50 Books on Imagining and Re-Imagining Cities
Stark Reviews: A Fistful of Fingers (1995)

Amazon is a Slytherpuff and Other Revelations

The brand that lived

The managing director of the Licensing Industry Merchandising Association nails it in a guest piece for Campaign

Harry Potter is more than the films, more than the books. It is a genuine lifestyle brand.... Along the way its brand DNA has grown to encompass imagination in all its infinite possibilities, outdoing conventional fashion brands at their own game.

I've argued in the past that Batman, Superman, Spider-man are all t-shirt brands with comic book spinoffs. I think Harry Potter belongs in that pantheon as well: geek culture brands where the identification is now so embedded that they're part of the visual vernacular. It isn't just about a nerd franchise being in Primark, it is about a nerd franchise being in Primark and coverage in the Sun.

If anything, Harry Potter's gone a step further and given us four lifestyle brands. Superhero logos say, generously, something about you. But the four Hogwarts houses have become a socially-accepted Meyers-Briggs self-classification

Whenever we're in the States, we are shocked by how ubiquitous sports clothing is. At any given time, it seems like half the population is wearing a cap, shirt or jacket with a team logo on it. And, why not? As far as Granfalloons go, that's a solid one: geographic identification + hobby or interest. A fact plus an attitude. Superhero clothing only has half that: if you're wearing a Batman shirt, it only includes the latter. Your Harry Potter house, with its list of associated attributes, is closer to the former.

The downside, I suppose, is if people start caring too much. Sports gear is much less prevalent in the UK because the significance is more than casual - that's why most pubs have a 'no football strip' allowed. Presumably self-identified Gryffindors won't start knifing self-identified Slytherins, but then, you never would've thought 'kicking a ball around' would eventually spiral into that sort of thing as well.

Another thing about Amazon

Yes, I'm obsessed. But this is rather amazing investigative journalism here - Amazon owns several dozen (at least) brands. Secretly. From linens to lingerie, Amazon's manufacturing, distributing and selling products. And competing on its own platform. This must scare the bejeesus out of anyone in, well, any industry. Amazon has the data - and metadata - to ensure its products succeed. And that's without being overtly 'cheaty', and simply manually futzing with search listings or even the way prices display. 

Amazon is a Slytherpuff. All the hard work, but no guarantee of fair play.

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-08-19/4b2babe0-a576-4678-9992-23422e3f181e.png
BBC's first weather forecast (1949) via Peculiar

Still more Amazon

Amazon are also making a foray into the world of ticketing. And that might not be a bad thing:

Consumers could theoretically find relief from high fees; venues, leagues and teams could sell more tickets; musicians and teams could sell more merchandise to consumers buying tickets; and Amazon could recruit more Prime members.

In the US, at least, ticketing is already a virtual monopoly, and I suspect TicketMaster isn't a particularly popular brand. For a very cursory dive into the UK audience, I checked YouGov. For the all-important 18-34s, 78% like/really like Amazon, compared to 64% for Ticketmaster. And only 9% don't like Amazon, compared to 22% for Ticketmaster. For those counting at home, that Amazon with a 69% net positive, and Ticketmaster lurking at 44%. And, again, that's the UK, not the US.

Ticketmaster thrives on its exclusive arrangements with venues, but Amazon easily has the cash to beat them out. Which could give us another winner, at least in the short term, as the various arenas pick up more money. (At least, in all things, until Amazon has the monopoly they need.) We probably won't see this happening for a few years, as most stadiums/venues are locked in to exclusives for multi-year deals, but when Amazon starts bidding crazy-money, that'll be more cash for cities, and a short term boom for stadiums.

It also gives us two other strands to follow. First, Amazon encroaching on physical spaces - from Whole Foods to their own bookshops to the Dash button. Amazon is not longer a website or even a shopping service, it is a way of life. Second, the Prime/not-Prime divide is just getting silly. Especially with this sort of 'real world' overlap. Remember the whole idea of the 'American Express' lifestyle? Here we have a brand where, for a monthly subscription, you get to go different places, get things more rapidly, see content that other people do not. Prime is rapidly becoming the new division between haves and have-nots.

And... it has nothing to do with publishing. 

Stuff and links and things

Speaking of geek franchises that exploded: this oral history of the Mortal Kombat movie is terrific. (The Hollywood Reporter)

The quest to catalog the art world. Given the 'arbitrary' value of art, and the incredible prices it fetches, I found this oddly revelatory. Who knew how little people - even auction houses - knew about how much art is out there?! (538)

The history of sportwriting's 'filthiest fuckup'. A good reminder that, as amateur journalism continues to mount, proper training and oversight is really, really important. (Deadspin)

The 'damaging myth of the loner genius nerd'. (NY Times)

Being an influencer is the new unpaid internship. Interesting as it touches on half the ethical argument - companies using and abusing influencers. But it is also means, as discussed previously, that influencers might not be presenting their 'reviews' in a completely ethical way, as they have personal goal that might just be inconsistent with being critical. (QZ)