The Knife Fight

Edition #2

July 19th, 2019

Here at, we're in the business of helping small to mid-sized business owners run, grow, and transition ownership of their business more effectively. With that goal in mind, enjoy this issue of The Knife Fight, a weekly newsletter for operators in the trenches.


An in-depth study on changing consumer brand preferences: direct-to-consumer vs. incumbent brands (Interactive Advertising Bureau)

The face of the consumer brand landscape is changing rapidly, and this study by IAB illustrates how the internet and social media have allowed small, nimble, direct-to-consumer brands to rapidly develop an audience and customer base using rented third party supply chains and internet marketing. Here are the most important takeaways:

  1. Disruptor brand shoppers comprise 48 percent of all U.S consumers. They are younger than incumbent brand-only shoppers, with 84 percent under 54 years old, and are likelier to have a household income of more than $75,000.

    This wave will only swell and grow as the demographic shift continues to play out. It will be important for the next generation of consumer brands to pay attention to the way the 'disruptor brand' shopper conducts their research on a brand online through cross-channel search.

  2. In addition, 53% of direct-to-consumer (DTC) buyers use their favorite brands as vehicles for self-promotion, with twice as many compared to incumbent brand-only shoppers saying that they choose brands to express “who I am.”

    The days of function over form may be over. DTC buyers' expression of identity through their relationship to brands has tilted the game in favor of brands that prioritize both form (solves a problem) and function (reflects style). This can be nicely summarized with the question 'is your product or service ready for Instagram?'

  3. Social media is approaching parity with TV for brand discovery and awareness.

    This is not to be taken lightly for any business selling in the consumer retail space. Brand influencers abound in today's social media landscape and are responsible for driving the lion's share of brand recognition online for disruptor DTC brands. These new brands are leveraging influencers' captive audiences and a personal touch to cut through the noise of the crowds and grow their customer base.


How Shopify is enabling online retailers to compete with Amazon's scale through access to its 3rd party logistics fulfillment and easy one-stop-shop platform (Stratechery)
+ It's no secret that Amazon is eating a lot of businesses' lunch online, but Shopify's platform is showing how using their vertically integrated platform, it may be possible to differentiate your products and go direct to consumer without getting lost in Amazon's infinite shelf space.

No free burnt ends and other BBQ wisdom from Grant Pinkerton of Pinkerton's BBQ (Texas BBQ Posse)
+ There are three key points to take away here: demand product excellence, don't miss an opportunity for profitable growth by giving your product away for free, and find ways to serve customers who are falling through the cracks.

Crate and Barrel opens full service restaurant (Chain Store Age)
+ More and more, we will see retailers vying for consumers in new ways that blur the lines between retail therapy, product experience, and service.

Step-by-step case study of a manufacturing entrepreneur's journey through manufacturing, marketing, and selling frisbee golf discs (BiggerPockets Business Podcast)
+ This is the soup-to-nuts story of how a 19-year-old bootstrapped and scrapped his way to a thriving manufacturing business producing frisbee golf discs.

Chinese recycling protocols and unintended consequences (WSJ)
+ This is an epic story about the unintended consequences of well-intended plans. In an effort to improve trash recycling, the Chinese government is asking people to sort trash into 4 categories. In reaction to harsh enforcement, people have resorted to odd behaviors such as dousing their trash in noxious chemicals to throw it all in the hazardous waste category rather than sorting it. It pays to be mindful of second order consequences of policies, both in politics and in business.


The improbable story behind Playtex's successful bid to build astronaut space suits (Fast Company)
+ Flexibility (pun intended) can be a massive competitive advantage for businesses competing with slow bureaucratic competitors.

The assetization of personal goods (CB Insights)
+ "With consumers valuing experiences over possessions, a rising number of goods categories — clothes, furniture, jewelry — are becoming available for rent or resell, or even split into shares that can be traded."


The definitive guide to email marketing from starting a distribution list to conversion (Backlinko)
+ A complete guide to email marketing in 2019. This expert-written guide covers list building strategies, open and conversion rates, and more.

As Facebook and Instagram ad costs rise, DTC brands find a role for Pinterest (Modern Retail)
+ As Facebook and Instagram are beginning to suffer from noisy ads crowding out useful information, Pinterest is increasingly becoming a more direct way to get product information to consumers in helpful DIY 'pins.'


The power of performance reviews (First Round)
+This is an in-depth study of what comprises a high quality performance review process and the numerous benefits implementing one can make on employee development, morale, and performance.


The $34,000 bottle of wine (Axios)
+ Economics 101: low supply and high quality make for one heck of a price point.

How airplanes are put into storage (The Points Guy)
+ An inside look at how airplane fleets are managed when they need to be idled in storage.

Instagram has turned obscure US sites into social media destinations (WSJ)
+ As a side note, the selfie phenomenon may be applicable to your business if you have great views, beautiful products, or both!

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