Beauty Boy: Skelotim & Fat B***h Fridays

The New York Times: “His name is Tim Owens, but online he goes by Skelotim, and he is a bald, perma-stubbled man who knows his way around a contour kit. Last week, he posted a video of himself applying dark purple eye shadow, sky-blue eyeliner, fluttery fake lashes and a bold grape lipstick. Then, after shooting the camera a succession of saucy glances, he raised a packaged Smucker’s Uncrustables peanut-butter-and-grape-jelly sandwich, revealing his culinary inspiration for the day’s look. He does this every week. He calls it Fat B***h Friday.”

Skelotim, and other “‘beauty boys,’ as they’re sometimes called, are not just being accepted into the mainstream beauty world. They are helping to give the cosmetics industry a much-needed modern makeover. Maybelline’s mantra — ‘Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.’ — called on women to fix their flaws with makeup tricks and to present as natural beauties. Male beauty gurus deconstruct that illusion. They recast makeup not as a supplement for natural deficiencies, but as a form of joyful creation.”


McDonald’s: Branding in the Streets

The Wall Street Journal: When McDonald’s Corp. recently introduced a grungy, graffiti-themed décor to restaurants across its European market, the company hailed the new design as ‘exciting and fresh.’ Graffiti artists have a different description for the burger chain’s faux-graffiti plastered walls: copyright infringement.”

“The design scheme, officially titled ‘Extreme’ in McDonald’s brochures, is meant to target youthful consumers by using ‘graffiti-like visual language on the walls to remind people that McDonald’s is a brand of the streets’.” However: “Artists who view the urban landscape as a giant canvas are no longer outlaws in the dusk, but are increasingly showcased in museums and galleries and pursued by deep-pocketed art buyers. The embrace of graffiti has made artists more possessive of their designs, more sensitive to their reputation and, along with the higher stakes, more inclined to sue.”

“McDonald’s said its graffiti décor, which also includes scrawl on hanging light fixtures, is one of a dozen interior-design motifs recently introduced as part of a broader re-imaging of stores.”


Beautycounter & Consumer Safety in Cosmetics

The New York Times: “Legislation that would introduce a far more serious degree of regulatory oversight to the personal care products industry is proceeding in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Consumer safety groups are pushing for stricter laws. And the call for more stringent oversight of the industry is coming from a coalition of companies that includes Beautycounter, a plucky start-up that is pitching natural face creams as well as regulation.”

“Beautycounter is the brainchild of Gregg Renfrew, a retail executive who has embraced the cause of cleaner cosmetics … In 2010, she raised money and hired a team that included makeup artists and public health specialists … they identified more than 1,500 chemicals and ingredients they thought might be harmful or linked to cancer, and they resolved not to use them in Beautycounter products … Today, Beautycounter offers nearly 100 products and has more than 25,000 people … who sell its wares. The company also sells its cosmetics through Goop, J. Crew and Target. Beautycounter says its sales are increasing rapidly.”

“As the company grew, Ms. Renfrew kept one eye on Washington … In May, Ms. Renfrew took 100 women to Washington for several days of meetings with senators and staff from both sides of the aisle.” Bryan McGannon of the American Sustainable Business Council, comments: “Beautycounter has really invested in the process in a different way. It isn’t often when you have companies willing to stand up and say: We’re O.K. with more regulation. We need it.”


10 Restaurants That Changed America

The Wall Street Journal: “Through his selection of iconic establishments—Delmonico’s, Antoine’s, Schrafft’s, Howard Johnson’s, Mamma Leone’s, the Mandarin, Sylvia’s, Le Pavillon, the Four Seasons and Chez Panisse,” Paul Freedman, in Ten Restaurants That Changed America, “charts the history of American eating … As Mr. Freedman makes clear, the chosen 10 aren’t necessarily the best restaurants. They made the cut because of ‘influence and exemplification’—each has been crucial in ‘setting or reflecting trends in what Americans think about food and particularly dining out’.”

“Take, for instance, Schrafft’s, the Northeast chain that flourished in the mid-20th century and ‘pioneered the middle-class restaurant experience,’ as Mr. Freedman writes. The food was geared, in the words of founder Frank Shattuck, toward ‘secretaries and stenographers who must watch their pocket books.’ It was also a ‘safe’ environment for these diners: They didn’t have to go with a male escort because the place didn’t serve any alcohol.”

“The Mandarin, opened in San Francisco in 1961 by Cecilia Chiang, a Chinese immigrant, helped popularize stir-fry cooking, kung pao chicken, twice-cooked pork and tofu … Chez Panisse, which opened its doors in 1971, spawned a farm-to-table movement that is dominant to this day—even McDonald’s recently ran a “farm-to-fork” ad campaign featuring their potato farmers.”


Home Depot Re-Sets The Experience

Home Depot CFO Carol Tomé: “About 42% of online orders are being picked up in our stores, so we’ve had to allocate capital to build out storage inside of our stores to stage those products. Who would have thought a few years ago that’s where we’d be allocating capital? But we have to, because that’s where the customer is asking us to allocate capital.”

“We perform merchandising resets that cover about a third of each store annually. That could mean a change in our assortment or it could mean a change in how we display the product. All of this is designed to provide a better customer experience and drive sales. It can be a simple reset like resetting the spray-paint section so that when you take a can of paint, the next one drops into place in the display case, rather than standing the cans side by side. That’s a better experience and actually drives productivity in our stores.”

