What in the World—Week of November 7

Ralph Lauren updates Polo logo as part of Fortnite partnership

More like Polo Ralph Llauren, right? The fashion brand has added a 21st Century twist to its iconic Polo Pony logo as part of a new partnership with the hugely popular multiplayer game Fortnite that includes a digital and physical Polo Stadium collection.

The updated logo shows the iconic polo player that has been a fixture of the Ralph Lauren brand since 1974, except his trusty steed has been replaced by Fortnite’s “loot llama.” The physical and digital collections draw inspiration from the brand’s Stadium collection and Polo Sport line from the 1990s.

Ralph Lauren said the partnership is a testament to its belief in “the power of the metaverse.” “[O]ur collaboration with Fortnite will deliver a ground-breaking experience to a new community of next-generation players and consumers,” said the company’s chief branding and innovation officer, David Lauren, in a release. “Our partnership represents a completely fresh take on the Ralph Lauren brand—designing for the metaverse first—that is thoroughly focused on the future.”

Mastodon emerges as the ‘new’ social media platform

The little-known social network Mastodon has exploded into public consciousness in recent days, with Twitter users leaving the app or seeking a second option fearing a rise in misinformation and toxic content under new owner Elon Musk.

Mastodon creator Eugen Rochko told CNN that the ad-free platform has gained more than 230,000 users since Musk took control of Twitter on Oct. 27. They include the comedian Kathy Griffin and the prominent Twitter media figure Molly Jong-Fast.

According to Rochko, Mastodon now has 655,000 active users each month. It’s a fraction of Twitter’s nearly 238 million daily active users, but the biggest the platform has been since its 2016 launch. While Mastodon’s user experience is similar to Twitter—albeit with “toots” replacing tweets—Mashable explains that it is a decentralized social media service built around servers (called “instances”) managed by users that can be region or subject-specific.

Airbnb’s shift to brand marketing has produced strong results
Airbnb says that a shift in its marketing has produced solid business results, with the company recently posting its most profitable quarter ever. On an earnings call, chief financial officer Dave Stephenson said that a shift from search marketing to more brand advertising and PR was a key factor, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Our brand marketing results are delivering excellent results overall with a strong rate of return, and it’s been so successful that we’re actually expanding to more countries,” said Stephenson.

While relying more on TV campaigns and earned media, the company has also scaled back its overall advertising investment, with sales and marketing expenses dropping 28% in Q1 of 2021 from the corresponding year-earlier period. The decline came as the company shifted away from performance marketing to an approach more focused on using the strength of its brand to attract guests.

Nike suspends Kyrie Irving partnership, shelves new shoe
Sponsors are discovering the pitfalls of aligning with well-known but temperamental sports and entertainment stars. In the wake of high-profile brands including Balenciaga, Gap, and Adidas cutting ties with Kanye West over antisemitic remarks, Nike announced Friday it has suspended its relationship with NBA star Kyrie Irving following similarly antisemitic behaviour.

Nike also announced its signature shoe with the Brooklyn Nets player, the Kyrie 8, was being shelved. “At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism,” said the company in a statement quoted by The Washington Post.

The controversy began when Irving posted a link to the antisemitic documentary “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” and refused to apologize. The Nets also suspended the star for a minimum of five games without pay, saying he was “currently unfit” to be associated with the team. Irving finally relented and posted an apology to his Instagram account late Thursday.

Macy’s to fund minority-owned businesses

Macy’s, the largest department store chain in the U.S., is pledging $30 million over the next five years to support minority-owned businesses, says The New York Times. The funds will be made available as loans for working capital and commercial real estate, as well as growth equity capital, and will be provided to both new and existing vendor partners.

According to the Times, Macy’s has been trying to ensure that its vendors are more representative of the U.S. population. In 2020, it signed the 15 Percent Pledge asking businesses to make 15% of their shelf space available to Black-owned brands. That has led to an eight-fold increase in Black-owned brands on Macy’s shelves, although it has not yet achieved the 15% benchmark.

In an analysis about 18 months ago, Macy’s determined that despite being well-regarded and consistently providing quality service, minority vendors were doing less than $10 million in business with the department store.

Chris Powell