Challenger Brands 2020; Latest Coronavirus Updates: Thursday’s First Things First

Plus, a look inside Goop and the next era of DTC

Adweek kicked off its second annual two-day Challenger Brands summit yesterday. - Credit by Sean T. Smith for Adweek
Headshot of Kathryn Lundstrom

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Challenger Brands 2020 Is Underway

Adweek kicked off its second annual Challenger Brands summit in New York City yesterday, a two-day event featuring 12 different tracks focused on the issues brands face today. Each track centers on questions like how to reach Gen Zers, how to shift to more sustainably produced products, how to effectively and efficiently harness data and how new technologies will change marketing. The sold out event featured more than a thousand attendees from some of the world’s biggest brands. Here’s a taste of what went on during day one:

  • While the 100-year-old NFL doesn’t fall into the challenger brand category, it’s seeing the same headwinds facing every legacy entertainment product: declining younger audiences and lack of relevancy. NFL chief marketing officer Tim Ellis discussed how the league is working to win back younger viewers without pushing away a reliable fanbase.
  • In a world where online retail giants like Amazon and Walmart reign supreme, newcomer Verishop is relying on more than just conveniences like one-day shipping and free returns to gain new customers. Verishop co-founder and chief strategy officer Cate Khan joined Ann-Marie Alcántara on stage to discuss its multifaceted growth strategies, including developing original brands in-house.
  • Despite federal prohibition, the cannabis industry has exploded across the US. Lee Applbaum, CMO of leading global cannabis company Parallel, explained what it takes to build brands across this dynamic and challenging industry landscape.
  • Charlamagne tha God leads a media empire that includes a radio show that’s become a mandatory destination for brands, celebrities and political candidates looking to promote their products and platforms. He joined Adweek to discuss the power of influence, his passion for mindfulness, and the art of creating and leveraging your personal brand.
  • While several events around the globe are facing cancellation or postponement due to fears related to COVID-19, Adweek made the decision to go through with this week’s Challenger Brands summit as planned. Read more on that decision here.

And there’s more on the horizon: Today we’ll hear from Spotify’s Julie Clark about the audio revolution; from actress and social media powerhouse Shay Mitchell about the tactics she uses to inspire 27 million followers; and from Rock the Vote about why it’s more important than ever for brands to engage in our civic process.

Couldn’t make it to New York for the summit? Follow Adweek on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn for updates!

South by Southwest Is Not Canceled Despite Coronavirus Concerns

At a news conference yesterday morning in Austin, Texas, local government and public health officials said they are not yet recommending South by Southwest cancel its conference and festivals despite fears of coronavirus. Scheduled to begin next week, SXSW appears to be dodging a trend that has seen several high-profile events like Facebook’s F8 conference, Mobile World Congress, Google I/O and Dubai Lynx, get canceled or postponed due to the epidemic. But while the event is still going forward as planned, several high-profile brands have already pulled out, such as Netflix, Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Mashable, Amazon Studios, TikTok and Intel. For a full list of coronavirus-related cancellations and updates, keep tabs on our tracker.

Read more: A Change.org petition circulated among Austinites calling for SXSW to cancel the event has reached more than 45,000 signatures. 

Inside Goop’s Evolution From Celebrity Newsletter to Burgeoning Lifestyle and Wellness Empire

In the latest issue of Brandweek, deputy brands editor Diana Pearl takes a deep dive into the world of Goop: the controversy, the $17,000 earrings, the Netflix show and ultimately, the brand’s success. Since Gwyneth Paltrow launched it as a newsletter in 2008, the brand has grown into a $250 million company with 250 employees, 1.3 million followers on Instagram, 36 million listens on its podcast and upscale brick-and-mortar stores from San Francisco to London.

Read more: Partnerships with other brands have become a hallmark of Goop’s business.

For the Next Wave of DTC Brands, the Path to Success Looks More Complicated Than Ever

After 10 years of nearly unfettered growth in the world of direct-to-consumer brands, many experts are now pointing to recent downsizing or growth struggles as evidence of a correction that is now upon us. It’s not a bubble that’s bursting, they say, but rather a new era for the industry that’ll require more from the next wave of DTC brands: a stronger focus on community and sustainability, measured expectations for what success looks like and sometimes, working in tandem with legacy brands to build a stable foundation.

Read more: Insiders are calling on the category to combine the flexibility and customer-centricity of DTC with the core strengths of traditional retail.

Best of the Rest: Today’s Top News and Insights

Ad of the Day: Apple Shows the Range of Iconic and Inspiring Women Who Do Their Work ‘Behind the Mac’

International Women’s Day isn’t officially until Sunday, but Apple is celebrating early with an ad overflowing with inspiring talent and some of the world’s most influential women. The newest installment of the “Behind the Mac” campaign features more than 20 women whose accomplishments span art, music, literature, film, sports and culture.


Confessions of the Adweek Executive Mentees

The inaugural Adweek Executive Mentor Program (which will double in size in 2020) connected 110 of the world’s top leaders with 116 executive mentees—the up-and-coming leaders of tomorrow. The mentees share their experiences with the program, as well as these key takeaways:

“Part of finding your voice is to go through the process of finding your voice. Be authentic to who you are, don’t polish the stone so much if it doesn’t feel natural.”

—Waleed Elgindy (mentored by Linda Boff, CMO of GE)

“Find a work culture that values what you value. Being a parent should not limit your career, but fuel it.”

—Rebecca Hawkins (mentored by Nick Drake, vp, global marketing, Google)

More of the Latest:


@klundster kathryn.lundstrom@adweek.com Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.
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