For me? You shouldn’t have.

No, seriously...

A newsletter about branding, startups, and mission-driven companies aiming to make the world a better place.

👋 Welcome to For The Love, I’m so happy to have you all here! 

Today we’ll be discussing:

  • This year is different.™ Gift Guide Edition

  • A roundup of new launches this week, including many holiday gift sets 

  • It’s getting cold out there but this is excessive

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🎄 For The Love of The Holidays

This year is obviously different from other holiday seasons, but you’d never know it from my inbox. 

“The Gift Shop is Open,” “Our Gift Guide is Here,” “100 Gifts under $100,” all stocked with the same scentless status candles (Wait… Did I have Covid?), luxe bathrobes, and glittering jewelry of years past. 

Oh, and of course, whiskey stones. Every gift guide everywhere thinks your father/brother/husband/boyfriend/insert male in your life here needs a set of whiskey stones. 

I promise you, every man who wants whiskey stones already has them. 

And then, there’s Goop. They’re convinced there’s someone in your life that needs a $35k “Pyramid Commode”.

No, no, they’re not asking you to sit on anything with a pointed top. A commode is an old British term for a piece of furniture. However, this is no ordinary dresser. 

This chest of drawers “energetically lifts the vibrations of whatever room it’s in.” 

Wouldn’t it be cheaper to get a puppy?

All the bathrobes, matching sweatsuits, and candles are useful but what most of us need is something more meaningful — connection. 

According to multiple psychological studies, experiential gifts form a stronger bond than objects. One 2014 study indicated “that experiential purchases provide greater satisfaction and happiness because: (1) Experiential purchases enhance social relations more readily and effectively than material goods; (2) Experiential purchases form a bigger part of a person’s identity.”

And brands know this — you may have heard the phrase “experience economy.” This AdAge article explains how it started:

"‘Experience economy’ is not a new concept. In a 1998 article, B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore predicted the experience economy would be the next economic revolution, following the agrarian economy, the industrial economy, and the service economy. Pine and Gilmore argued that businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product: the ‘experience’ that would give brands a competitive advantage by winning more customers and being able to keep them.”

Given that many of us won’t be with our loved ones this year (or will, only after multiple swabs and weeks of isolation), connection is more important than ever, and experiential gifting is a great way to achieve that. 

A few brands that have made connection core to their DNA are providing opportunities for experiences, even to host a holiday party.

According to Jessica Latham, co-founder of Social Studies, a rental service for everything you need to dress your dinner table:

“Everyone wants their holiday table to feel special and celebratory! This year is a little different of course. The groups are smaller and more intimate. We’re also doing a ton of multi-home celebrations where we are sending the same kit to many different households so they can all ‘sit at the same table’ if you will even if not together.  Many of these families are also sharing recipes in advance for food and cocktails so they have a cohesive experience, even though they are physically apart.”

Jessica told me: 

“My favorite tagline that we use is ‘Everyone’s Invited.” And we mean it…everyone is invited to our table. We want the Social Studies community to be a warm and welcoming one where our hosts are relaxed and guests feel taken care of.”

It’s the same feeling some beverage brands evoke as they aim to find a place at your table.

Haus, an all-natural low-ABV aperitif, was “designed to be a social ritual. For that moment in the day when we can slow down, wake up, and be present with people we like.”

Co-founder Helena Price Hambrecht explained to me:

“Gathering around food and drinks is something that’s been important to me and Woody for our entire lives, and Haus is a natural extension of that.”

They were inspired by European drinking culture where “people weren’t drinking to get wasted — they were drinking to connect, have intellectual conversations and make new friends.”

It’s a joyful way to connect with the ones you love — sharing festive cocktails, even remotely. Helena told me that their holiday sampler kits are selling 10x higher than projected. 

After all, if you can’t be together in person, at least you can be spirit.

If making cocktails isn’t your (or your giftees) activity of choice, brands are making small kits for pretty much everything these days. Farmsteady has kits for hot sauce, cheese, and bagels. How about mochi ice cream for dessert? 

And it doesn’t have to be consumable — there are pottery kits, plant-based dye kits, and candle kits, all stocked with everything you need for an evening of entertainment. 

Another way to make your gift a memorable experience is to commemorate one.

Infinite Objects video prints capture both the nostalgia for our pre-pandemic lives but also gives us the hope that we’ll soon be out and about in the world again.

Each frame is made to hold one image, and one image only — valuing that one moment and elevating it to an art piece. In the ephemeral world of digital capture, where one photo or video is easily scrolled past or swapped out for another, it’s even more meaningful to highlight that one special, shared experience.

In a year where values were on the ballot, it’s not surprising that they made it to gift lists as well. 

I spoke to gifting-experts Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo, of A Thing Or Two podcast and newsletter, and co-founders of Of A Kind (RIP), about how gifting is reflecting more meaningful trends this year.

“We think about shopping and consumption, and the role that we all play in trying to support the businesses that we care about...People are starting to reckon with their consumption habits,” explained Claire.

Erica added, “There are so many inequities in our society, and people want to address that...What do people actually need? Is a person going to use these things? What's a different route to go?”

It’s thoughtful to buy someone a gift that they want, but even more so if that gift aligns with their values. 

An avid cook that values sustainability? Try Goldune — an online shop for earth-friendly home, lifestyle, and personal care.

A makeup lover that supports diverse founders? There’s Geenie — a beauty marketplace stocked with BIPOC, queer, and womxn-owned brands.

That level of thought and care won’t go unnoticed. And you’ll support a good cause, and a small business, in the process. 

Whether it’s celebrating a friend's values, or creating an opportunity to celebrate together, it will make you both feel more connected, and make gifting more meaningful this year.

Unless you really have someone in your life that needs a $35k “Pyramid Commode.” Just promise to let me know if their vibrations are lifted.

🔥 For The Love of Newness

House of Wise is a new line of CBD drops and gummies for stress, sex, and sleep.

JLo blessed us with a sneak peek of her new beauty line, and as suspected, it’s glow-y.

Aplós is a new addition to the plant-based, non-alcoholic spirit club.

Momofuku and East Fork released custom color dishware in honor of Momofuku’s new line of savory, spicy, and tingly salts.

Travis Scott is bringing his Midas touch to Byredo, by way of a “Space Race” fragrance and candle.

Glossier dropped holiday sets, including balm dot com roulette (aka three surprise flavors). 

Bread made a decidedly Spring-y limited-run holiday scrunchy named “baby-picnic bread-puff.”

Away released Mini Gift Sets for Adventure, Wellness, Bliss, and more.

🔍 For The Love of the Details

Ever cozied up under a warm blanket and thought - what if this blanket were bigger?

Ever had that thought on newly legalized mushrooms?

Meet the Big Blanket.

Now, snuggling under a blanket comes with the added risk that Elon Musk and a team of divers might need to help get you out. 

Is this ad the prequel to Willy Wonka--back when Charlie Bucket’s grandparents were young and hot?

Also, these people are way too close to each other. If you want to sell a big blanket during a pandemic, why wouldn’t you tout the fact that you and three of your friends could share it and still meet 6ft social distancing requirements?

It’s *arguably* the perfect gift. 

Who’s arguing this? The blonde woman Rudy Guiliani brought to the Michigan Trial?

Are the missing ballots under the blanket somewhere?

The amount of the blanket that is now all over the floor is very triggering to me.

Thank you for being part of For The Love! 

A few more things...

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Written by Aja Singer, a brand and creative strategy consultant interested in all things startup, mission-driven, and community. Born in Canada. Based in Brooklyn. You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter.