|From: Julius Wong||3/30/2021 7:02:14 AM|
|Cathie Wood and Content Strategy|
Downloadable spreadsheets and media hacking
Ranjan here. This week I’ll be writing about the ARK Innovation ETF and how its founder/owner/analyst has hacked the media in a brilliant way.
You may have noticed my co-host Can has taken a recent writing break. He just started a new company so we'll excuse him, but in his last post he posed the somewhat existential question of ‘what is content?’ This led to us uncomfortably passing each other by at the Slack watercooler, as my job is "content strategist", so, to my co-host Can, I’d like to lay out an example of an utterly brilliant, perfectly executed, comprehensive, content strategy.
I present to you The Case of Cathie Wood.
Brain Real EstateGreat content strategy understands that content is much more than words written into paragraphs or a person talking to a camera. It’s numbers and stories and emotion all intertwined to drive feedback loops and desired actions. It's a compelling story that ends up occupying some amount of our collective thinking.
For those unfamiliar, Cathie Wood runs a portfolio of ETFs. The flagship and most famous one is the ARK Innovation ETF (ARKK). ETFs used to be kind of a boring financial vehicle that tracked other existing indices or portfolios. While you couldn't technically "buy" the Nasdaq 100, you could buy the QQQ ETF which would give you a fairly close proximation of its performance. Stuff started to get weird with things like triple-levered reverse ETFs (where you'd be promised 3x the opposite of an index, yes these are real) but the ARK Innovation ETF is kind of an entirely different animal - it’s an actively managed ETF and doesn’t track some other index or portfolio. The stocks included are picked by the ARK team and the ETF gives everyday investors easy access to what Cathie Wood and her team would consider the disruptive companies that will transform business and society.
There’s been a lot of writing about the mechanics of the ARKK financial vehicle itself, but this post is about telling Can how this product that, at its core, is effectively a spreadsheet of stocks, has used content to dominate both the financial conversation and deliver pretty spectacular returns (150% over the last year, 52% a year in the past 5 years).
Everything is ContentNormally when we think of financial content marketing, we think of corporate blogs, quarterly investor letters, media appearances. Things have progressed a bit as you now have Ray Dalio LinkedIns and Clifford Asness tweets, but traditionally investors have been a bit reticent to open up their books. Their investment theses and decisions were their competitive advantage, and there’s a bunch of compliance reasons they’d need to be careful about what they say.
But financial content isn’t simply as things like a Warren Buffett shareholder letter or a Bill Ackman CNBC appearance.
Let’s first step back and look at ways companies use non-traditional forms of content to try to drive business outcomes.
Think about something like good technical documentation. It can play a huge marketing role in building lucrative developer communities and can drive word of mouth marketing far better than promotional videos created by the marketing team. (Can told me he'd consider Stripe the gold standard for documentation, with ObservableHQ as a close 2nd).
There are other customer-oriented ways to think about this - like how Zappos approached service phone calls (they famously had one that lasted 10 hours, 43 minutes, that’s content, Can!) - but you can extend this even beyond written and spoken words.
It could be open-source datasets for others to create with. This might be a bit of a stretch, but I’d argue the very idea of open-source software is a form of content marketing. It introduces people to the way you think and what you do while building brand awareness far more effectively than any number of high-gloss commercials. Facebook's developer community is certainly better content than its Chairs commercial (this is just an excuse to, once again, include this video).
ARKK and TransparencyCathie Wood's firm has been lauded as creating a new level of transparency.
They create things that we’d all consider standard content. There is a yearly Big Ideas report that reads a cross between Masayoshi Son and Mary Meeker.
They have weekly 'brainstorming sessions' where:
Friday “is when it all comes together in what we call our brainstorming session,” Leggi explained. The meeting is led by Winton and features each analyst’s research breakthroughs for the week.
The event includes about 80 invited guests, such as academics, early-stage venture capitalists and entrepreneurs (some of whom are building the types of technology that Ark invests in). Everyone contributes to the discussion.
They have this video about their investment process, which honestly, makes me jealous at how corporate-y well done it is:
Again, the above three examples are all done very well but still feel fairly traditional in the realm of content.
Where things get really interesting is how they've “open-sourced” their actual trades. Anyone can sign up on their website for intraday trade notifications:
It’s brilliant. All the trades are right there. You can even download it to Excel.
This has spawned an entire ecosystem. There are websites devoted to ARK daily trade activities. There are Twitter accounts. CNBC and Bloomberg regularly cover the trading activity.
