metaphor of a “rock band” to guide us through the flow.

Four friends have a spark, they decide they want to start a band, write new songs, and change the world. The spark is driven by their passion to make music. Making money would be cool, but that’s not the driver for their decision.They write songs, rehearse them, post mp3s online and gain some gigs at local clubs. They share their spark with their immediate world. They are the Trailblazers.

Then, a local music blogger searching the listings for local clubs sees the name of this new band. She searches for them online and finds their sample mp3s. She listens to them and writes up a blurb about their sound and recommends people go to the show. Another music fan also happens upon the listings, finds the mp3, and shares it with her twitter list and facebook friends. A good friend of the band also shares the mp3s with his coworkers to showcase the “cool new band” he found. They all go to the show and share their experience of seeing the band with their followers (checkins, tweets, updates, blog posts). These Futurists are multiplying the instances of the spark, giving it momentum, while also adding their own unique layer to the spark.

Through the activity of the three Futurists, a growing number of people are hearing about the band and listening to their songs and going to the gigs. The Pundits are now interested in the activity. More established music bloggers, a local alt-weekly music critic, and a few folks with large social followings start going to the shows. The Pundits write their reviews and share the music with their audiences. They’ve added new layers to the spark, such as wider context of the music, it’s relationships to other bands, where they predict the band (and it’s spark) will go (which audiences will like it). This context might corrupt the original spark, but now the spark has momentum and new audiences.

If the Pundits have done their role well, the spark has now been heard by a widening audience of music fans. This next layer of fans, the Think-Sharers, will compound this amplification by sharing the links to Pundits’s reviews with their audiences via tweets, checkins and status updates. If all goes well, the spark will remain intact and the band’s music will continue its momentum into finding a wider audience. If all doesn’t go well, the Think-Sharers either don’t share what the Pundits have posted, or they share the links with muted interest. As example, they compare the band to less favorable bands or only give the band a simple, passionless mention. The spark then decays and loses momentum.

This is a highly sensitive and important aspect to the flow…the Think-Sharers have tremendous impact on the momentum of the spark into the realm of the passive Consumers. If the spark doesn’t resonate with the Think-Sharers the odds the the spark will decay increases. This could be caused by which Pundits found the spark initially and/or how they wrote about the spark…which is impacted by the Futurists who spotted the spark. One layer impacts the next. If the “wrong” Futurist finds the spark, and the “wrong” Pundit writes about the spark, the spark might never get the chance it deserved.

If the spark is strong, and has found the right advocates in Futurists, Pundits and Think-Sharers, it will reach through the entire map. This is the goal of any spark. This is the focus of Applied Cultural Economists; to help sparks navigate their way across the map. The map is one tool towards this end, I rely on it all the time.

They key steps to use this map is to determine where on the map the spark is and then to identify which roles need to be mobilized to add momentum to the spark. I’ve created a PDF version of a blank map for you to download if you want to give it a try:

Creative Social Design (v1.0), An Introduction.

Creative Social Design (v1.0), An Introduction.

(In this post I’ll share a basic overview of the Creative Social Design framework. In upcoming posts I’ll walk you through specific exercises to get started using this framework.)

What is Creative Social Design?

Creative Social Design (CSD) is the framework for creating, launching and sustaining a holistic social media program. The CSD framework was built for a business-to-business audience, but CSD methods can be applied to any person or organization seeking to succeed in the transition to, and adoption of, social media.

With CSD, all elements of a program are built on the foundation of strong insights. There should be a guiding principle, even if aspirational, that drives the program through each step. There are four main steps to CSD:

  • Insights: Discovering and modeling the unique data points. Using this data to unveil the strong foundation upon which to build actionable strategies.
  • Strategy: Defining the path to reach the ideal outcomes anchored to business goals.
  • Planning: Drafting and finalizing the blueprint for the team, setting the metrics for success. This step includes education/workshops for the individuals and teams that need to improve specific social skillsets based on the blueprint.
  • Activation: Putting the blueprint into action with scheduled audits to ensure nimbleness.

When CSD is done well, Activation won’t be set in motion without Planning. Planning won’t be configured without Strategy. Strategy won’t be set without Insights.

