Gilt Groupe: Fashion Editorial 2.0?

I've always been humored by fashion magazine editorials.  The flouncy dresses, the tragic decadence, the models standing on diving boards holding babies... the punny titles.  How could you not laugh at the squabbling between Wintour and Coddington in The September Issue - knowing how inconsequential the decisions would ultimately be anyway?  I love the idea of the form, but just think it's been driven toward a formulaic endgame over time.  Plus, a lot fashion bloggers are reinterpreting the genre and making it slightly more literal and fun.

But as silly as they may be (at least to me), fashion magazine editorials have historically been the best way to learn about trends and the brands that are defining them. (At least before the Scott Schuman online empire took shape.)

Gilt Groupe, the sudden industry force, offers a very 2.0 iteration (or maybe cousin) of the fashion editorial.  They send out an email blast seven days/week about the new offerings on the site.  These items are dressed up overstock, usually 3-6 months past their sell-by date.  But, they're incredibly well presented, curated even.

The prospect of getting a great deal causes me to click through the pages and become much more intimately acquainted with a brand's seasonal product than I ever could through a one-page magazine ad or the inclusion in a traditional magazine editorial.  The prospect of getting deals makes me visit Gilt far more often than I would go to the online Saks, Neimans, etc.

I get to see snapshots of how Ralph Lauren is trying to bring back the men's double breasted suit (we'll see about that) and the fun that Lanvin is having with sunwear materials and shapes.  Gilt Groupe is the new educator-cum-fancy TJ Maxx of the industry.  (The same could likely be said about Rue La La as well.)

I wonder if over time brands will become more aware of Gilt's power to demonstrate seasonal direction and begin to create small in-season runs created specifically for the site.  Perhaps Gilt will take this evolution further and develop its own in-house team that incorporates styles from each of the daily sales into an editorial shoot?'s Price Points

A friend of a friend recently passed away, so I did some Google searching to locate the obituary.  On the result I clicked on, the local newspaper article about his passing was embedded within a website called  This site is an online business that provides an interesting solution for aggregating memories of the deceased and maintaining the online documentation of someone's life.

From my best guesswork, I think that the site has bots that locate each new obituary that's published on a vast swath of online newspapers throughout the U.S.  The identification of a new obit then likely triggers the creation of a memorial page containing the embedded article.  (It's also quite possible that has created partnerships with each of the newspapers and receives the obits as a feed.)

The memorial page encourages visitors to leave messages in the dedicated guest book for the deceased.  What's interesting is that approximately 5 weeks after the obit/guest book micro-site goes live, it is scheduled to be taken down permanently.  To prevent this from happening, offers two different payment plans to keep the site up for either one year or permanently.

I'm not going to moralize that the system and prices listed above are an egregious way of making money, because I'm not yet sure how I feel about that issue.  In some ways this site is a less robust, turnkey version of memorial pages that users can create for the deceased on Facebook.  And in the interest of keeping a memory alive online, the results for someone's name rank remarkably high in a Google search.

My main point of intrigue is: where exactly did the price points come from?  Was $99.99 too high?  Is the odd-number pricing (99 cent numeral) appropriate in this type of situation?  Wouldn't $80 make the whole proposition seem a touch classier?

It's so odd that one has to do a Chicken McNugget value meal type math equation and ponder the $9.98 that would be overpaid if three consecutive one year renewals were selected vs. the permanent option.

Obviously this company has overhead/server costs and that those who pay the above rates are to some extent subsidizing the existence/churn of all of the 5 week obits.  Though, it's unclear how expensive those 5 week obits could possibly be, even with thousands of obits in their database, as it doesn't entail too much data storage.

I would love to know how they arrived at these price points.

The Goober Grape of the Laundry Room?

The Purex "Complete" 3-in-1 laundry sheet came out last year to little fanfare and no advertising. Always intrigued by seemingly mundane product innovations, I purchased a package.

As promised, the product effectively combines detergent, fabric softener and anti-static protection into one sheet.  But, I must ask, will it eventually earn the crown of laundry room game changer, or is it more of a Goober Grape?

Its pricing is on par with the cost of purchasing each of the three components separately and it does certainly result in a lighter load when carrying groceries from car into house.  (Or in my case, grocery store to apartment.)

I'd like to see Purex develop a marketing effort to boost the awareness of this item.  Perhaps they could negotiate an agreement to include a 5-pack with every washer purchased at Sears or Best Buy?