....and just as importantly, this transparency helps drive conversation among retail traders:
When I first learned about this, I was floored at how smart it was.
While other firms go out of their way to hide their investments, ARK is an open book. This is also uniquely tailored to our current market environment. It’s effectively pushing a press release to the entire world every day. The financial media eats it up, while it dominates social media. They remain in the conversation every single day.
That simple push of numerical information catalyzes an army of investors, all looking for guidance, affirmation, and just something to think about, to think about your stocks. Every day you manage to live, as the saying goes, rent-free in all of our heads.
It's become pretty clear in the past decade there's a correlation between power and the space you occupy in our collective consciousness. This is even more applicable in financial markets (than, say, politics) as this kind of feedback loop can result more directly in a desirable outcome. Cathie Wood’s sole job is to get others to buy the stocks she owns, and with one email push, it’s magically done.
Hacking the PressAnd it's certainly not just retail investors.
"Tesla's stock will rise 350% by 2025, analyst predicts"
That is the headline on a CNN article written by a Senior Business Writer.
Publishing a report saying Tesla could go to $3,000 is not a case of an "analyst predicting" something - it's an organization with a vested financial interest pushing a specific message.
Nowhere does the CNN piece mention TSLA is the biggest holding in the ARK Innovation ETF. It takes a conventional journalistic effort at presenting 'both sides' of Tesla's valuation (insurance might or might not work! Robotaxis might or might not work!), yet leaves out that integral detail that a major Tesla shareholder is pushing a very aggressive valuation call at a time when there's a lot of stimulus money looking for a home and TSLA has hit a bit of a rough patch.
And that headline is coming out on CNN, meaning it will trickle down to any number of other publications. We’re left with this simmering narrative that there is this $3000 price target is just "out there".
It's not just CNN. Bloomberg did their own version:
A growing chorus of Wall Street professionals is predicting that electric and autonomous vehicles sales will propel Apple Inc. and Tesla Inc. to $3 trillion each in market value by 2030.
Cathie Wood’s Ark Investment Management, for example, sees a 50% chance of Tesla achieving fully autonomous driving within five years, while Citigroup Inc.’s Jim Suva said developing the Apple Car could boost the company’s sales by up to 15% after 2024.
A 'growing chorus of Wall Street professionals'.
This is Wood's content genius on the PR side of content strategy. ARK even started building up the hype a few weeks ago like a Yeezy sneaker drop:
...and suddenly every newsroom is compelled to cover it, in some way.
Hacking the NewsWhen you see how the traditional financial media reacts to this self-interested press release, which is also propelled by social media battles (both for and against), it made me think about how journalism professor Jay Rosen described Trump’s hacking of the press.
Rosen’s insight was that Trump understood the news media always keep trying to adhere to some traditional code:
There’s a code that tells journalists what’s newsworthy. You won’t see it written down except maybe in a journalism professor’s research. But it includes timeliness, conflict, anything totally unexpected, anything seemingly consequential, anything that involves a charismatic person whose human interest looms large in the news, and so on.
Trump has hacked the newsworthiness code by being newsworthy in the traditional sense every day, many times a day. He dominates the public conversation. He overwhelms journalists trying to process all this news. He exhausts the patience of the public. And he throws off so many false or misleading statements that he breaks the controls or checks on that as well.
You see it in how the financial press covers this as a disinterested analyst simple analyzing and tries to cover that analysis in a detached, objective manner. It’s the way financial research has worked for years so why would this be any different?
GatekeepersIn this whole weird tech vs. media thing, the term “gatekeeper” has been pejoratively thrown at journalists. As someone who is (checks notes) not a journalist, and (checks notes) even does a lot of PR work for a venture-funded tech company, I find it an odd insult. Journalists are supposed to be gatekeepers because there is something behind that gate worth keeping. Someone, somewhere has to be a check on something. That’s the whole point! Cathie Wood’s content strategy, and for that matter, any corporate communications effort, only works this effectively when the media relinquishes that role.
Any good content strategy pushes your message out to drive specific outcomes. For any businessperson, of course, you’re going to want to bypass and/or co-opt the media because that means you’ll sell more widgets. ARK’s goal is even cleaner than most other businesses - it’s to get more people to buy the stocks they own.
I can promise you, I'm not some virulently anti-Cathie Wood person. I wasn't even really familiar with the ARK story until the beginning of this year. As we’re indirectly talking about Tesla here, for full disclosure (Note 1), while I respect the Cathie Wood content strategy for its subtlety and originality, I don’t feel the same way about Elon Musk and his more brute force, Trumpian media-hacking style of content.
