DIP 036: Surfing the net
Plus, DTC TVP, Korean spa culture-inspired loungewear, and a psilocybin lifestyle label
👋 Hi. I’ve been settling into hibernation season, watching The Sex Lives of College Girls and welcoming my Dutch oven back into my weekly cooking rotation. I’ve also set a rule for myself that I can only buy a new cookbook after borrowing it from the library at least twice (which, yes, PSA, you can borrow cookbooks from your library!) as a means of confirming that I’d use it often. Falastin is looking like it might be my next purchase. As always, reply with questions, comments, or thoughts about anything you read here.
This issue features 23 brands. Fifty-two percent are white-led, 17 percent are Black-led, and 22 percent are led by non-Black people of color. You can find the complete Chips + Dips inclusion index here.
The Chips 🎨
Jacobsen Salt Co. makes discs of packed salt optimized for salting pasta water.
Hairtelligence leverages AI to produce better fitting, better looking wigs.
Even is a supplement intended to combat medication-induced nutrient deficits.
Bumpn makes sex toys for people with hand limitations.
Willo is a vertical farm CSA.
For Them is a wellness company for queer folx offering community, educational resources, and products like chest binders.
Plant Boss is DTC TVP (textured vegetable protein, for the non-hippies in the room).
Keep an eye out for Ghost Town, an oat milk label launching soon.
Sauna makes loungewear inspired by Korean spa culture.
Jewelry company Saeyri launched a spice-inspired collection of earrings and necklaces.
Chaiboy makes tea blends that also serve as cocktail ingredients.
Farmmm makes soft, whimsical sculptures.
Celeste is a forthcoming premium fragrance line made for and by Black women.
… and Yawn is a psilocybin-focused lifestyle brand.
The Dip 🖼️
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? Would this really be a newsletter if I didn’t have something to say about web3? (Pause. Curious about what web3 even is? Start here.) Self-deprecation aside, I’m watching the web3 universe with guarded interest despite not yet having properly dipped my toes into it.
I’m generally very cautious and skeptical of hype. I understand the world that crypto and DAOs and a (non-Facebook-run) metaverse can unlock, particularly for creatives and creators. Yet much of what I observe strikes me as the same sort of exclusivity and wealth accumulation we’ve been seeing, not the decentralization and access that web3 is supposed to facilitate. So rather than pontificate, I’m going to highlight fragments of the web3 universe that exist today that have helped me to better understand where we might be heading.
Acronyms and initialisms
Arfa, the short-lived house of brands (see: DIP 007 and DIP 027), worked with a panel of consumers, dubbed the Collective, to develop its products. Five percent of profits were reserved for members of the Collective, distributed as a means of recognizing their contributions to the company. Their input into product development and marketing and, more importantly, their payout, is DAO-adjacent.
Or, look at Glossier’s stickers. The brand includes seasonal logo stickers in each order. Glossier sticker collections are a point of pride among fans — a currency that proves loyalty. The stickers are often listed on resale sites, too. This obsession with collecting and the community it signifies is NFT-adjacent.
In both examples, the web3 translation is more of a big step than it is a giant leap. The foundation has already been laid. Customer-led product development becomes DAO-led product development, seasonal collectibles become NFTs, and the emphasis on community we’ve seen over the last five-plus years grows stronger.
Playing video games
Remember Animal Crossing? The game everyone was playing in late spring of 2020? Where brands created their own islands and released their own clothing? That was conditioning us for the metaverse. 2PM’s May 2020 essay unpacks this further.
There’s also Roblox, which hosted a Lil Nas X concert that 33 million people viewed, opened a virtual restaurant with Chipotle to give out one million burritos, and, more recently, is hosting Nike’s foray into the metaverse, NIKELAND.
These online gaming worlds are successful and have a relatively low barrier to entry in part because they’re not weighed down by the jargon of web3. They’re games. You play them. You build worlds in which to hang out with friends, and over time your digital worlds — and the relationships they facilitate — grow richer and more intertwined.
The real reason we’re here
The real reason I’m writing this — and the idea that sparked it — is that I think we’re about to see a resurgence of brand mascots.
Duolingo’s TikTok made this click for me. Personas are easier to translate to metaverse applications than real people. The mascot represents the brand and becomes the thing that consumers engage with. It has a personality, it tells a story, and it doesn’t depend on one person — or the same person — to bring it to life.
OffLimits is doing this, too. Each flavor of cereal has a distinct character. When the brand first launched, it had separate social streams for Dash and Zombie. It has its own version of Saturday morning cartoons. OffLimits comes to life online through the expression of its mascots.
This isn’t to say that every company needs a mascot, in the same way that not every consumer brand needs a web3 strategy — yet. I’m sure we’ll get there. But what’s interesting, at least for now, is that the progression is shaping up to be a natural one. It’s more of the same, just under a different name, with a different interface, and increasingly online.
Andrea Hernández’s essay on web3 dining is a treat.
Real Dip 📸
Spicy peanut sauce.
Start with a heaping spoonful of peanut butter (Fix & Fogg Smoke and Fire is preferred). Add small spoons of soy sauce, fish sauce, and your chili crisp of choice. Add a splash of sesame oil and some sliced garlic. Start to stir, adding splashes of cold water as you go until the sauce has emulsified and is as dense or drippy as you like. Taste it — you might need more soy sauce.
Plays well with dumplings, roasted sweet potatoes, and sliced cucumbers.
Thanks for snacking,
— Emily 🕳️