Pilgrims, I think you're on mute

The Thanksgiving no one envisioned.

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:

  • The holidays are looking a little different this year

  • A roundup of new launches this week, including a new contender in the fight to froth your morning latte

  • The desk accessory you’ve been sleeping on

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🎄 For The Love of The Holidays

On Thanksgiving week, family is the number one thing on everyone’s mind — and this year, even more so. Many people are making the difficult, but understandable decision not to see their families in order to keep them safe.

Those who are getting together with others are (hopefully) working through the complex logistics of quarantines, testing, and propane refills.

Family has been front and center for me this week, for a different reason. Last Sunday, I lost my grandmother. 

As I would normally observe and comment on how brands navigate this year’s unique Thanksgiving and the impact that the pandemic is having on how we come together and celebrate, I’m forced to personally reckon with what this means for families who have lost loved ones this year.

Before I talk about how brands are navigating this challenging holiday season, I’ll take a moment to introduce you to this very special woman.

“Ima” was a force. 

At 92, she beat Coronavirus earlier this year — seemingly as a fitting finale that would remind us of her strength. She lived on a farm in rural Ontario, making her no stranger to the birth of baby animals. 

Yet, when I ask you to picture a woman who literally brought calves and foals into the world with her bare hands, is this who you would imagine?

As you can see, with strength, came style. She was always immaculately done up — fake lashes and nails perfectly manicured.

But what made her most incredible was how she brought people together. Ima (a nickname from the Hebrew word for mother) was the embodiment of hospitality. 

Every Friday, the whole family would drive up to her farm for dinner — not just our immediate family, but the whole family, which often included upwards of twenty. 

Until moving to the US, I didn’t realize that a big turkey dinner was just for Thanksgiving. It wasn’t an extravagance. It was necessary for feeding all the aunts, uncles, significant others, cousins, and whoever else Ima had come across throughout the week and told to stop by.

She created an environment where everyone was welcome. Whoever you were, whatever you did, you were invited to enjoy a warm meal and, even just for a night, to be a part of our family. 

And that’s why I have to admit that this year’s holiday season feels… 

...disappointing.

And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Over a quarter of a million families are missing loved ones around the holiday table this year. Others are making the difficult decision not to travel or not to gather, even if their families are close.

The reality is that this year didn’t give us a lot of things to celebrate. As we look out into the landscape of brands that are usually part of a festive holiday season, we’re expecting something different. 

I don’t envy the brand leaders who are tasked with acknowledging the reality of this holiday season, while still trying to offer messages of hope, inspiration, and love. 

But some are meeting the moment, including Etsy.

They released three holiday ads, each addressing relatable struggles of the holiday season, and most relevant to this year, one ad features grandparents celebrating Christmas morning away from their grandkids.

You should watch it here (along with the others) — its messaging is spot-on. It conveys the emotional toll of being separated for the holidays, and how a thoughtful, personalized gifting experience (including FaceTime, of course), can make you feel closer. 

Another holiday mainstay, for New Yorkers and holiday visitors, are the store windows. If you’ve ever tried (and I stress *tried*) to walk past Macy’s in the month of December, you know that they’re a huge draw. They bring shoppers into the stores (at the time of year that generates the most revenue), but also entertain. They are over-the-top, whimsical, and meant to draw huge crowds — not exactly social-distancing friendly.

In a recent interview, Saks Fifth Avenue’s CMO Emily Essner explained that their usual unveiling “was not appropriate for this year.”

She acknowledged their own disappointment as a team as much as that of their fans who have come to expect it.

“Though feeling sad, what we said was, 'Look, the windows and the light show are very much our annual gift to New York City. It's always important, but probably this year more than ever, it's critical that we do that.’ And that was something that we very much wanted to stand by." 

Instead of their traditional unveiling event, they’ll be live-streaming smaller ceremonies featuring special guests and donating to charities of their choosing.

Notably, they’ve designed their windows specifically to accommodate virtual viewing. 

The theme, “This Is How We Celebrate”, will acknowledge accommodation and adjustment — and the idea that 2020 brings with it many changes, not just around the pandemic. 

Brands that focus on trying to make the holidays special while acknowledging that they will be different are sure to resonate with consumers who are working hard to do the same thing in their own lives. 

Our family will do our best to make this holiday special, just as Ima always did.


🔥 For The Love of Newness

Move over almond, there’s a new milk in town, and it’s made from pistachios

Simulate (the maker of Nuggs that we discussed last week) released their first non-nugget product — Patties

The cutest pimple-patches just got even cuter.

A new line of “candles that smell”... like French Breakfast (aka baguettes and cigarettes).

In other candle news, two cult-favorite brands made a candle. It smells like Park Life.

Dunkin’ Donuts launched limited-edition merch, so if you’ve ever wanted a Dunkin’ bedspread, now’s the time.


💡 For The Love of Interestingness

Get a first look at the next generation of retail and consumer goods startups at XRC Labs’ Demo Day on December 15th at 12 pm ET. Sign up here.


🔍 For The Love of the Details

Sitting too much? Thinking about getting a standing desk? 

Other office furniture companies would have you believe that the solution to sitting too much is standing up more, but here at the world’s laziest furniture startup, we think you should just go back to bed…

Immediately.

Sure, you might think you’re in close proximity to adequate resting places like your couch and your bed, but are you as close as you *could* be?

Read our satisfied customer reviews:

Very relaxing - Review by Jordan on 20 Apr 2020

I was skeptical as to the utility of a hammock under my desk but once I was in it everything became clear and now I love being under there. It's the perfect place to relax while working on your laptop, or for someone else to chill while you're using the desk.

Ok, so clearly Jordan’s purchase came with an Uplift employee laying in the hammock who held her up at gunpoint from under the desk.

“Jordan, are you ok?”

“Yes, I’m fine… everything became so clear. This is a great desk.”

“Is there a person lying in the hammock underneath you?”

“No, seriously, this desk is perfect. There’s no one here except me.”

I am all for saving space, but I don’t see this working out for quarantine couples. 

“Honey, if you could just type a little quieter, I’m on a conference call here at your knee level and it’s hard to hear what’s going on.”

Uplift’s copy is really…something:

“Impress your coworkers and friends with this unique conversation piece, available in either gray or blue.”

So, if this is a conversation piece that your friends and coworkers are going to stand around, how are you supposed to get any sleep under there??

Thank you for being part of For The Love! 


A few more things...

Is there a topic you think I should cover? Or a funny ad I can dissect? I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at info@ajasinger.com, respond to this email, or drop it in the comments ⬇

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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.