Monthly Archives: October 2016

Outrage Marketing – Pick an enemy and offend them

My wife showed me an article recently that amused me.

It was written on LinkedIn, by Jacob Bass, a guy who makes and sells customized gun holsters: The Dying Breed of Real Men

It reminds me of “Reveal your Modesty“, by Jessica Rey.

What I found interesting to contemplate is – in both cases, neither of them would’ve gotten as much attention if they didn’t upset or offend some group of people along the way.

Jessica offended the people who feel that women should be allowed to wear whatever they like without feeling bad about it.

Jacob offended those who found his post veering into transphobic, homophobic territory.

Pick an enemy. Offend them.


Best Referral Campaigns

Originally posted on reddit.

Hey, this is my jam! me and my team have been writing about this for over 2 years now:

The most famous referral programs:

Aggregated lists of referral programs

Hardware referral programs:

Referral programs for services:

Referral programs in fashion:

Other interesting referral programs:

Let me know if there’s any particular thing you’re interested in and I’ll find you what ya need!

My favorite marketing campaigns

I like…

  • How Warby Parker hijacked New York Fashion Week by being a little naughty and a little ingenious.
  • How Red Bull completely sponsors entire sporting events and does crazy stunts like the Stratos jump
  • How Tesla pretends it doesn’t do any marketing while actually facilitating a massive word-of-mouth campaign, encouraging user-generated content and doing lots of interviews and such (big fan here both as a consumer and a marketer)
  • Steve Jobs’ epic product launches, of course. “One more thing…”
  • Victoria’s Secret’s annual fashion show– they managed to grow it into such an epic event, they actually make huge profits from tickets and advertising WITHOUT selling any product
  • Dropbox’s and PayPal’s referral programs. Ridiculously successful, and effectively launched both of those scrappy startups into billion dollar co’s.
  • TOMS, for the way they bake the social/storytelling aspect into their business model: “buy a pair, give a pair”. People are instantly willing to spend more because they get to feel good doing it
  • GoPro – “Be A Hero”. Creating user-generated content and framing it as something aspirational. (Their competitor Contour had arguably a better product when they were starting out, but the marketing wasn’t as powerful. Contour’s founder actually said so!)
  • Tinder – they had a chicken or egg problem when they were starting out, like all matching/marketplace type services do. The founders would go to sororities to give talks, and then get all the girls to sign up. Then they’d go to the boys and show them all these girls… bingo. Also they’d host parties where you had to download the app to get in.
  • CrossFit – the genius is in how it’s franchised out, allowing people to form their own little cults and clans all around the world. And there are all these little details that add to it– the workout of the day, which makes people feel like they have to keep up, and the annual games, which adds a competitive/aspirational streak
  • Gmail, Facebook – it’s easy to forget that both of these services were actually pretty hard to get into in the early days– they were exclusive and you had to get invites or have the right email address
  • BlendTec – have you seen the videos? You’ve seen the videos.
  • PornHub – PornHub just keeps churning out one genius marketing campaign after another. They’ve mastered the art of making newsworthy announcements (ie “Give America Wood” – for every X amount of views on a certain category, they’ll plant 100 trees, etc)

Best Ecommerce Products

I’ve spent the past 4 years working in ecommerce, and as a by-product of that I’ve had the opportunity to look at literally thousands of stores. Here are my some of personal favorites. Will update with more later.


Black Milk Clothing – great brand, great community

Bonobos – relentless focus on getting one thing right

Warby Parker – definitely read about their marketing backstory

TOMS – such clever marketing as a movement

Hard Graft – killer visuals

The Stiff Collar “Somewhat snooty English shirts”

Bellroy – great explainer

THINX – fantastic positioning, community buy-in

Valfre – tonnes of personality

Sivana – very well executed

Everlane – lovely minimalist principles

Cocaine Cowboys – personality overload – even more so

Household stuff:

ANTA – makes me homesick for a place I’ve never been


LIFX – cool product and nicely pitched

Pencil – fantastic sales pitch

Crossing the chasm – how brands get big after first conquering the beachhead

Examples of how big brands started out by focusing on a specific niche


Clay Christensen- what are we hiring this product to do?

  • Milkshakes. We hire products to do jobs for us. Motivating customers to buy what we’re offering. Market understanding that mirrors how customers experience life.
  • Customers that fit the model of the quintessential milkshake- you want it choclatier, chunkier, cheaper? No impact on profits/sales.
  • What job do you hire a milkshake for? What time, what were they wearing, were they alone? Did they buy other stuff?
  • half the milkshakes sold before 8am, alone, only thing they bought, drove off with it. Long and boring drive to work. “Somebody gave them another hand and they didn’t have anything to do.” Viscous milkshake- 20 minutes to suck it up the thin straw. I’m full all morning, fits in my cupholder.


This is a cornerstone post for everything Ecommere that I want to write about.

My partner Desmond and I run an ecommerce store using Shopify, called Statement. We sell Singaporean-themed t-shirts. You can read about our story here.


These are questions that I’d like to have answered.

