Monday Musings (12/24/18)

Warhol the Wizard

Hey there,

Happy Holidays to you!!!

I attended the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York last week, and wow… it was excellent. 

The show was a window into another era. From the 1950s to the 1970s, American life was defined by three things: (1) mass media, (2) mass production, and (3) mass consumption. 

Some reflections on the show: 

  1. Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup painting reminded me of Henry Ford’s famous line: "You can have any color as long as it's black.” In pursuit of mass production, we let go of personalization. Millions and millions of Americans paid the same prices for the same products and the same stores.

  1. Instead of making art for advertisements, Warhol made advertisements as art. Warhol studied our obsession with fame, questioned the rise of commercialism, and highlighted the uniformity of most areas of American life.

  1. Marshall McLuhan called advertising the greatest art form of the 20th century: "Advertising in the 20th century did what religious art had done in the 13th century: it used its imagery and authority to create images that helped focus mass desires and beliefs.”

    As one elderly woman said to me: “Back in my day, drinking a Coke was a real treat. It was always special. A surprise or a celebration. Today, it’s a cheap commodity, but back then, Coca-Cola was really special.”

  2. To Warhol, Coca-Cola represented the emerging American culture. He once said: "What’s great about this country, is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest.”

  3. Warhol made art from the news. The work, from 1962, mirrors the technologies of the time. The painting is made to look like a photograph. The early technology of wire services, where photographs were sent electronically, didn’t have the crispness of today’s photographs.

  1. As we looked at the newspaper headline above, the same elderly woman said: “People used to be shocked when something big happened. Totally shocked. That doesn’t happen anymore. We’re desensitized now. The shared experience has disappeared."

  2. In his less famous works, Warhol experimented with the newspaper page as a subject for his own art. 

  1. The mass media age created celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, who replaced the saints of earlier centuries. The packaging of Hollywood celebrities resembled the packaging of mass-produced objects and consumer goods for consumers. Like the factories of the age, Warhol created multiple versions of the same drawings and reproduced them at scale. 

  2. Warhol was the king of remixes. Technological development led Warhol towards abstraction. By cropping, unsealing, simplifying, blurring, distorting, obscuring, patterning, or mediating images, Warhol repurposed images, products, and news stories.

  3. This might be the most important painting of all. It’s based on a large-scale painting of Mao Tse-Tung, the leader of Communist China, on the cover of a collection of his aphorisms known as "The Little Red Book.” At the time, that painting was believed to be the most reproduced image in the world.

    1. By showing people “the now,” Warhol explored the essence of mass media and showed society the future. As Marshall McLuhan wrote: “Art is a distant Early warning system to tell the old culture what’s beginning to happen to it.”

    2. Warhol watched TV transform America. As George Trow wrote: “On TV, he trivial is raised up to power. The powerful is lowered toward the trivial.”

    3. Warhol predicted the convergence of art and business. He famously said: “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

    4. Warhol was at the center of the New York City social scene. Instead of standing outside of the world like the artists before him, Warhol stood in the middle of it. He made friends with famous people and became famous himself. Observing the trends of the time, he anticipated the commodification of everything. 


Fresh Ideas

The Customer Acquisition Pricing Parade

I published this article a couple weeks ago, but it really took off this week. I co-wrote it with Nik Sharma — the best marketer I know.

This sentence inspired the article: "$0.40 of every VC dollar raised goes straight to user acquisition.”

We also wrote about: 

  1. Companies that used to focus on industries are now focusing on audiences.

  2. Competitive bids for the same inventory, addressing the same audience, drive up demand for the same real estate within a feed or a story. This is why Facebook ad prices are skyrocketing.

  3. We're shifting from a supply-driven world to a demand-driven world. Companies who cater to the needs of passionate customers will benefit from lowered customer acquisition costs and higher lifetime value, reduced churn and increased loyalty.

You can read the article here.


(Flashback): North Star Podcast with Sara Dietschy

Influencers are years ahead of the rest of us. They live at the frontier. Study influencers and you’ll see the future. 

Sara Dietchsy is a perfect example. She's a YouTuber, a musician, and an all-around incredible human being.

Themes from the podcast: 

  1. Creating Serendipity  

  2. Habits vs. Goals  

  3. Music, Movies + Basketball  

  4. The Future of YouTube

  5. Why people want to connect with people, not brands

Listen to the podcast here.


Coolest Things I Learned This Week

M.C Escher was a Mastermind

This is mesmerizing.


America is an Entertainment Superpower

"UFC is an amazing spectacle, and so many things had to be developed before something of that quality could be produced. 

Think of Vegas, first of all, a remote city in the desert that has managed to attract people, not just for this fight, but year-round for entertainment. Second, consider all the accouterments around the fight: the seamless transitions; the interludes from Joe Rogan and Bruce Buffer, who are both talented announcers; the special effects of lighting, fog, and music, all of which combine to marvelous effect. Third, think about what it takes to market this type of event. And finally the fighters themselves, who know what they have to do to provide a good show. It was then I felt that I grasped how outstanding the US is at producing entertainment. 

This is a valuable cultural competence. I don’t think there are any other countries that can develop an audience and put on so many types of high-quality shows.”

That is from Dan Wang. I recommend the entire post.


Seoul, South Korea has more Starbucks than Any Other City


The Bay Area has a bigger economy than all the blue states


The American Oil Shift

The US is now producing more crude oil than it imports for the first time since the mid-1990s. US crude oil production (blue line) flipped up around 2010, as fracking kicked into gear.

This is one of the most important stories in the world right now….


CVS Receipts Double as Wrapping Paper!


Writing Education Falls into Two Buckets

Writing education falls into two buckets: 

1. Analyzing literature and writing 5-paragraph essays. 

2. Communicating ideas in clear, simple and convincing ways. 

Schools focus on Bucket #1 at the expense of Bucket #2. Why? Writing education is shaped by PhD English programs.

(As you may know, my goal for 2019 is to help 1,000 people start writing. I’m working on a scalable system for writing education — all of it focused on bucket #2.)

If you want to hear more about the project, click this link


Photo of the Week

The photo of the week goes right back to Andy Warhol, and his iconic Campbell’s Soup Painting.

Happy Holidays,

David Perell