But any regular reader will certainly know my greatest bugbear is the current distortion, and borderline absurdity, of the financial markets. It’s why the content strategist in me finds the way ARK does content so deviously brilliant, yet the person who lives in society and is trying to plan the next few decades of my financial future finds it utterly frustrating. But Cathie Wood is doing what Cathie Wood should do, and we should all just recognize it for what it is - a great content strategy. Pushing out daily trade notifications to drive the daily conversation towards your portfolio while an unquestioning press eats it up, all with a grandiose story about disruptive innovation is working really well. Hopefully, this will give my co-host Can a bit more context as to how I think about content.
Note 1: For even more disclosure, I currently don’t have any financial interest either way with Tesla or any ARK holdings. There’s no real reason for me to tell you that as this is just a Substack newsletter, but hey, we want to treat you better than David Brooks treats his readers, and I still believe disclosure is important.
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|From: Julius Wong||3/30/2021 8:31:54 AM|
|Color Star Technology to develop NFT; shares rise 40%|
Mar. 30, 2021 6:17 AM ET Color Star Technology Co., Ltd. (CSCW) By: Jignesh Mehta, SA News Editor
Color Star Technology Co. (NASDAQ: CSCW) is developing a non-fungible token (NFT) business for the production, release, and promotion of NFT through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Color China Entertainment.
The Company's NFT business will focus on copyright procurement, concert videos and ticket sales, and music and artist interaction.
The new development of NFT should help create and launch NFTs for all of Color Star's partners, including online museum collections, online concert videos, ticketing, customized celebrity products, producer copyrights.
Shares +40% premarket.
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|To: The Ox who wrote (6241)||3/30/2021 11:25:10 AM|
|Not sure if I mentioned this.. I have taken a position in CLPS last week at $ 5.. Hongkong based small IT company.. About 3,300 + employees.. Trades 1 time revenue, $42 cash on hand, profitable.. Last cash raised by company, early March was $16m at $ 6.00 per share. They do have operations in a south east Asia as well as in US.. etc. |
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|From: Julius Wong||3/30/2021 6:20:57 PM|
|Evercore finds winners as survey points to strong IT spending|
Mar. 29, 2021 7:03 PM ET Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) By: Jason Aycock, SA News Editor 9 Comments
Evercore ISI's quarterly enterprise technology spending survey is pointing to an outlook that's "very strong," with 80% saying they expect to see their IT spending rise and 14% expecting it to stay the same.
That's in line with some optimism shown in the November survey - but confidence is higher in these new numbers, with 81% feeling more upbeat with regard to IT spending.
The survey encapsulates responses from executives at the VP-or-higher level at large companies with insight into their IT spending process - casting a wider net than just chief information officers in seeking a "bottoms-up" view of the process for a better look.
Digging into particulars, Evercore says 88% of respondents agree (strongly or somewhat) that COVID-19 has accelerated their shift to cloud offerings.
It says that heading into the bulk of 2021, the top three IT spending priorities are: Service Desk & IT Workflow modernization; Artificial Intelligence; and Infrastructure refresh.
As for who's expected most to benefit via a net increase in wallet share from vendors, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) tops out with 55%, just ahead of Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) at 49%. Also doing well on the growing-wallet-share measure: IBM (at 45%); Zoom ( ZM; at 42%); and Oracle ( ORCL; at 40%).
Meanwhile, with offices looking to reopen this year, Evercore says there will be a renewed focus on hybrid/on-premise after 2020's big shift toward the public cloud. In three years, respondents expect the workload mix will be 52% private.
And that's a positive, it says, for Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO), Dell Technologies (NYSE: DELL), Hewlett Packard Enterprise (NYSE: HPE) and IBM.
The survey indicates storage spending is set to inflect higher - a positive, Evercore says, for NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) and Pure Storage (NYSE: PSTG).
And servers will be an area of strength, benefiting Dell and HPE, while there's potential for a demand vacuum on the personal computer side.
It also notes that within the networking space, software-defined solutions and Wi-Fi 6 should be notable areas of strength. That makes notable winners out of Cisco ( CSCO) and HPE, the firm says.
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|From: Julius Wong||3/31/2021 7:49:53 AM|
|Rising Popularity Makes Bitcoin An Interesting Marketing Tool|
Mar. 31, 2021 12:33 AM ET Bitcoin USD (BTC-USD)AMC, AMZN, BCA-USD... 3 Comments10 Likes
Bitcoin has seen a surge in popularity, in part due to the crypto being seen as having potential 'mainstream' use in the corporate world.
