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Capitalizing on Changing Beauty Norms

It’s one thing to be obsessed with our looks, our beauty…

As the demands of beauty rise, not only do we have to do more all the time, but their nature also changes. Beauty becomes more important. It has begun to function as an ethical ideal. Beauty is often what we — rightly or wrongly — value most. It is what we think about, talk about and what we spend our time and hard-earned cash on. If we are good at beauty, we feel we are good, virtuous; if we are bad, we feel we are no good, almost no matter what else we do. We judge others too on how they look. We make assumptions about what people are like and how successful they are. We read character traits directly from looks, and we start doing this as young as four years old.

…but it’s another thing to confuse beauty practices for health practices.

Consumers are allowing themselves to be manipulated by obvious marketing tactics and the beauty industry is capitalizing on the opportunity. These marketing and advertising tactics remind me of the diamond industry, which I’ve written extensively about.

Let’s take hair for instance. “Shaving, plucking, waxing and lasering” have become so normalized that hair removal is no longer a “beauty practice” but has been “redefined as a hygiene practice, as part of so-called “routine” maintenance.” And these redefined social norms aren’t just for celebrities – they’re for everyone.

Hair removal becomes something we have to do, a requirement. It is not an option to refuse — like teeth-cleaning, but without any of the health benefits. Beauty practices are indulgent and optional; hygiene practices are necessary and required. You don’t have to do a beauty practice; you do have to do something that is required to meet minimum standards, just to be normal. Once the shift to routine is complete, the fact that this is a demanding beauty practice becomes invisible.

The Beauty Market

The Economist reported in 2003 (Real Men Get Waxed) that the US male grooming market was $8 billion. 15 years later, that number has nearly tripled and is on pace to grow by 12% annually.

(source)

Bottom Line: Societal norms and their changes drive huge shifts in spending – especially when there’s strong emotional connection or potential for embarrassment. What shifting & emotionally-charged norms can you capitalize on?

Bianca Del Rio

Building a Business from Hate

Bianca del Rio didn’t set out to be “the nastiest bitch on the planet,” but she kind of is–and it’s really working for her career.

Del Rio, formerly Roy Haylock, is the crowned queen of the 6th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. One key to her success has been simply embracing who she is and not copying what everyone else in her industry is doing.

The queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race were all competing as queens. Bianca Del Rio realized that she needed to stand out, to do things differently. Her management recommended that she record an album. Her reply: “I’m not going to do an album. There’s enough horrible drag queens singing.”

And Del Rio’s intuition is spot on. When everyone else is zigging, zag.

What Del Rio is doing is quite expansive. Since RuPaul’s Drag Race, Bianca has headlined and sold out standup comedy tours worldwide, starred in two feature films, released a satirical self-help book, and created a line of no. 1-selling makeup removers.

“It kind of snowballed. I didn’t plan to be a comedian. I didn’t plan to be a drag queen. It just kind of evolved,” says Del Rio, who was a professional costume designer before doing drag full-time.

As a host for drag shows Del Rio got a lot of stage time, dealing with back-stage delays, hecklers, and impatient patrons. She seized the opportunity and integrated insult comedy into her hosting routine.

Since then, Bianca Del Rio has bloomed and business has boomed.

“Everything is offensive, so I’m enjoying the fact that I’m anti-kind. You’ve got to go out and just speak your mind. It needs to be heard,” Del Rio says. “There was a young boy who was 13-years-old who was in drag with his grandmother that came to see me [during a comedy show] and I was nervous because he was like, ‘me and my grandma love Drag Raceand we watch the show together!’ And I looked at [the grandma] and I said, ‘you do know my show’s going to be a little racy?’ She goes, ‘well, what the fuck do you think I came for?’ So I’m bringing families together–through hate.”

Find your niche – no matter how offensive or off the beaten path.

[Photo: Daisy Korpics for Fast Company]

Profit and Competition – Stephan Kinsella

Profit and competition are inherently intertwined.

Profit is always being pushed down by competition. So profit is an unnatural thing. So you always have to to think: how can I make a profit? and once I make it how am I going to keep making a profit knowing that I’m going to attract competitors? — Stephan Kinsella, “Your Welcome” with Michael Malice 001 – Intellectual Property with Stephan Kinsella

The above concept is at the very core of profit-driven business strategy.

