Earlier this week, our friends at Future Commerce wrote that ecommerce has become its own monoculture:
You think it’s never been easier to launch a brand? Honey, it’s never been easier to launch a podcast. Why so many
This nicheification is only possible when you have subcultures that go unrepresented by the larger monoculture. Monoculture is something we often equate to old media: appointment TV viewing, sporting events, late-night talk shows. But as eCommerce becomes more prolific, and captures more of retail spend, the industry at large becomes its own monoculture, unrepresentative of the niches that make up the larger whole.
The creator economy is a subculture of eCommerce. CPG and DTC are also subcultures. Optimization, Amazon, performance marketing, subscription, celebrity brands, wellness; anything that has an industry-specific event will eventually have its own media brands that serve it, each with their own in-groups and out-groups.
We hadn’t thought of it like, but, damn, that’s right. And it made us think. So, we’re borrowing this insight for today’s newsletter.
To us, the most interesting part of that insight—especially as it relates to growing a brand—is two-fold:
Ecommerce isn’t exactly new. In fact, 20 years ago, it was a subculture itself. It has grown enough that it is now a monoculture all its own.
The earliest days of any subculture offer what the cool kids call arbitrage moments. Those moments, though, die out unless the subculture grows to support the gold rush.
Related, somehow, from our memories is this 2019 article on the state of streetwear (now a monoculture of its own):
“In the early ’90s, we were all rooted in some sort of subculture,” said Erik Brunetti, the designer behind the label FUCT. “For example, skateboarding or graffiti or punk rock. Versus brands today, they’re not really rooted in any sort of subculture. They just sort of appeared out of nowhere.”
The wave got big enough, in other words, that, somewhere along the line, someone—founders, investors, customers, etc—didn’t think the brand story didn’t matter as much. That’s a good wave to ride.
In April, Dr. James Richardson had a blog post that, in essence, covered this topic, particularly as it relates to premium CPG. It’s worth reading here, but we’ll try to summarize it via this subculture/monoculture framework.
Richardson writes that the “better for you” subculture, if you will, will remain a subculture: “Not because there was no demand, but because these outcomes only scale when tied to weight management.”
It’s a worthy counterpoint to the investment thesis in the better for you space.
The subculture that Richardson does see becoming a monoculture?
“What is getting lost to some is that plenty of untapped white spaces remain beyond health. The origin of premium food and beverage … was purely hedonic.”
The point here, we guess, is that certain subcultures have room to grow and others don’t. We often overestimate the possibilities of some. Some refer to this as markets. In consumer, though, the subculture/monoculture might be a better framework.