While TSLA made headlines with its Bitcoin purchase and acceptance of it as a direct payment, many retailers have been indirectly accepting crypto for years.
Following CMG, more companies could hop on the bandwagon and use crypto as a promotional and marketing vessel to drive engagement higher.
Bitcoin-led promotions could provide high levels of engagement in short periods of time at a low cost.
Photo by AlexSava/iStock via Getty ImagesBitcoin ( BTC-USD) has been finding more mainstream uses during the year so far, with more companies aside from traditional payment processors and facilitators starting to 'accept' Bitcoin. Elon Musk and Tesla ( TSLA) have been the headliner for corporate acceptance and usage of bitcoin, with the electric car maker buying $1.5 billion of the volatile crypto asset. However, more companies do indeed offer the ability to pay with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, typically through crypto wallets. With the recent surge in popularity with Bitcoin and other cryptos like Ethereum and NFTs, more companies could hop on the bandwagon and use crypto as a promotional and marketing vessel to drive engagement higher.
Tesla's Love for the Digital GoldTesla revealed that it had bought ~$1.5 billion of Bitcoin in early February in a filing with the SEC, following in the footsteps of MicroStrategy ( MSTR) in a huge purchase of the crypto asset. Tesla noted that the reason behind the purchase was "more flexibility to further diversify and maximize returns on our cash," as rising inflation fears have been a large factor in the market this quarter. Tesla used about 8% of its $19 billion cash and equivalents balance.
Tweets from Musk's Twitter
In addition, Tesla has decided to allow Bitcoin as a payment for vehicles, which is a questionable practice to say the least. While the company certainly has the liquidity to do so after the purchase (aside from potential future purchases to switch from cash to crypto), the extreme volatility around the price of Bitcoin makes it less suitable for such a transaction. Bitcoin's price surged with the announcement of Tesla's purchase, now sitting just below $60k per BTC.
From a prospective customer standpoint, buying a long-range Model 3 on March 1 would cost ~1.03 BTC, while the current price on March 30 would be just ~0.78 BTC; due to the extreme volatility, the value in BTC of the car could vary dramatically based on the purchase date. The same stands for refunds - Tesla noted that it "can choose to pay them back in U.S. dollars or bitcoin [and] reserves the right to refund the customer in U.S. dollars at the exact price bitcoin was worth at the time of purchase," therefore a customer could receive less while Tesla can benefit. Take the above as an example: the customer pays 1.03 BTC but wants a refund at the end of the month, receiving 0.78 BTC while Tesla can keep the remaining 0.25 BTC.
Adding Bitcoin to the balance sheet to replace cash in an inflationary environment, for liquidity for purchases and refunds, and to drive higher adoption across the corporate world are some of the reasons behind Tesla's jump into the billion-dollar BTC buy. For other companies, such a large purchase of Bitcoin might not be necessary, but using the crypto to enhance engagement could be a smart move.
Crypto Payments Are Already Quite MainstreamAside from Tesla's jolting announcement, C2B cryptocurrency payments are already possible among many prominent retailers and platforms, made possible through crypto wallets/networks like Flexa, Bakkt, and BitPay.
E-commerce platforms like Overstock ( OSTK), which has its own crypto, and Shopify ( SHOP) allow customers to pay with cryptocurrencies (and merchants to accept them). Stores/merchants including Whole Foods ( AMZN), Home Depot ( HD), GameStop ( GME), Starbucks ( SBUX), Microsoft's ( MSFT) Xbox Store, AMC ( AMC), Nordstrom ( JWN), and Expedia ( EXPE) also accept crypto through apps like Flexa, Bakkt and Coinbase ( COIN). Companies like Uber ( UBER) and Spotify ( SPOT) are exploring methods of accepting crypto payments, while BitPay's Bitcoin-prepaid Mastercard ( MA) is accepted at any retail location that accepts [prepaid] Mastercard, or for online bill paying such as with AT&T ( T).
Crypto payments have been in mainstream business for much longer than most know, but the main difference between these merchants accepting crypto and Tesla is the nature of the payment. These merchants have utilized third party wallets and processors to provide payment solutions (indirect), while Tesla will be handling payments itself (direct). This is where Tesla could start to usher in a 'new age' for crypto payments, and while wallets and processors will still carry a bulk of payments to brick-and-mortar and other merchants, larger merchants like Amazon ( AMZN) and Walmart ( WMT), among others, could easily float handling direct payments of crypto/Bitcoin in the future.
