The elusive American dream

February 19th, 2024

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Happy Presidents’ Day, ya’ll. Question: how well do you know your presidential history? If you’re feeling bold, you can put your wits to the test with some presidential trivia. One question that had us fooled: “what’s the maximum number of years a US president can serve in office?” Hint: it’s not what you might think.

In other news… there’s a new trend call “microtribes,” influencers contend with better pay, and the middle class is struggling.

Top Trends

X → Emma Stone

Reddit → Dakota Johnson

TikTok → Zoom pranks

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The power of microtribes

The Future. Companies have long endeavored to make the most revenue by noticing trends early, betting on them and expanding them for the mainstream in order to capitalize on a larger audience. But now, there’s a new consensus on the smartest growth strategy: focusing on “microtribes” with very specific interests and loyalties, which means that brands will likely start catering to a larger number of small interest groups rather than one, all-encompassing one.

Consumer demand is king
Businesses across industries are learning that optimizing growth strategies for a large general public using things like new products, membership programs, and sales incentives isn’t what’s most successful these days. Enter microtribes…

  • Microtribes are groups of consumers with shared niche interests that are more interested in having their specific community marketed to rather than being swept up in the general audience.

  • These groups have risen in popularity due to recent years of increased social isolation and social media platforms encouraging users to connect with communities they relate to most.

The future is niche
Companies have long cut costs and jobs as a way to protect themselves ahead of a downturn in the economy. Now, they’re doing it out of economic potential, choosing instead to redirect finances that normally would go to marketing budgets for a broad audience to save them for the savvier and more lucrative approach of marketing to more targeted interest groups.

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Illustration by Kate Walker

Influencers strike back at pay

The Future. Brands today heavily depend on influencer marketing to advertise their products, leaving creators with the advantage when it comes to negotiations. Due to the standardization of payment terms by influencers, companies will likely have to start changing their approach to collaborating with creators.

Cashing out 
More and more influencers are beginning to add stricter clauses in their contracts to ensure they get paid in a reasonable amount of time. Some of these new negotiation approaches look like asking for more deposits up front, advocating for net 10-15 payments rather than net 30/60/90, and charging late fees… generally 10% of the amount owed.

  • In 2023, agencies and brands reported that they were investing more money in influencer marketing than in the previous year.

  • Goldman Sachs estimates that the creator economy, which is currently worth $250 billion, will jump to being worth $480 billion by 2027.

  • According to global finance automation platform Tipalti, 56% of creators have faced late payments.

Generally, payment terms for sponsored content happen 30 to 90 days after the influencer’s work is completed and they send an invoice.

Freelancin’ ain’t free
It’s hard for marketers to predict exactly how the creator economy will continue to blossom. Performance indicators and pay standards continue to evolve as the industry does. The future of marketing budgets may end up being more driven by the terms and conditions set by creators rather than brands leading the process.

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The American dream? // Illustration by Kate Walker

What it means to be middle-class today

The Future. The popular image of middle-class security — a stable job with predictable wages, health insurance, and retirement — is a club that most Americans aspire to belong to. But a recent poll from The Washington Post shows US adults underestimate the income required for that lifestyle, hinting that the middle-class life trajectory might be more of a dream than a reality these days.

“Save like hell and hope you don’t live too long”
Just over a third of Americans have the financial security to meet the definition of what it means to be middle-class, according to a WaPo analysis of data from the Federal Reserve.

  • 9 in 10 US adults believe six markers of financial stability are necessary parts of being middle-class, including a secure job, the ability to save money for the future, the ability to afford an emergency $1,000 expense without debt, the ability to pay all bills on time without worry, having health insurance, and the ability to retire comfortably.

  • With additional measures of financial security — like paid sick leave, time and money for vacations, home ownership, and a college education — more Americans drift from the middle-class ideal. Even for those who can save, retirement is a financial worry.

  • While The Pew Research Center positions a middle-class income between two-thirds and twice the national median income ($67,819 to $203,458 for a family of four in 2022), most Americans consider the lower end of that range (between $75,000 and $100,000) to be middle-class — which doesn’t align with the costs required to maintain that lifestyle.

Having just enough to pay bills and taxes... 
The good news is that the number of Americans with middle-class financial security hasn’t declined over time, even though the path to that tax bracket has become increasingly complex.

So, now we want to hear from you…


We ask the hard-hitting questions.

Do you consider yourself middle-class?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

82.5% of you voted No in Friday’s poll: Are you a sneakerhead?

“I don’t spend excessive amounts of money on them, but I am old enough to be comfortable in my shoes and athletic style.”

“No. Shoes are tools for walking, not collector’s items. Might as well collect Kleenex.”

“I enjoy a comfortable shoe, but I’m not into how they look necessarily.”

“I own two pairs of sneakers: one white and one black. However, if I could afford it, I would have more colors, but I can’t see ever having more than 7 to 10 pairs.”

“I love all kinds of sneakers, and I am always looking for the new and latest and unique designs that come out.”

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The best curated daily stories from around the web

Media, Music, & Entertainment

  • Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour concert movie increased average ticket prices at Cinemark theaters by 50 cents in Q4 2023. Read More → deadline

  • Comcast and Paramount are discussing a streaming partnership that could lead to Peacock and Paramount+ being offered together as a package deal. Read More → theverge

  • Timothée Chalamet re-teamed with Cartier to design a Dune-inspired necklace, featuring 900 gemstones embedded in rotating modules. Read More → gq

Fashion & E-Commerce

  • Megan Thee Stallion and Nike, who signed a partnership back in 2021, have finally launched their first collaboration: the “Hot Girl Systems” collection. Read More → hypebeast

  • Fast-food and fast-casual chains like McDonald’s, Shake Shack, and Taco Bell say that diners should expect only small price increases this year. Read More → insider

  • “Girl power” has been the design principle at NYFW, where power suits and big faux-fur coats are replacing “the era of naked dressing.” Read More → nyt

Tech, Web3, & AI

  • AI versions of Beyoncé’s country music singles are going viral — covers of “Texas Hold ‘Em” and “16 Carriages” made to sound like Miley Cyrus performed them garnered 1.2 million views, per a Miley Cyrus fansite’s post on X. Read More → axios

  • NASA is seeking four healthy adults with science degrees or military or piloting experience to live in a simulated Mars habitat in Houston, TX, for one year. Read More → insider

  • Yuga Labs, the creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club and owners of CryptoPunks, has acquired PROOF. Read More → nftnow

Creator Economy

  • TikTok reports that it’s the #1 platform where gamers between the ages of 18 and 24 find new mobile games to play. Read More → tubefilter

  • Taylor Swift donated $100,000 to the GoFundMe page for Lisa Lopez-Galvan, the woman killed at the Chiefs’ victory parade. Read More → variety

  • MrBeast doesn’t think he’s wealthy (he is) because he doesn’t have access to his bank accounts (his mom does). Read More → insider

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Today’s email was written by Evan Nicole Brown and Kait Cunniff.
Edited by Boye Akolade.
Published by Darline Salazar.

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