1) Lady Gaga’s Haus of Gaga and Tyra Banks’ Modelland establish experiential attractions for consumers, but is it enough to de-risk the precarity of celebrity-driven brands?

WHAT HAPPENED: With Haus of Gaga opening in Las Vegas to showcase and sell the pop star’s apparel, and Tyra Banks’ Modelland theme park opening in Santa Monica, CA, celebrities are attempting to envelop consumers in their world.

Why it matters

  • Both Haus of Gaga and Modelland combine experiential elements that are likely to gain traction with consumers, as you read in Retail as entertainment, entertainment as retail. Lady Gaga’s venture, an extension of her Las Vegas show “Enigma,” is a 1,600-square-foot space that exhibits approximately 50 items from the singer’s archives, some of which are for sale. Meanwhile, Tyra Banks’ theme park, set to open in late 2019, encompasses 21,000 square feet and combines retail, catwalks, dining and special events—“A place where everyone can be a model,” according to her Instagram post.
  • Like Disneyland’s new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park (a 14-acre land that cost $1 billion to create), Haus of Gaga and Modelland let visitors live, breathe and interact with a different world. In actuality, the fictional Batuu and the celebrity worlds of Lady Gaga or Tyra Banks aren’t that different, all of them immersing consumers in a foreign environment. The cultural capital of both celebrities is far-reaching, which Modelland in particular seems ready to capitalize on, calling its initial theme park a permanent flagship while alluding to a “global strategy.” Providing spaces where consumers can participate in a new world will likely protect these celebrity brands more than product-driven businesses, but Modelland is better poised for longevity. Even though it’s a world created by Banks, it’s defined by its attendees rather than the model herself.

2) Target adds men’s wellness to its menswear private-label Goodfellow and Co., but its “lifestyle brand” ambitions remain lofty.

WHAT HAPPENED: At the end of May, Goodfellow and Co. launched about 30 SKUs, all under $17, as Target attempts to build out its private-label brand beyond apparel.

Why it matters

  • Since it launched in 2017, Goodfellow and Co. has sold menswear only. Now, in adding grooming products, Target wants the brand to become a “one-stop-shop” for its male shoppers. The company is attempting to establish continuity between the brand’s fashion and grooming SKUs by featuring Goodfellow and Co. wellness products in endcaps in its men’s apparel section, as well as in its grooming department. Expanding Goodfellow and Co. makes sense for Target, which benefits from higher margins and has already seen a good deal of success with other private labels; In 2018, one-third of sales at Target hailed from its owned brands, including Cat & Jack and JoyLab. The retailer also has solid expertise in expanding private labels across product categories. The baby apparel brand Cloud Island, for instance, recently branched into essentials such as diapers and wipes.
  • Still, Target has a few factors working against its latest private label expansion. For one, it has introduced a number of digitally-native brands in the past few years to its grooming assortment, from Harry’s and Bevel to Oars + Alps and Rebel’s Refinery, and wants Goodfellow & Co. to align with this premium beauty category, which experienced 40% growth in the past year. Goodfellow & Co.’s grooming SKUs cost about 20% less than their counterparts, which will help, but men typically stick to the same brands when they shop and are more likely to visit other mass retailers such as Walmart and Costco than Target. Secondly, as many companies jump on the beauty boom, growth in the grooming sector is expected to decline by almost half in the next five years, according to Euromonitor. Finally, even though Target has the distribution with its 1,851 U.S. stores and ecommerce operation, production is still largely based in China, and could be damaged by the current tariff war.

3) Hearst Magazines’ new app lets consumers request free product samples, but has questionable potential to gain traction across its diverse publications.

WHAT HAPPENED: At the end of May, Hearst Magazines debuted Sample Ignition 360, an app that links social media users who give their shipping information and email to product samples from advertisers.

Why it matters

  • Hearst’s new advertising platform gives the publisher a new channel to monetize its audiences. The company, which owns Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Elle, O (The Oprah Magazine) and Men’s Health, among others, says it has a sea of readers who “want to try the things we talk about.” Sample Ignition 360 will help Hearst diversify its advertising business away from affiliate marketing while allowing Hearst to exert control over the advertising process; the company will package and ship the samples itself, requiring advertisers to send a minimum of 10,000 units. It is also charging a price per lead, linking the cost of advertising to its ability to get consumers interested in the product, as opposed to using other metrics like CPM (the cost an advertiser pays per every 1,000 impressions it receives for its advertisement).
  • The value proposition for advertisers is also there. More than just brand awareness, samples let consumers experience the product for themselves, removing the need to purchase an item first. Upon an advertiser’s request, Hearst will also reach out to consumers who receive a sample in order to gather feedback and incite product reviews. By placing the onus on consumers to request samples, the program also avoids the awkwardness of sending targeted samples to customers based on past purchasing data, as Amazon has done in the past. However, it’s not clear how well monetizing Facebook & Instagram audiences will work across all of Hearst’s publications. The median age of a subscriber to O, The Oprah’s Magazine, in 2018 was 52 for print and 46 for digital, while that of Cosmopolitan is 31—Hearst has a much stronger ability to gain traction with the latter.

4) Great Jones, a digitally-native cookware brand, now offers Potline, a text-only recipe and cooking advice service, but with limited ability to foster community.

WHAT HAPPENED: The new service allows anyone to text a cooking-related question or ask for advice to Great Jones’ hotline.

Why it matters

  • Great Jones said that it was already receiving questions unrelated to the products it sells in its customer service channel—this new service aims to solve a naturally-occurring need. To pilot the program, Potline will initially be available on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:00pm to 8:00pm EST. As of now, there will be eight employees answering texts, but most knowledge will stem from the company’s customer experience lead.
  • While this service will likely help Great Jones improve customer service, the company is missing out an opportunity to build a community around its brand. Potline’s expertise stems from a single source, and corporate one no less, but cooking is a communal activity that at the very least, each of its customers share. Other cooking-related brands also provide recipes and advice, but Food52 largely crowdsources them, letting its readers and shoppers interact with one another, as well as the Food52 brand. The company has struggled to provide a space for short-form cooking-related conversation, but is able to drive about 13 million monthly readers to its site by decentralizing expertise and giving consumers a role in building its ecosystem. As a text-only service, Potline facilitates communication, but it’s possible that texting should be reserved for transactional purposes à la Dirty Lemon rather than sharing tips and tricks.