What in the World—Week of December 6

Is Instagram recommending smaller followings?
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Instagram has quietly been encouraging users to create second accounts to “keep up with a smaller group of friends.” While the financial core of the social platform has been larger networks to increase engagement and advertising opportunities, some of the experts WSJ spoke with suggested the move could be seen as a shift away from “public-facing, like-hungry posts to more private discussions among closer-knit groups.” That possible change in direction comes amidst a growing discussion about the benefits and harms of social media use. “Instagram has identified a need in the marketplace for a return to privacy, or it would not be promoting the option,” Stacy Jones, chief executive of influencer-marketing company Hollywood Branded, told the paper. “There is a shift, or at least an acknowledgment, that we as humans don’t necessarily want to live only public lives.” However, Dan Ives, an analyst at investment firm Wedbush Securities, suggested the new accounts could lead to an advertising boost with renewed engagement for those who’ve grown disenchanted with the overload experience of accounts with larger groups.

Panera has an ugly idea for the holidays
Panera is paying homage to the ugly sweater trend that’s so ubiquitous at this time of year with a series of ugly holiday cups. The company worked with TikTok star Emily Zugay, best known for putting her intentionally bad twist on logos for brands including Adobe, Tampax and the Detroit Lions (rewritten as “lines”), to create the cups. They feature everything from deliberately misspelled words like “raindeer,” to crudely drawn renderings of a snowflake and gingerbread man. “While this time of year generally means beautifully designed holiday packaging, Panera wants to remind us that it’s what’s on the inside—the gift of unlimited, premium Panera coffee—that matters most,” said the company in a release.

Square becomes Block
Days after Jack Dorsey announced he was stepping down from Twitter, his other business, Square, is being rebranded as Block, signalling a move beyond credit card reader technology and into blockchain. Dorsey started Square in 2009 with a focus on making it easier for vendors to accept credit card payments, and has since expanded to a “peer-to-peer digital banking app and small business lending, received a bank charter, and begun offering crypto and stock trading,” reported CNBC. In a statement, Block said the new name “has many associated meanings for the company—building blocks, neighborhood blocks and their local businesses, communities coming together at block parties full of music, a blockchain, a section of code, and obstacles to overcome.”

AMC’s Spider-Man NFTs pay off
An AMC promotion that saw NFTs given away to those pre-ordering tickets to the newest Spider-Man movie led to the second largest one-day ticket sales in AMC Entertainment history, said CEO Adam Aron. AMC worked with Sony Pictures to create 86,000 NFTs in 100 different designs, which were offered to members of AMC’s loyalty program. “You were right when so many of you suggested movie themed NFTs,” tweeted Aron last Wednesday. Markets Insider describes Aron as a “social-media savvy executive” who has taken AMC into the world of digital assets. “Aside from the Spiderman NFT offering, the company also allows its customers to pay for tickets and concessions using cryptocurrencies.” AMC accepts bitcoin, ether, bitcoin cash and litecoin for online payments.

Chipotle launches cilantro-scented soap
Chipotle Mexican Grill has introduced a bar of soap that smells like cilantro, aiming it at the 4% to 14% of the population who encounter a soapy taste whenever they eat the herb that’s a staple of Mexican cuisine. The soap arose out of an August post on the Mexican fast casual chain’s Instagram channel featuring a mock-up of the cilantro-scented soap that read “Okay, but what if soap tasted like cilantro.” The soap, which costs $8, has already sold out. “Our Cilantro Soap plays into a larger trend of turning digital moments into real life experiences,” said Chipotle’s chief marketing officer Chris Brandt in a release.

David Brown