Amazon’s Private Label Practices Spark Anti-Trust Concerns
Amazon Has Officially Gone Private (Label)

There is a reason that Amazon is the #1 online retailer in the world. From baby food to organic shoes, they have it all. But does their abundance of products mean that shoppers are more loyal to them than say, a cheaper brand? Not necessarily.

“Amazon’s Private Label Practices Spark Anti-Trust Concerns” dives into how Amazon holds back its competitors (and oftentimes, its merchants) with its own private label brands that offer quality items even at a cheaper price point.

Download the full article to learn how Amazon revamped the traditional four Ps of marketing to their vantage point.


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Welcome to the Metaverse
From Facebook Inc. to Meta Platforms, Inc.

October 28, 2021 – Facebook, Inc. reveals its new name: Meta. Social feeds paused the discussion of the latest Squid Game episode and quickly shifted to the one they call ‘Zuck’. In a statement, the founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, said this drastic rebrand is at the heels of a larger change:

“We are at the beginning of the next chapter for the internet, and it’s the next chapter for our company too.”

While Meta is now the official name of the parent organization, its primary social media site with 2.9 billion users, doesn’t appear to be changing.


Meta is an homage to Facebook’s imminent dedication to the metaverse. If, like many, you don’t know what the metaverse is, you are not alone. Wikipedia describes it as “a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.” It’s essentially access to a digital universe, and Meta is racing there full steam ahead.

If this sounds a bit like The Matrix, that’s because it’s not far off. In fact, readers should not forget Facebook acquired the virtual reality company Oculus VR in March 2014 for a cool $2 billion. Oculus, a headset that completely covers the eyes for an immersive 3D experience, may draw a lot of similarities to this world and ones seen in recent movies, including Ready Player One.

But we are not there yet, and it is unclear when we will be. A metaverse is only accessible through VR headsets or augmented reality glasses, which most of the US population doesn’t yet have access to. Emarketer expects “58.9 million people will use VR and 93.3 million will use AR at least once per month in 2021,” representing 17.7 percent and 28.1 percent of the US population, respectively.” Meta is betting that the growth of the connectedness of its sites like Facebook and Instagram will soon become an interconnected experience

Occulus is also just one of the billion-dollar acquisitions in the last decade. Instagram was acquired for $1 billion in 2012, WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2015, and Kustomer, a CRM platform, for $1 billion in 2020. In fact, the company has spent over $24 billion in acquisitions since 2005. Yeah, that’s with a ‘B’.

The success of these acquisitions is just another driving factor in rebranding Facebook, Inc. into a larger, more cohesive name like Meta. Facebook-owned properties like Instagram, Messenger, and Whatsapp have their own monthly active users that rival (and even exceed) the biggest competition in the space, including Pinterest, Snapchat, and TikTok. While this rebrand is far more inclusive of the full product suite, it also shifts focus from a stagnant Facebook to a future of possibility–one that can live within any of Facebook’s owned properties, including future acquisitions.

There are some, however, that feel this rebrand isn’t so one-dimensional.


Let’s rewind to just 4 weeks before this announcement. A fiery 60 Minutes interview featured a Facebook whistleblower alleging Facebook consistently (and knowingly) chose profits over public well-being in a mere tens of thousands of documents. These findings revealed a culture of calculated decisions to keep users engaging with content, despite their own research indicating harm could follow. The allegations include actions leading to the capitol riot, prioritizing divisive content for increased engagement and usage of their product, and driving increased suicide and eating disorder rates among teenage girls.

Fast forward 1 day later: Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were offline and unavailable globally for more than seven hours, setting fire to a fresh news cycle. Users scrambled to adjust to life without their technology as the world experienced a rare silence from their smartphones.

While this may seem like a rough month for any company, it’s not far from what they have consistently battled for years. Public outcry, criticism, and call for action have become commonplace. There have been blackout protests, calls for content moderation, senate hearings, antitrust lawsuits, and large-scale campaigns against the platform, such as Stop Hate for Profit.

The largest of these critiques, however, comes down to privacy concerns most notably revealed within the Cambridge Analytica scandal where 87 million Facebook users had their data harvested without their consent. This, among many future violations, has led to organizations and governments demanding users’ rights to privacy and controlling their personal data.