I wanted to dig deeper into what Kinsella meant by profits being “unnatural” so I pinged him on the twitters. Here was his reply:

Profit is in a sense unnatural–it tends to be driven down to the natural rate of interest as the market tends to equilibrium. Profit is hard to maintain in the face of competition. This is fairly standard Austrian economics AFAIK, though my argument doesnt depend on this insight Stephan Kinsella

By the way: What he means by the “natural rate of interest” is the interest rate of borrowing money if we only consider the time-value of money and ignore the risk (and therefore increase in interest rates) associated with the borrower defaulting on their loan. Don’t worry if the natural interest rate part isn’t clear – I needed him to explain it to me as well and it’s not the point anyway.

Profit and Competition

More from the podcast:

When you’re selling a good on the market (or a service) you have to think “How can I make a profit on this good?” Because we know from economics [that] profit is – in a way – unnatural because profit is a deviation from the natural rate of interest and as soon as you make a profit you’re going to send a signal through the price system and through your activities to the market and you’re going to tell people “Hey! this guy is doing something that satisfies consumer welfare.. so come in and compete with him.

Kinsella added a few additional tweets as well to further flesh out the relationship between profit and competition:

Every entrepreneur who comes up with a business venture to make profit know that if he’s successful he’ll face competition and his initial profits will start to be eroded, so he has to keep on his toes an keep finding news ways to please consumers. Stephan Kinsella

That’s why it’s hard to make a profit–you have to successfully forecast for the future in a world of uncertainty. But when you do this you make profit and this attracts competition, pushing down your profit, so you have to keep innovating. Stephan Kinsella

Thanks Stephan – I appreciate the quick reply and economics lesson! FYI: Stephan Kinsella is the leading authority in the US arguing against intellectual property protection. Follow him on twitter (@NSKinsella) and check out his YouTube channel / podcast.

Hooters "Hooters Girl"

Increasing Hooters Utilization

WeWork has new competition in Tokyo – Hooters. It’s all about utilization.

Hooters in Tokyo’s Ginza neighborhood has teamed up with Spacee – a space-matching service – to rent out work areas during the restaurant’s downtime.

Hooters has over 400 locations worldwide and they, like all brick and mortar businesses, have a utilization problem. After lunchtime traffic at the Hooters in Ginza dies down, 20 seats open up for rent via Spacee until the dinner rush begins.

While WeWork may not be worried about the competition yet, it’s going to be hard to beat the Hooters price. Spacee members pay only 50 yen, or about 48 cents, for a 30-minute work block, and that includes a discount on some beverages and an atmosphere that some will undoubtedly find truly inspiring.

(Oddly enough, students don’t have to pay the 50 yen fee. But if they’re under 18, then they have to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Glad someone’s thinking about the children..)

Utilization

From an entrepreneurial theory perspective, one enormous path for adding value is to reduce inefficiencies. Low utilization – especially for capital intensive goods – is a huge contributor to inefficiency. And over the past 10 years, a new wave of utilization-focused start-ups have flourished on the shoulders of both the internet and mobile phones.

AirBnB increases the utilization of your spare bedroom or couch. Getaround increases the utilization of your car. Lyft and Uber increase the utilization of your time (and your car).

What’s interesting is that these companies are all marketplace plays. The business is in connecting parties with spare capacity with parties who need capacity. Bring together both parties in a trusted forum and you’ve got yourself an interesting business.

Look around you: What inefficiencies do you see? Where is utilization low? Is the value being squandered worth recovering? Can you create a trusted marketplace? Can you acquire customers at a reasonable price?

PS: In other WeWork news, the company is continuing to expand very rapidly. You may have seen some misleading headlines about $18 billion in leases, but that number is the sum of many years of leases, $13.2 billion of which is for 2023 and beyond. Their 2018 and 2019 lease payments are for $706 million and $984 million respectively. Bloomberg covers the story here and here.

PPS: Hooters and strategy. Strategy and Hooters. Are you not entertained?