Rising Popularity Makes BTC An Interesting Marketing ToolSince accepting crypto directly could require a large outlay to secure sufficient liquidity, other merchants wishing to hop on the crypto train and benefit from the rise in popularity of the asset class could follow in the footsteps of Chipotle Mexican Grill ( CMG) and use Bitcoin for promotions.
Burritos or Bitcoin?For National Burrito Day, which happens to coincide with April Fool's Day on the first of the month, Chipotle is launching its ' Burritos or Bitcoin' game promotion from 9am to 6pm PST. Teaming up with Stefan Thomas, who notably lost ~7,000 BTC by forgetting his passkey, the game gives users 10 attempts to guess a six-number sequence. The odds of winning are shown below.
Graphic from Chipotle's Burritos or Bitcoin
Given Chipotle's expected odds of winning, the projected traffic over the 9-hour window is approximately 175 million people; the prizes are simply $100,000 in Bitcoin to 53 winners, and $100,000 ($10.00 coupon code) to 10,000 for a free burrito. Chipotle already offers deals and freebies for the day, but this promotion has a total giveaway of $200,000 and a projected immense amount of traffic to the site to play, with 10,000 coupon redemptions afterwards driving traffic to stores for pickup/delivery.
BTC in Promotions and MarketingBitcoin could find itself in a much more mainstream role within the corporate world as a marketing tool, able to drive millions of people to a site of promotion in a short span of time. For Chipotle, the $200,000 total giveaway amount is practically invisible, as the company has nearly $1 billion in other operating expenses, which includes marketing and promotion expenses.
For retailers like Nike ( NKE), which spent over $3 billion in ' demand creation' expenses, paired Bitcoin and product promotions to the tune of $100,000 to $500,000 (maybe even up to $1 million to $2.5 million for the holiday season) could drive tens to hundreds of millions of people to the site, and likely spur some spillover of engagement after the promotion and boost customer spend. The overall giveaway amount/cost to drive such engagement is very minimal in proportion to the overall annual marketing spend: assuming 100 million people for a $1 million total giveaway, it's just $100 per person engaged.
With brick-and-mortar retailers, namely in apparel and accessories, the pandemic-induced shuttering of malls significantly impacted revenue streams, and forced many companies into cost-saving initiatives, of which, in most cases, impacted marketing and advertising spends to aid the bottom line. Canada Goose ( GOOS) reduced marketing spend as part of its cost-saving plan, although marketing spend has increased in FQ3. With a budget much smaller (total SG&A for FY20 was just $350 million, of which marketing is a proportion), a promotion similar in size to Chipotle's could drive much more traffic to the site while still having a relative small capital outlay.
Other restaurants like McDonald's ( MCD), known for extensive promotions and games like Monopoly, could see a large boost in sales and traffic for a game of a similar style with Bitcoin prizes. While the game-play of the Monopoly game incentives purchases of different menu items to collect pieces, Bitcoin could serve as an alternative prize or a replacement prize for the traditional cash prizes. With more popularity in Bitcoin, a game/promotion of this style could generate a significant amount of sales and engagement.
While it definitely could be an interesting synergy, and one that could get old quick - the odds of winning are extremely small, relative to a large lottery jackpot, which could dissuade people from attempting to win - it could be a viable strategy for companies reliant on traffic and customer engagement (retail/apparel/restaurants). Bitcoin awareness would also likely have to be a key feature of the target market or majority customer base of the brand (a company like Chico's ( CHS) might not fare as well as Lululemon ( LULU) in a promotion or giveaway of this sort).
OverallBitcoin is steadily finding more acceptance in the mainstream world, although the cryptocurrency is far from replacing fiat money. While there have been many instances of retailers accepting indirect payments of the coin, Tesla is pioneering direct payments of Bitcoin for its product. Although direct payments may not be feasible for most companies due to volatility/risks and capital outlay to acquire enough for liquidity reasons, Bitcoin could still find a way into corporate transactions from a marketing standpoint.
With a surge in popularity over the past six months to a year, and a very high likelihood of continued popularity, turning to Bitcoin-led promotions, like Chipotle Mexican Grill has done, could provide extremely high levels of engagement and traffic per total cost of the promotion. From small to large companies alike, Bitcoin could find significant potential as a tool in marketing.
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