  • What does the ecommerce landscape look like?
    • B2b: marketing, finance, CRM, CPC, Megastores, subscription models… Should eat24 be considered ecommerce? What about artists selling music online? What about offline stores and merchants promoting their stuff online? What about offline stores that benefit from online support that they did not solicit? This is how software is eating the world. Facebook and Twitter aren’t distinct from offline reality, they are a layer over it.
  • How did amazon get so big? How did Ebay get so big? Zappos? Goldieblox?
  • How many small/new stores make it “big”- rapid growth? Black Milk Ecommerce as a store that doesn’t hehe retail outlet? Best ecommerce products (quantity sold? Customer loyalty? Profit margins?) Best ecommerce practices? Quotes from successful ecommerce entrepreneurs, split into category. (Product, customer acquisition, etc. Everything ecommerce owners need to know about Amazon/Alibaba giants. Best ecommerce social media practices. Best ecommerce blogs (the stores, not general one) Ecommerce stories- how did the biggest/best companies start? Challenges faced by ecommerce agents. Which ecommerce companies have received the most funding, from whom, how many staff do they have, who’s the founder, how old are the companies, what are they’re plans/projections for the future? Billion-dollar-o-gram about ecommerce vs regular commerce? How much is international commerce worth? How much is ecommerce worth? B2b vs b2c? How much is Amazon’s stake? How much is China? Where are all the major ecommerce players located? (Blackmilk is in Australia, for example.) What would a map of that look like? Flipkart is in India- where in India?

“Mapping out the ecommerce landscape”

  • This has been something that’s been bugging me for a while. The ecommerce landscape, and in parallel, the marketing landscape.
  • What is ecommerce exactly? According to Wikipedia, ecommerce is “a type of industry where the buying and selling of products or services is conducted over electronic systems such as the Internet and other computer networks.” That sounds simple but it really isn’t. Consider how complex and pervasive the Internet has become. Where does an electronic system end and a natural system begin? Is it only ecommerce if the transaction takes place online? What if I make the purchase online, but pay the delivery guy in cash-on-delivery? What about a brick and mortar store which manages its inventory, etc online? That probably doesn’t count, it’s just magic that happens in the mythical back end. What if I get interested in a product online, investigate it online, read all the reviews, then go and buy it at a store down the street?
  • So okay, we’ll assume that it’s complex. Let’s simplify as we move forward. Let’s just assume that we’re talking about stores “selling stuff online”, in that blunt, colloquial sense. “Selling stuff online” is a trillion dollar industry. What we spend “buying stuff online” in a year is more than double NASA’s entire budget in it’s entire history! [source]
  • Type of goods sold.
  • Zappos started selling shoes (it started out as ShoeShop. Zappos is a variant of Zapatos, which is Spanish for shoes.)
  • Groupon’s first deal was a half-price offer for pizzas for the restaurant on the first floor of its building in Chicago.
  • So it’s definitely worth making sense of. The ecommerce landscape contains everything from the little guy selling stuff he made at home to titans like Amazon. And that’s just the stuff that faces consumers, eg B2C. There’s also B2B,
  • Intel selling microprocessors to Dell
  • Heinz selling ketchup to McDonalds
  • According to Sartaj, 80% of ecommerce is b2b. Here at ReferralCandy, we sell software to ecommerce agents, so we’re technically B2B. Online marketing agencies are B2B.
  • C2C- buying stuff on eBay. Marketplaces. Etsy? The long tail empowerment effect of
  • b2g- public procurement, licensing procedures. tax?
  • Some people say that “m-commerce” is a thing, mobile.
  • ===
  • Ecommerce is a very big space. As long as you’re selling something online, it’s ecommerce.
  • This isn’t very helpful, because it means we’re looking at a vast landscape. It’s very possible to drown in a river that’s “3 feet deep on average”, because it could be 8 feet deep at some points and 1 foot deep at others.
  • So when we talk about ecommerce, it’s important to figure out what sort of scale we’re talking about.
  • I’m personally acquainted with the smallest scale- the hobbyist selling a homemade or almost-homemade product by himself online. I’ve done this.
  • At the highest end, we have mega-retailers like Amazon, Sears, Walmart. These are retailers that sell everyday products and compete on convenience, massive economies of scale.
  • Amazon
  • Ecommerce is not a homogenous monolith. Neither is marketing. Both are vast landscapes with incredible variation. Considering that ecommerce is less limited by time and space than “regular” commerce (quotes because the distinction is quickly becoming irrelevant), it seems fair to say that economic is subject to greater variation than “regular” commerce. Consider how weird online communities can get. The Internet allows for long tails that the analog world doesn’t.
  • This introduces staggering complexity. Giving general advice on how to run an ecommerce store is like giving general advice on how to run a website- it rarely accounts for the huge spread, vast variations in the landscape. Any advice or perspective that applies to everything is likely to be so vague and general that it’s unlikely to be useful.
  • When we talk about top online retailers, we see that the big guns dominate: amazon. Amazon started out selling books but now sells everything. They don’t technically sell a product, they sell a service. Consider AWS.  If anything sold online is ecommerce,  though, is AWS ecommerce? Technically. It’s also ecommerce if I sell my band’s crappy songs online,  it’s ecommerce.

On luck:

Luck is significant, but I believe you get momentum from preparation + hustling. It’s kind of like building a large sail for a boat, and maneuvering it such that it catches the wind. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a good breeze, but the sail and the sailing are all you.

List of ecommerce stores

  • 1800flowers
  • Amazon
  • ASOS
  • eBay
  • software?
  • bonobos
  • yoox (10k g+-  best Italian and international designers… the group powers a whole bunch of stores, including zegna (
  • backed by balderton capital (initially offshoot of benchmark, which invested in ebay)
  • shoescribe, thecorner
  • zulily (4k g+) shopping destination for moms, launched in 2010


  • Rent The Runway:
  • Crowdemand:
  • Blucarat- social ecommerce:
  • ‘ecommerce’ post
    • Good reads: UI
    • Paul Graham essays/quotes relevant to ecommerce/marketing
    • Founder/market fit, assets not ideas, product/market fit
    • Different kinds of ecommerce
    • The amazon story