Happy holidays! Hopefully you are taking some time this season to relax, reflect, and recover from the year passed. This season is usually when I feel the most ambitious but am the least productive, leading some to level of angst. How do you manage this?
Growing up I was fascinated with fashion, specifically streetwear and hipster culture. While the two are not directly linked, I feel there share some interesting characteristics that will become relevant. Most people are interested in fashion for status signalling. Luxury brands act as symbols of wealth and status. Athleisure is a signal that you value an active, healthy lifestyle and are often trying to accentuate this through clothing. Streetwear is worn as a symbol of “cool”, about knowing what is hip, and recognizing that sooner than others.
When streetwear enthusiasts discover a new brand and decide to buy it, they are staking some of their credibility or social capital on that brand becoming popular one day. While many will denying wanting popularity of the brands, these act as payoffs that signal they were the first to be aware of this trend. The only way their investment in this brand pays off is if it hits the mainstream and others take note, with their return being measured in the elusive ‘cool factor’.
While this sounds straightforward, there is also the element of risk. An enthusiast must predict what’s cool before it’s cool. One risk is your purchases never catch on, losing you credibility. The other risk is holding at the peak. You want to be out shortly before the peak otherwise you will be lumped into the mainstream, losing you potential street cred upside.
Ironically, when certain markets take notice, it can indicate a global peak. One example is Calgary. When a fashion trend arrives here, it’s likely far past its growth stage and has moved into exploitation/mainstream. The next trend is already forming somewhere else. We saw this two years ago with families talking about cryptocurrency over holiday dinners.
If the last example didn’t give it away, I have been trying to draw parallels between fashion and both investing and product lifecycles. It was probably a stretch, but it was a thought that entered my mind about 8 months ago that I wanted to eventually entertain. I just read This is Not a T-shirt by Bobby Hundreds (founder of streetwear brand The Hundreds) which got me thinking again. It didn’t hurt that in that time Alex Danco wrote a piece touching a bit on the social elements of angel investing.
One interesting perspective to consider with product cycles and adoption, is that fashionistas, entrepreneurs, and investors are the main groups who want products to progress through this adoption curve. They are the few groups who have a stake in a product hitting it big, be it social capital or financial.
This is where the concept of influencers can come into play. Influencers are the gateway to the mainstream and a valuable tool to leverage when trying to move through the adoption curve. They are an under-utilized channel and only recently hitting mainstream media coverage. Most people’s concept of an influencer is narrow though, specifically thinking of people who are “capital I” Influencers as opposed to those with influence.
If you are successful and stay in the game long enough, you become an influencer. And after you participate in a few cycles and prove you can predict the trends, you can leverage your social credit/capital to actually begin to influence brands themselves in making the leap to mainstream, becoming an influencer. You start to have control when you’re an influencer. Your endorsement becomes enough of a signal to pile-on, speeding up the transition into the mainstream.
As others are saying, influencers are going to play a big role in the years to come. What’s the best way for you to leverage influence in your work?
Last weekend Venkat (@vgr) started a short phenomenon of Twitter threads, formalizing a previously informal trend of “1 opinion per like” threads. I decided to participate and write about digital products which was a mental marathon and left me exhausted. As a result, writing has been painful to attempt again, which is why the above piece is probably rambling and without resolution. Here is the compilation of all the threads participating.
A few threads I really liked plus my own:
That’s all for this time. I hope you have a happy holidays.
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