insights in culture

Brands & Outliers: Optimization Culture Shows Up In Curious New Places

Second-order insights in strategy.

Welcome to our second episode of Brands & Outliers, where our team does a wide sweep of culture and presents every recent finding they think is worth noting.

Culture is going more deep and more human. As the time-space compression of AI becomes more clear, people are grasping for some very specific islands of stability.

One of those islands is the strong tie communities that used to only exist in the fringes, but are now clearly starting to concern platforms like Instagram and TikTok. 

Meanwhile, brands are catering to a fragmenting of human experience, consistent with our projection of High Fidelity Society slowly taking over the world, market by market. New innovations and infrastructures, from TrovaTrip to Asian American malls, aren’t built upon the standard, but rather the exception.

Against this backdrop, the relentless pursuit of optimization is reaching a fever pitch in our gendered spaces, including the rise of T Parties (sort for testosterone parties), male plastic surgery and the quasi-moral discourse around Ozempic. 

And while these forces ensure that we continue to sort ourselves into niche tribes, there is one bastion of social class mixing that stands strong. It is not the church, not the school or the community park, but rather the humble chain restaurant.  

With that in mind, please come and enjoy this delicious buffet of insights. Timestamps of highlights below. 

00:13 AI and the Human Experience

  • 00:17 A solid theory on how the time-space compression of AI is going to have certain psychological effects on people, and the islands of stability we’ll cling to.
  • 03:35 We’re at the peak of the AI hype cycle, but it’s worth remembering that while technology is fast, people are slow.
  • 10:16 Positive uses of AI that can literally change how we know and remember ourselves. 

15:04 The Era of Strong Ties

  • 15:38 We’re posting less on public feeds and sharing more in DMs. 
  • 16:43 Even weak tie networks like TikTok have begun building for depth rather than breadth.
  • 22:35 Brands like TrovaTrip reveal something interesting: one of the best indicators of compatibility between people in real life is if they follow the same influencer.
  • 25:25 A bright spot in the wasteland that is America’s malls: Asian malls are thriving, likely because they are strong centers for community and connection, not just consumption.

26:13 Changing Experiences of Gender and Gender Roles

  • 26:42 “T Parties” (short for testosterone parties), Ozempic and the uptick in male plastic surgery remind us that we used to be able to just live, but now we have to maximize. 
  • 30:06 Women are being priced out of motherhood, and it may pose a problem for aging populations in Europe.
  • 31:53 With the girlboss era being over and nothing to replace it, there’s a gaping hole in the working woman’s narrative.

37:23 Equity and Inclusion, Privacy, Attention and Other Insights

  • 40:52 Big brands are getting into recommerce, working with companies like thredUP and Archive to capture sales in the ever-growing secondhand market. 
  • 44:00 Surveillance chic and “If I go missing” folders are here.
  • 52:46 Olive Garden is a sanctuary of class mixing.
  • 55:57 The semiotics of Halloween. 

Written By
Jasmine Bina​

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Written By

Jasmine Bina

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