Apple: Enter Stage Left. In April 2021, Apple unleashed IOS14.5. This ignited a battle of the titans between themselves and then-Facebook, Inc. The update included a new feature: App Tracking Transparency. This allows consumers to opt-out of sharing their data outside of the app they are currently using. Meta took a loud opposition to this update saying it would hurt the growth of millions of businesses around the world, but we all knew this loss of data just highlighted the company’s reliance on cookies and that this update would disrupt their business model.

Despite the pressure and recent signal loss, Facebook’s success rarely stalled. With continual growth since its inception, 60% of the world’s population accesses Facebook at least once a month. Not to mention, their stock price is up a whopping 779% since its IPO in 2012, making the internet mogul one the world’s most valuable companies.

In recent years, Meta has implemented policies in place to address a portion of the outcry. This includes introducing an oversite committee, policies around bullying and content moderation, and user features to better control personal data on the platform. However, most argue that it’s not enough. Senator Richard Blumenthal took to Twitter after the 60 Minutes interview to say that “Facebook’s actions make clear that we cannot trust it to police itself. We must consider stronger oversight, effective protections for children, and tools for parents, among the needed reforms.”
As long as lawlessness exists in this space, Meta will only do what it must while keeping users leaned in along the way. It seems absolute power does corrupt absolutely, and this rebellious teenager phase may become permanent if not unchecked.


Maybe the future won’t be so bad–Meta surely doesn’t think so. This was best stated near the end of Zuckerberg’s letter: “Our hope is that within the next decade, the metaverse will reach a billion people, host hundreds of billions of dollars of digital commerce, and support jobs for millions of creators and developers.”

Will fortune favor the bold? History would tell us so. Facebook has been able to dominate the industry with profitability in ways companies like Myspace couldn’t have dreamt of. Through its acquisitions like Instagram, which is now generating half of the company’s US revenue for the first time ever, this change in name and company vision would suggest they are only setting themselves up for success as the concept and access to the internet continues to evolve.

The mounting and relentless pressure on the company cannot be ignored though, and brands will undoubtedly begin to rethink their investment in the company’s properties if Meta’s reputation and values start to put their brand’s reputation at risk.

In the wild west of digital media, we know that change is the only constant. Change is instilled in the DNA of how these companies operate. Brands need to be prepared to not only adapt to the ever-changing nature of platforms they run media on, but also the evolution of the partners they choose to work with.

As brands are considering how to adapt to both the values and new direction of Meta, the below can serve as considerations depending on risk tolerance and partnership values:

  1. Continue Meta investments as planned, testing into new formats brought forth by the new direction as they become available.
    • Pros: This allows you to continue to leverage Meta properties and prioritize Meta where it drives the best performance. This lets you develop test and learn strategies to adapt to the metaverse as new offerings and their timelines become more solidified.
    • Cons: Brands who continue to advertise with Meta may begin to feel the effects of the platform’s criticism and negative PR until calls for change are implemented across its properties.
  2. Devise a test and learn strategy on other social platforms to increase agility and bring confidence to decision-making ahead of future updates.
    • Pros: This approach provides diversified go-to-market strategies that aren’t reliant on Meta properties. If a brand needs to switch due to future circumstances, they can do so confidently with a data-first approach on the consequences.
    • Cons: The above brand safety risks from the first option apply, but in a lesser degree. Performance may also decrease during test and learns while future budgets without Meta properties (and their best-in-class tech) are identified.
  3. Identify your brand values and pause your advertising with Meta (and other partners) until your values are in sync.
    • Pros: This approach prioritizes brand safety and applies pressure where Meta will feel it the most–their wallet. It’s the safest way to ensure that the priorities you hold as a brand are in sync with where your dollars are being invested.
    • Cons: Many advertisers see their best performance across Facebook and Instagram, regardless of funnel phase. Everything from household penetration to digital revenue goals will need to be re-evaluated during this shift. 
Lowe’s Launches One Roof Retail Media Network
Lowe’s has entered the retail media network fray with their own iteration called One Roof.

Officially launching last month, One Roof offers customized advertising products built around data-driven trends and consumer behavior within the home category.

