Marketing BS Links 8/18 - Epic, Humans and the fastest star in the Galaxy

The stuff you need to know as a Third Way CMO from the past week

I am recoding podcasts this week and have contracted with a few different agencies for editing. More to come soon. No follow-ups from yesterdays essay. Onto the links:


  • Epic/Apple/Google: Biggest news of the week dropped on Thursday. Epic Games, maker of the immensely popular "Fortnite", began informing users inside their apps that they could purchase in-game credits at a 20% discount if they went “direct”. This is blatantly against the policies of both the Apple and Google stores, and both companies responded almost immediately by removing the ability to instal new instances of the game. Epic obviously knew this was going to happen and responded with both lawsuits and a parody video of the most famous commercial in advertising history (Apple's "1984" Superbowl Ad). The Ad is great, the legal argument is more fraught. While offering the discount is clearly better for larger publishers and developers with solid brands behind them (Epic, Basecamp, Microsoft, etc), it is less clear it is an unmitigated good for smaller publishers and consumers. If every app encouraged and gave discounts for payments outside of the app stores it would add a great deal of friction to app purchases for consumers who would now have the added risk of fraud on many transactions, and would not necessarily lead to lower prices. From a PR perspective, Apple and Google have played is smart and are NOT removing existing Fortnite installs - so their actions only inconvenience NEW users - who may just never consider Fortnite a "mobile game". So whatever public leverage Epic’s play will have is will have to happen by shifting the conversation through the lawsuit and in the media/political sphere - users are unlikely to care. But given the "pass" Apple received at the anti-trust congressional hearing, that conversation shift may be valuable on its own. Note also that Apple is already in lawsuit with Spotify on this issue in the EU. Developing. More to come! Link to the legal complaint. Great Matthew Ball Essay on what Epic is thinking. Benedict Evans has a nuanced take that he has shared with paid subscribers that he said will be available on his website later this week.

  • Apple bundle: More Apple news. Bloomberg reports that Apple is in the early stages launching a bundle (TV, music, news, games) in October with their new iphone. Assuming nothing crazy happens this week (is that possible in 2020?) this will be the basis of my essay next Monday.

  • Uber/Lyft: The two ride sharing companies announced they may leave California due to requirements that their drivers must be employees and not contractors. Related to the above bullet, a job is ALSO a bundle. Contracting un-bundles, removing health care and stability and adding flexibility. Regulators don't like that

  • Mozilla: 90% of Mozilla’s revenue comes from payments Google makes to be the default search engine in their FireFox browser. The EU has said those payments are anti-competitive. So now Mozilla is laying off 25% of their employees and searching for a new business model. Unintended (but expected) side effects of anti-trust regulation is reducing competition in the browser market.

  • TikTok: Trump extended the divestiture deadline from 45 days to 90 days.



Business and Strategy

  • Twitter: A few weeks ago it leaked that Twitter is considering a paid subscription product. Patrick Campbell did some research on user willingness to pay (high! ~$100/month for those with >$150K HH income) and price elasticity for different features. He looked at things like verification, no ads, follower boosting and privacy, but I expect the actual paid twitter paid product will be more technical to help manage accounts of power users. Matt Navarra has screen shots of Twitter market research that includes things like “badges”, auto-responses, undo-send, custom colors and more. Looks like they are at least exploring broadly at this point, but this type of market research often doesn’t translate at all into behavior.

  • Cookies: (The kind you eat) Orea and Hydrox are almost identical cookies created by competing brothers. This is the story of how Oreo won the sandwich cookie battle. The claim is their success was based on 1. Higher price point which caused them to be seen as “premium”; and 2. Licensing deals - like Oreo ice cream. It seems to me that if Hydrox had won this article could have been written in reverse (1. More competitive price; 2. Focus on the core)

  • Humans: Twitter thread on how Brandon Staton created Humans of New York. Lots of lessons on both consistency and randomness - his “big break” came from a photo he didn’t this was very good.

  • Spotify: Profile of Dawn Ostroff, the Spotify executive who negotiated to get Joe Rogen onto the platform

Data, Machine Learning and GPT-3

Psychology and Purpose

Post-COVID changes



  • I did not come across anything interesting this week. If you hear of something, please let me know and I will share it here

Keep it Simple,