An exercise in ultra-ultra luxury


February 26, 2020

When it comes to GIFs, are you a Hard G or Soft G kind of person? The makers of JIF peanut butter wanted to end the debate (and get some free pub), so they teamed up with GIPHY animators on a new set of labels and lids for their jars. When it comes to animations, Team JIF is a Hard G. “If you’ve ever called a GIF a ‘Jif,’” the lid says, “we forgive you.”

If you’re part of Team Hard G, you’re not alone. When we polled our staff, most people sided with you. Today:

  • Rolls-Royce’s new app looks like a velvet rope
  • Amazon hopes its fashion TV show is dope
  • The plastic backlash gives glassmakers hope
Exclusivity as a Service

Rolls-Royce sells exclusivity through a new app called ‘Whispers’

Yesterday, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars launched a new app called “Whispers” to Rolls-Royce owners in the UK, the US, Europe, and the Middle East.

The luxury British automaker said Whispers — the “most exclusive Members Club in the world” — is a “a gateway to the world’s most rarefied products, services and ideas.”

In case it wasn’t clear: You’re not rich enough for this club

According to Rolls-Royce, its customers are “untethered by common constraints such as time and money.” 

And the company’s app — which it says has been tested for 2+ years — is designed to extend the Rolls-Royce ultra-luxury brand beyond cars and into high-end experiences. 

But, naturally, Whispers will only be available to owners of new Rolls-Royces. 

And the luxury Whispers app looks a lot like normal apps…

Just with more caviar. Or dolled up with diamonds to make them more exclusive.

The deceptively normal-seeming Whispers app includes:

  • A social network (AKA, in Roycese… “A Global Community of Like-minded Individuals”) 
  • An online store (AKA… “An Inspiring and Sometimes Whimsical Collection of Luxury Offerings”)
  • Digital media content (AKA… “Inspiring Greatness through Evocative Thought Pieces”)  

But though the features of the app may seem familiar… 

Whisper’s experiential offerings aren’t exactly subtle

Many of the experiences in the Rolls-Royce app are customizable for each high-end customer. But that didn’t stop the company from making some… suggestions

Among the app’s ritziest recommendations: 

  • An expedition to Antarctica 
  • A private New York Philharmonic Orchestra performance
  • Commissioned portraits of favorite pets
  • A custom-built personal racetrack
  • A personalized Monopoly set incorporating the customer’s own properties and assets

Whispers is another example of “experiential exclusivity”

There’s nothing more luxurious than exclusivity. So social clubs, apps, and other experiences with absurdly high barriers to entry — like Rolls-Royce ownership — offer new ways for the world’s most elite luxury businesses to sell their brands. 

Rolls-Royce isn’t the only one in on the action, either: Prada recently launched an event series featuring art, music, food, and panel discussions (available only to its VIP superfans, of course). Ralph Lauren, Gucci, and other luxe-tailers have also moved in the experiential direction.

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Catwalk Chronicles

Amazon is streaming onto the runway with high-fashion TV

The unholy trinity of reality TV, chic apparel, and ecommerce just got some famous new faces.

On March 27, Amazon will roll out “Making the Cut,” a TV fashion competition hosted by “Project Runway” megastars Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. The show joins a string of “Project Runway” copycats like Netflix’s “Next In Fashion.”

But Amazon’s new show is only sort of about TV. At the end of each episode, customers will be able to buy the winning designs. Mostly, Amazon just wants to sell you expensive clothes.

Amazon is self-conscious about its normcore rep 

The company’s clothing division represents 29% of its ecommerce sales. But as the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Many of the apparel items sold are considered basic clothing, such as underwear and yoga pants.” 

The retailer hasn’t exactly won the affection of high-fashion honchos. Last month, the chair of the luxury-goods behemoth LVMH (which oversees swanky brands like Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior) criticized Amazon for the proliferation of counterfeits on its platform.

The idea of using TV and movies to sell products isn’t new: Studios have collaborated with advertisers since at least the early ’80s, when a well-placed Reese’s Piece in the film E.T. led to a 65% jump in Hershey’s profits. 

But Amazon is entering new territory by mixing the 2 so seamlessly. Why pay a studio to advertise your clothes when you can be the studio and the retailer?

Move over, Dash buttons

Amazon’s recent past is littered with efforts to integrate online shopping even deeper into our subconscious.

But this time, the retail giant seems to be taking a cue from Instagram, which lets users buy products from brands like Kylie Cosmetics and Warby Parker without leaving the app. If it works with influencers, Amazon is reasoning, then of course it must work with 12 extremely stressed-out designers.

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Looking for something new? Check these out: 

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Shards of Hope

The plastic rebellion has glassmakers seeing things half full

Glass packaging is almost as quaint as the milkman himself. But glassmakers are hoping that the backlash against single-use plastic can return old-school bottles to the throne — or at least the top of the recycling heap.

Plastic shattered glass’s grip on the market

And one bubbly industry shows how:

  • In 1975, 58% of all soda came in glass bottles. Today, it’s just 1%.
  • Plastic, meanwhile, went from 0% to almost 33%.

Nowadays, plastic is practically taboo. There may be opportunity for glassmakers, since their products give packaged foods longer shelf lives and bottles can be refilled again and again.

But the path to a glass revival might not be so clear

The number of glass-container plants in the US plummeted 65% since 1983, alongside falling demand for soda bottles. And about ⅔ of glass containers in the US aren’t actually recycled.

Aluminum aficionados have opened up a can of competition on their glass-jawed counterparts, too. One company, Liquid Death (tagline: “murder your thirst”), just snagged a $9m investment to quench your craving for… canned water.

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Snippets

🥕 It’s not just high fashion. Amazon is also trying to revolutionize the grocery store — its largest cashierless one just opened in Seattle.

🚘 The Markup found that Allstate’s auto-insurance algorithm gives some customers a raw deal.

🎤 Coming soon to a stage near you: the Whitney Houston hologram tour.

🏠 A telling detail from the demise of the interior-design upstart Homepolish: Instagram commenters called one botched reno the #fyrefestofhomerenovation.

Want snippets like these in your browser? Download our Chrome extension here.

 
Now Playing Now Playing:
Boy Scouts, Branded Water, & Bitcoin Busts. On this pod, Sam and Shaan talk cult followings, Liquid Death, and partying with the founder of Silk Road (before he got jailed for life).
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Nick “Careless Whisper” DeSantis

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Don Kashane

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