“Or it could be the reset of a millwork or flooring showroom. If you shopped flooring in our stores, in some of our older stores, it’s not the easiest experience. With our new flooring showrooms, we make it much easier for the customer to self-select. The displays are easier to shop off of, the signing is better. Oh, and by the way, sales are lifting. So it’s a good experience, and it’s driving sales.”


Saks Downtown: Digitized Bricks

The Wall Street Journal: “The newest Saks store, dubbed ‘Saks Downtown’ in lower Manhattan, boasts a slew of web-inspired features aimed at making online and offline shopping a seamless experience … The layout leads shoppers in a circle, mimicking the endless browsing available online … Cash registers are tucked out of sight. Many employees do mobile checkout via iPad.”

“Fitting rooms have plush carpeting, flattering lighting and communal seating … Saks lowered the level of its highest fixtures to about 5-and-1/2 feet, so the shopper can see more of the store. Aiming to offer a range of options on the scale of a website, the small store is making big bets, with more than 1,000 pairs of shoes and more than 800 pairs of sunglasses on display.”

“Saks hopes its stores will benefit from offering online shoppers a customized personal-shopping experience. Visitors to Saks’s ecommerce site can connect with a real human sales associate, not an impersonal bot, which other retail brands are testing … Shoppers get several ways to connect to the employee: Live chat (including notification of whether the associate is available at that moment); appointment scheduling, whether in store, over the phone or online at a later time; and an email form to submit questions.”


Let There Be Li-Fi!

The Economist: “Li-Fi works with light-emitting diodes (LEDs), an increasingly popular way of illuminating homes and offices, and applies the same principle as that used by naval signal lamps … it encodes messages in flashes of light. It can be used to create a local-area network, or LAN, in a way similar to the LANs made possible by standard, microwave-based Wi-Fi.”

“Such LANs would … have two advantages over standard Wi-Fi. One is that light does not penetrate walls. A Li-Fi LAN in a windowless room is thus more secure than one using Wi-Fi, whose microwave signals pass easily through most building materials and can thus be listened to by outsiders. The other advantage is that light does not interfere with radio or radar signals in the way that microwaves sometimes do. Li-Fi can therefore be installed in hospitals, nuclear plants and other sites where Wi-Fi might create dangerous interference with electronic kit.”

“One business about to benefit from this selectivity is commercial aviation … It would mean that LANs could be set up in the cabin, distributing entertainment to passengers and permitting those with Li-Fi-equipped phones and computers to contact the outside world … The technology may even be co-opted as a navigation tool … to “eventually show passengers to, for instance, the correct baggage carousel for their flight. In the hypermarket they direct shoppers … to the locations of desired items.”


Nokia 3210 & The Mobile Revolution

Slate: “In the late 1990s … There was no launch event for the Nokia 3210, and few major publications bothered to review it. In retrospect, however, it may have done as much to spark the mobile revolution as any handset in history. The 3210 and its successors redefined the role of technology in our lives, not through feats of engineering so much as feats of marketing and design. By rethinking the configuration of key components in the phone and paying attention to how young people were using it, they took something awkward and ungainly and made it simple and chic.”

“In an industry first, the designers made both the front and back covers easily removable, so users could match their phone’s appearance to their taste, their outfit, or even their mood … Third parties around the world began producing custom covers for the device, and mobile-phone retailers began using those brightly colored pieces of plastic to catch the eye of customers … Embracing its role as a toy and not just a utility, Nokia installed on the phone a simple but infamously addictive game called Snake … For the first time, the phone began to double as a personal entertainment device, a way to pass the time when you had nothing else to do.”

“The company announced the 3210 on March 18, 1999, calling it ‘a mobile phone for ultimate convenience and personalization’ and launching a marketing campaign aimed at a much younger audience than was typical for the industry. It went on to sell some 160 million units, making it one of the best-selling phones of all time. No iPhone has ever been that popular. It helped Nokia surpass Motorola as the world’s leading mobile-phone manufacturer, a title it held until Samsung finally eclipsed it in 2012.”


Eyes Over Wool: Patagonia, Ethics & Marketing

The Wall Street Journal: “Patagonia’s profit has tripled since 2008, and the company maintains a reputation for transparency and socially responsible behavior with its customers, brand experts say. But the company is learning a tough lesson: upholding a strict code of ethics while chasing mass-market appeal is a tricky balancing act.”

For example: “Last summer, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals posted a video online depicting grisly abuse of sheep at South American ranches that sold wool to Patagonia.” In response, “Patagonia assembled an in-house task force to rewrite the company’s criteria for wool growers and find new suppliers … Staff met with experts … and toured remote sheep ranches. Task-force members were on hand for shearing and the birth of lambs at several farms.”

“In July, Patagonia announced an agreement with two ranches in Oregon and Utah, which will grow wool for the retailer’s socks.” Alexis Bateman of MIT says there can be “a huge disconnect—where [marketing teams] are ready to tell the story before operations and supply-chain teams are ready and able to confirm it. It’s possible they know where the farm is, even who the farmer is, but not what’s happening 365 days a year.”