A simple way to start planning your social media program within the CSM framework is to create a document with four columns. From left to right, label the top of each Insights, Strategy, Planning, and Activation. You could also do this exercise on a whiteboard. Here’s an example:

The rule is simple; you need to add the data on the left in order to take a step to the right. Give it a try and see what you can do on your own.

Here’s an example to help you get started:

On my next post on CSM Next post I’ll cover techniques on how to discover and model insightful data.

You Say Disruption, I say Revolution (for Greg Satell)

You Say Disruption, I say Revolution (for Greg Satell (

“Disruption” has become a popular buzzword over the past five years. It’s been used to label the agressive shifts of free-market competition. These “disruptive” economic shifts have been around for centuries. They’re sometimes labeled as periods of innovation, sometimes they are truly revolutions. As these shifts have become more prevalent within our current era, the term “disruption” has reached heightened usage. In the past, pre-1950s, the impact of disruption would be spread over a generation or two. The “pain” of the disruption could be absorbed over a lifetime. This cycle of disruption and absorption has accelerated, exponentially, starting during the post-war economy of the 1950s.

As example, the ice barons of the 19th century ( withstood a “lifetime” disruption and absorption cycle. These barons, who shipped New England ice all over the world, did not invent electric refrigeration. The ice industry was disrupted by refrigeration. This harshest part of the disruption, the collapse of the ice industry as the primary source of non-electric refrigeration, took place over a “soft landing” period of 50 years. By the 1950s electric refrigeration was the norm (

Using the computer as an example of disruption we can witness, in slow motion, the increasing influence of ever-more-powerful computers starting in the early 70s up until the 90s with the adoption of the PC. Then the disruption accelerates with the rampant adoption of PCs all the way up to their recent offshoots (tablets, smart phones). In the 80’s we could expect a computer-related disruption every five years, now we expect a computer-related disruption within every six months.

The downside to these disruptions is the negative impact. The impact is typically unevenly spread within the population causing “winners” and “losers.” Some of the negative impact is obvious, but many aspects are inapparent, and often separated from the disruption. As example, the creators of email didn’t set out to negatively impact the US postal service. The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter (, in his writings from the 1940s, predicted this disruptive cycle of winners and losers. He labeled it “Creative Destruction” ( He concluded these cycles would continue to accelerate until the forces of capitalism destroyed itself.

It is not the fault, and potentially not the intent, of the inventors who create disruptions to foresee the winner and losers. Nevertheless, all disruptions will, even if the goal is benign.

The pertinent insight from our era is how companies are adopting strategies that allow them to thrive within an economic environment of accelerated disruptions versus being negated by them. The next wave of entrepreneurs will ideally take this to the next level and figure out models that include reducing the negative impact caused by these disruptive innovations. This trend is seen within the organic food movement and LEED certification in architecture.

Companies, such as Apple, are brilliant students of Schumpeter’s Creative Destruction. Rather than allowing the external forces of competition to drive the disruption, they choose to disrupt themselves, regularly reinventing their products, both from a design and functionality perspective. This allows them to contradict Schumpeter’s prediction. They are thriving. This thriving through self-disruption is actually a 20th century revolutionary theory. Marxists such as Trotsky and Mao deeply believed in the theory of “Permanent Revolution” ( as the only means to enable and accelerate innovation while also stabilizing the wider economy.

Companies such as Facebook or Twitter have also invented clever variations to the Apple-way to alleviate this disruption. They are disrupting themselves by adopting and absorbing user behavior into their services. This allows them to be part of the disruption versus being affected by it. Their nimbleness allows them to thrive.

In our era these disruptions are taking place on a national, if not a global scale. If business leaders seek to shift their enterprises and initiatives to both align to and shield themselves from the radical disruptions of our era they have to make radical changes to their operations and/or make radical changes to the macro-economic arena within which they function. We are in an accelerated disruptive era, calling it “revolutionary” or “innovative” are choices of nuanced phrasing to explain their aspirations to their constituents.

The rewards of our era are for those who can shift to align with disruption, to thrive off the positives while mitigating the negative effects. Those that can do both will be the successful benefactors of our era.