Designer Birthday Cakes of the Week

As part of a new, ongoing series, once per week I will be posting photos of birthday cakes that have been baked and frosted to resemble designer sportswear and accessories. You must admit, the marsipan frosting on cake #2 has been sculpted quite artfully.

U.S. Hotel Industry: I'm Concerned About You

A Typical Listing

I find it particularly hard to watch more than 15 minutes of television before being reminded that William Shatner is out there somewhere bullying hotel front desk clerks on my fiduciary behalf. As comforting as this is for my near-term travel plans, it makes me wonder how the future of the hotel industry will take shape.

Like a growing number of adults, I rarely ever book hotel rooms through the actual building at which I will be staying. is my go-to site and it allows me to regularly stay at wonderful hotels that I would otherwise have no way of affording. Most recently allowed me to stay at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C. for $89 a night. Hotwire grades this location as a 4-star and I certainly agree with this assessment.

The online discount hotel bookings sector originated as a solution for clearing out the excess inventory of available rooms that remain unreserved as the date of use nears. Personally, I'm not anticipating my consumption patterns to change anytime soon. Through 5+ years of experience I have learned that a 3 or 4-star hotel in a major metropolitan area should cost no more than $129 a night. What began as a solution will ever increasingly become a problem.

Most 3 and 4-star hotels cannot possibly have a cost structure that is sustainable if most paying customers begin to expect such low rates. But as I age and younger consumers adopt the same booking patterns, how will hotels generally be able to keep up the experience that I am enjoying, based on the subsidized level of service that older, less web-savvy consumers are maintaining for me at their higher rates? What will happen if or a competitor develops a sizeable corporate division that books discounted rates for business travelers? Currently, leisure travel makes up a large percentage of these discounted bookings. But, this sector has ever more room to grow in corporate bookings.

Margins industry-wide are going to compress as these discounted rates increasingly become expected rates over time. I think what we're going to begin to see is the unfortunate commodified price effects of the American department store (special sale every day!) and airline industry take hold in the hotel sector. Price will be king and service/upkeep will slowly erode. I hope I am wrong.

Honestly: A Clarification

Dear Readers,

I must apologize for my own "lazy or cheap" (or both) research regarding why Honest Tea's packaging has looked differently lately.

Please note the comment made to my post by Seth Goldman, President & TeaEO of Honest Tea. He explains that they have adopted a new bottle design that is more eco-friendly. Though the first run of production had some structural difficulties, Mr. Goldman clarifies that they have fixed this issue and that new packaging clarifies this change.

This brand (that I have respected for quite some time despite my funny way of showing it) deserved some better reflection as to why this product aberration existed. Thank you for the clarification, Seth. I will share the new callout on your packaging in a subsequent post.

Honest Tea's Busted Packaging

One incidence is fine. Two is pushing it. But being lazy or cheap to the extent of allowing customers to have dozens of exposures to malformed packaging is not acceptable brand management. This is especially true when the brand is part-owned by the Coca-Cola company, the bottling/logistics pros.

Virtually every bodega here in New York that sells Honest Tea carries single-serving plastic bottles that have been vacuum sealed so tightly that the structure of the base becomes disfigured (see below) and the body takes the odd shape seen above. About 70% of the bottles look like this. Such product presentation has been consistent since mid-August 2009.

I'm more baffled than anything else. Does Honest Tea's bottling plant not have QC people? Though I'm quite certain it isn't their intention, I think it would be very interesting to run tests to find out how damaged/disfigured a product's packaging has to be before sales dip precipitously. (This wouldn't yield much actionable data for a brand, but it would surely interest me.)

Would a shelf of bottles with half-glued on labels be more or less damaging to sales than rows of bottles that have scratches and scuff marks all over them? Would people be much less likely to buy a bottle of Honest Tea if it inexplicably had a discolored cap? What product packaging error would surely turn you away from making a purchase?

Art of the Bandwidth Upgrade

Say what you will about how 2002 novacheck is, Burberry has been killing it with their online lately. Most of you are probably familiar with, the brand's fantastic/interactive/Scott Schuman-blessed Facebook collabo.

Much less buzzworthy, but equally fascinating in my mind is their groundbreaking use of video product previews on their men's & women's trench pages. Move your cursor over one of the items and a brief, medium-res video of the model twirling/shifting around activates in the photo box.

It's not only cool, but really helps remind you how sumptuous those coats are.

As satisfactory as the current model of displaying photos from multiple angles and allowing the user to zoom in may be, video previewing brings online shopping to a new level. And, if you aren't blown away by the resolution of these Burberry vids, the quality of how you experience this online integration is sure to only get better as other brands discover the existence/value of this tech.