(Photo Credit)

The Facebook Freakout

A new slice of Facebook users finally understand how much data they’ve been handing to Facebook over the years. By the way, if this piece gets you all riled up, leave a comment here.

Summary:

  • Facebook gave politically motivated parties access to user data.
  • This isn’t unusual. It’s what Facebook does and what users signed up for.
  • You are not Facebook’s customer. You are Facebook’s product.
  • The days of “click first and asks questions later” are over.
  • Facebook will most likely come out of this unscathed or stronger.

Time to Read: 2 Mins 58 Sec

What Actually Happened?

In short, Facebook did what Facebook has always done: sell access to its users to 3rd parties.

Cambridge Analytica, an organization that wanted to build “psychographic profiles” of US citizens in order to help politicians capture more votes, created a Facebook App. The app directly asked questions about “the issues” and stored user responses.

But the app also asked users to grant permission to Cambridge Analytica to access their Facebook data. Users accepted willingly. If a user didn’t grant permission, then Cambridge Analytica didn’t have access to that user’s data – yet.

There’s another way to get your Facebook data though: your friends.

This Is Too Abstract

Let’s get concrete. Let’s talk about Aaron and Betty – Facebook friends. Say Aaron is foolish enough to take this survey from Cambridge Analytica and agrees to give up a whole bunch of data about himself. Betty, who just happens to be “friends” with Aaron on Facebook, is part of Aaron’s network and data. So while Cambridge Analytica got explicit access to data about Aaron, Facebook also gave them some data about Betty.

To be clear, Cambridge Analytica didn’t get all of Betty’s data in this case – just a subset of her data.

Who Owns the Data?

In my mind, at least three parties own pieces of Betty’s data: Betty, Aaron, and Facebook. If Facebook chooses to sell their data (about you and your friends), then you’ve already given them permission to do so when you signed up. Further, Betty gave Aaron access to some of her data when she accepted his friend request.

(BTW, I’m using the word “sell” pretty loosely throughout this article. Facebook doesn’t really sell data anymore. But they do monetize their data in all sorts of ways that make it difficult to get network information without paying for something – usually an advertisement or promotion.)

What’s really confusing about all of this is that it feels like Facebook is selling Aaron’s access to Betty’s data. But they’re not. Facebook is selling their data.

You’re Not the Customer, You’re the Product.

But I wouldn’t be mad at Facebook. Facebook is in the data business.

Selling metadata about individual nodes isn’t very interesting anymore. What’s interesting is the edge data – information about how nodes are connected. But what’s most interesting is predictive edge data – information about how nodes might be connected now or in the future.

Said another way, Facebook’s business model is selling access to swaths of the social fabric. You are not the customer. You are the product.

So What Should Facebook Do?

Currently, their brand is a little more tarnished in the public eye and the stock has lost about 10% of it’s value. But honestly, I don’t see a probable scenario where Facebook loses much more here:

  • If Zuck and Facebook remain silent (or pander), then this whole thing may blow over in a few days/weeks as the media grasp for more salacious (and easier to consume) news.
  • If it doesn’t blow over, then government regulations will likely be passed in order to “crack down” on Facebook’s “misdeeds.” While this might not be ideal for TheZuckBook.com, Facebook will end up writing much of the regulations – regulations that will make creating competitors to Facebook very difficult.

The worst thing Zuck and Facebook can do is come out with some controversial statement that keeps them in the news cycle longer. Barring that or some other crazy revelations, I think Facebook will be just fine and that this is just another #FacebookFreakout.

One thing I can say very confidently though: we should all be grateful that Zuck is the CEO of Facebook instead of Theranos founder and fraudster, Elizabeth Holmes.

Let’s Have a Conversation!

Here.

PS

  • There are a lot of details that feel important about this story (ie: Cambridge Analytica said they were doing “research” – whatever that means; Facebook asked them to delete data and they lied about doing so; Cambridge Analytica paid some users to incentivize them to grant their Facebook permissions…etc). But these things aren’t the core issue and bad actors aren’t new or unexpected.
  • Also, there’s still a lot we don’t know about this situation. It’s very possible we’ll learn things that will change my thoughts and analysis. #disclaimer.
  • PS: Follow Straty on Facebook! (jk)

Sources & Further Reading