DIP 008: Are you sensing a pattern?
PLUS: Spring becomes District, The Inside moves outside, and Warby Parker's new pencils
👋 Hi. Happy long weekend. Back in March, Google partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to create an interactive game called “Where on Google Earth is Carmen Sandiego?” It’s now back with a second installment. Bookmark it for a rainy day. And as always, reply with any questions, comments, or additional thoughts about anything you read here.
The Chips 📀
After being acquired by Shoprunner last year, Spring has been spun into District, a shopping app whose primary selling point seems to be free two-day shipping.
Art-tech platform Artsy has added a “Buy Now” button to select artworks.
The Inside launched furniture for… the outside.
Declare is a new women’s leadership community that seems to be very similar to Chief. [Edit May 23, 2:48pm — Turns out Declare isn’t new, it’s a rebrand of Parity Partners. That’s my fault for not digging deeper. Thank you to those who brought this to my attention.]
Amazon is leaning into partnerships. It recently announced a line of house paint made by Dotdash’s The Spruce and is working with top-tier influencers for product drops.
Warby Parker opened a pencil store at the new TWA Flight Center.
The Dip 🔥
A brand is more than just a name and logo. A brand is a point of view, and the products it creates are a direct expression of that. Sometimes a brand is founded with a clear story, and other times the story gets knitted together by an agency.
The Power Brokers
It’s rare for an agency to partner with clients in the way that Red Antler and Gin Lane do. Because so many founders approach them at the outset (sometimes at the urging of investors), and often ask for more than just a visual identity, the agencies effectively become members of a brand’s founding team.
Both will take equity from clients, especially when working with a company that’s just starting out. They are, quite literally, invested in a client’s success.
Case in point: Otherland, a candle company that works in close collaboration with Red Antler. Founder Abigail Cook Stone went to the agency with the desire to create a luxury candle company. Red Antler founder JB Osborne was drawn to Stone and agreed to work with her, building the company from scratch — name, identity, products, strategy, and all.
This episode of Bloomberg’s Decrypted podcast offers strong insights into how Otherland was born, noting that Red Antler acted as both agency and incubator. In the same way that investors may encourage a portfolio company to work with Red Antler, working with Red Antler can lend a new brand legitimacy in the eyes of investors.
Gin Lane’s Patterns
Gin Lane is pushing the agency-incubator hybrid even further. Crunchbase cites it as having participated in seed rounds for nine different brands, and it’s launching a holding company of its own. (Related: DIP 007 dug into Henry Davis’ Arfa, Inc., a forthcoming “house of brands.”)
Pattern is building a family of brands that help “our generation find more joy in their lives at home,” according to its careers page. [Edit May 23, 10:13pm — Pattern’s job listings have been wiped and the related links are therefore broken. || Edit May 24, 4:52pm — Pattern re-uploaded some job listings with revised copy that no longer speaks to the specifics of each brand.]
Its first company, Equal Parts, is slated to launch this summer. According to job descriptions, it aims to “[help] consumers reintroduce cooking as a rewarding part of daily life.” The trademark filing for Equal Parts suggests that it will be a tech-powered meal kit, covering kitchen tools, software, and ingredient delivery, with cooking coaches to answer questions as they arise.
Following the launch of Equal Parts, Pattern will launch Open Spaces, a home organization brand that, according to its General Manager job listing, will “[help] consumers rethink their approach to home organization and storage.”
Gin Lane has already proven that it knows how to build successful brands. Now, it’s owning the process. I’m eager to see what Pattern creates and curious to learn more about how it will operate. I don’t think much will be lost in the erasure of a founding story or team (think: Ty Haney’s approachable alternative to Nike, or Rich and Vicki Fulop’s fruitless search for affordable, high-quality bedding), but it’s something to keep an eye on.
In 2018, Glossier acquired the digital product agency that it had worked with since 2014, spinning it into an in-house tech department
AB InBev built an in-house agency, called Draftlines, to work across its 42 brands
Real Dip 📰
My favorite thing about spring is buying ingredients at the farmers market that demand more work than I otherwise prefer to put into food. Like shelling and blanching fresh peas and fava beans…
Start with two cups of fresh peas (about 1.5 lbs of pods) and one cup of fava beans (about 1 pound of pods). Shell 'em all, preferably accompanied by mindless TV or a good podcast.
Boil a pot of heavily salted water. Add the shelled peas and fava beans, letting them simmer for about five minutes, until bright green. Transfer the peas and fava beans to a bowl of ice water, or just put them in a colander and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes.
Once they've cooled, add your peas and favas, juice from one lemon, a clove of garlic, a three-second pour of olive oil, and big pinches of both salt and pepper to a food processor. Pulse until everything is combined but still kind of chunky. Smear it on good toast and top it with your favorite grilled vegetables.
Thanks for snacking,
— Emily ⚙