Lowe’s envisions the network serving as an “extension of our partners’ marketing teams, helping them develop custom, comprehensive approaches designed to deliver on their business goals.” The current offering (and what’s under development) will cover sponsored search, on- and off-site display, social, and on-site native content, along with measurement and closed-loop reporting. They’ve already partnered with both Criteo and Citrus to handle sponsored search. On the display side, they’re in the process of scaling on-site inventory while also selecting off-site activation partners.

Lowe’s has said more than 100 partner brands participated in beta testing for the network, including Kohler, Samsung, and GE Lighting. They even released some preliminary results, noting one kitchen and bath partner achieved a 700% ROAS. Several other vendors saw returns over 1,000%.

Beyond their ROAS proclamations (which, as always, should be taken with a grain of salt), there is inherent value in a few things related to One Roof:

Unique Data

Like all retail networks, One Roof is designed to harvest and weaponize the wealth of consumer data a particular retailer (in this case, Lowe’s) has at their disposal. But unlike all retail networks, this version will provide in-depth access to audiences built around the home lifestyle customer. The only other retail network that can boast such an offering is The Home Depot, which launched a similar effort (Retail Media+) a few years ago.

Ground Floor

As with any new retail media network, advertisers can capitalize by getting in on the ground floor. For advertisers whose target customer fits the typical Lowe’s consumer profile, this is the perfect opportunity to drive quick gains at an efficient cost-per-click –especially via sponsored search. Competition is typically low; therefore, CPCs can be had at an incredibly efficient rate. Advertisers can quickly bolster their presence for category terms and drive new customer ROAS before the competition arrives.

Ability to Choose

Again, the more networks the better. It provides advertisers with a choice. Even going as granular as the home improvement category, advertisers can now choose between The Home Depot (Retail Media+) and Lowe’s (One Roof).

It will be interesting to see how The Home Depot responds. Lowe’s had been running sponsored search for quite some time. They ran first with Criteo and recently offered the option for advertisers to run with Citrus as well. It was only a matter of time before Lowe’s put out their own, larger scale retail media network together.

Overall, the proliferation of retail networks isn’t a trend that’s going to stop. Retailers are seeing the inherent value in their data and looking to aggressively monetize it. While Amazon, Walmart, and Target have laid the groundwork, other retailers are simply following in their footsteps.


Amazon’s Third Quarter Results Miss the Mark
There’s lots of scrutiny around publicly held retail companies.

The acceleration of all things eCommerce has led to record earnings and lofty expectations. That’s why it’s not shocking that Amazon saw shares drop after the company reported lighter-than-expected third-quarter results and poor guidance for the upcoming holiday period.

Their third quarter looking sluggish is simply a result of the retail giant being unable to keep up with pandemic-driven sales levels. Revenue rose in the third quarter for Amazon–up 15 percent. The problem though, is it was down from 37 percent growth compared to the same period a year ago, yet another unavoidable casualty of COVID-influenced sales numbers.

These numbers are reflective of the slowing sales growth Amazon is experiencing, mainly due to a couple factors:

  1. Consumers heading back into physical retail locations
  2. The ever-present, highly chaotic nature of the current supply chain predicament

These two factors will continue to weigh on sales, which segues nicely into the next big miss: their guidance.

For the fourth quarter, Amazon forecast sales between $130 billion and $140 billion. These numbers represent a modest 4-12 percent growth. Analysts, on the other hand, were expecting revenue projected closer to $142 billion, which represents a 13 percent YoY increase. Also, for the first time in its history, revenue from Amazon services surpassed revenue derived from its retail sales. Net product sales represented $54.9 billion while revenue from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon Advertising (sponsored search and DSP), third-party seller services and their Amazon Prime subscriptions added up to $55.9 billion.

Amazon Web Services had a particularly strong quarter. Revenue via AWS jumped 39 percent to $16.1 billion while analysts anticipated closer to $15.5 billion. Without the profit derived from AWS, Amazon would have recorded a loss for the quarter.


What are consumers thinking? Find out now.

Read our Q4 Consumer Pulse Check to learn the hopes and fears of consumers.

-Will they spend money, or keep it in their wallets?
-Will supply chain disruptions disrupt confidence?
-Will this holiday season be “merry and bright?”

Learn about opportunities for brands and marketers in this “unprecedented” fourth quarter of 2021.

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