How to Navigate Culture Wars + Newsletter Launches a CPG Brand

June 9, 2023 by  Chris Erwin

RockWater Roundup

RockWater analysis to make you a better investor and operator. Today we discuss how businesses can better navigate the culture wars, and a CPG launch from a newsletter.

by Chris Erwin

The Culture Wars are creating a corporate crisis.

We’re seeing growing backlash as consumers vote with their wallets and social handles…

– Company boycotts
– Negative viral moments on social media
– Execs put on leave
– Violence against employees

The world’s biggest brands are impacted: Disney, Target, LA Dodgers, The North Face, and more.

So, CEOs are asking when and how to weigh in on social issues. The response is strategy and decision-making rubrics, and org-wide coordination:

– How central is topic to biz and customers?
– Does it intersect customers’ day-to-day lives?
– Broad team buy-in: legal, HR, PR, mktg, product

This is smart. Distill messy situations w/ many variables into what matters most.

Here’s what we also recommend:

– Know your customers better. Who buys your product, and why? You may be surprised.
– Does topic intersect with your brand’s values?
– LTV of value-aligned customers will *likely* outweigh short-term alienation from a loud minority. But, don’t forget point 1 above.
– Execute better. From Fabrice Houdart in the the Wall Street Journal…

“It’s not the end of LGBT marketing. It’s the end of amateurism in LGBT marketing”

The intersection of business and culture, and PR fall-out for corporate missteps, is nothing new. We actually wrote about it during the BLM movement and George Floyd just a few years back (see our Profits VS Purpose article).

We expect these moments of corporate crises to happen more often. Going forward, the missteps will be harder to anticipate, and plan for. So companies must be prepared. These decision-making rubrics, and case studies of what worked and didn’t, are a good place to start your team planning.

Our country is moving to the extremes, where population cohorts are farther apart on their values and beliefs across political / social / cultural matters. Combine that with the upcoming 2024 presidential election, and increasing rate of info disseminiation via short-form video growth, and it means we’re in for turbulent times ahead.


Newsletters Are Launching CPG Brands

by Chris Erwin

Create is a “creatine monohydrate gummy” from a new wellness brand launched by Dan McCormick.

Of note, Dan is the chief of staff at Not Boring, a great business newsletter that took off during the pandemic, and which recently launched a VC fund. Dan is also the brother of Not Boring founder Packy McCormick.

Here are my quick observations and questions after a little digging…

(1) I first learned about Create from sponsor placement in The Split, another newsletter I read by Turner Novak. I expect The Split and Not Boring have very similar reader personas (Gen Z / millennials, high income, urban, careers in tech-finance), so that’s smart targeting. Interestingly, Turner runs Banana Capital, a seed stage fund, so I wonder if said fund is also an investor in Create. Maybe Banana Capital offered free promo as part of its investment deal terms? And perhaps Create has a lot of similar deals with other seed investors with large newsletter followings. Further, Create’s ad collateral is likely already in newsletter sponsor format if already being promoted in the Not Boring newsletter, makes for easy lift-and-shift execution.

(2) The Create’s website about page says founded by Dan, but doesn’t list the other founders. Curious who they are? Is Packy a co-founder or investor? At a minimum, I assume the latter. And similar to my note above, I bet the investment includes terms that Not Boring promo is part of the deal, so the value exchange = equity in Create for cash + promo

(3) To the above point, I noticed there’s co-branding on with Not Boring, e.g. top-of-fold there’s a promo featuring “20% off the gummy supplement that powers your favorite newsletter”. That helps provide legitimacy to the Create product. I bet there’s also guaranteed inventory within the Not Boring newsletter itself, but I didn’t scour past versions to confirm this.

Have you all seen any CPG brands emerging from unexpected places? Reply to this email if so

On a final note, my colleage Mike Booth had another observation…

“I’ve seen a lot of newsletters launching investment funds: The Split –> Banana Capital, The Generalist –> Generalist Capital, The Alts –> Alts Fund, Not Boring –> Not Boring Capital, Bankless –> Bankless Ventures, and many more.”

There are reasons these funds may outperform their seed fund peers. Their content engines improve deal flow via greater founder reach, improve the pitch to founders to win placement in deals (i.e. the GP has a built-in marketing platform for products and services they invest in), helps prime the pump for future fundraising to LPs, and more.

This all aligns to the a recurring theme we’ve covered here, in that modern business builders with a content footprint and audience are better setup to earn consumer market share, and thus profit. We’ve covered this extensively on our blog.


If these insights are relevant to projects you’re working on, ping us here. We love talking all things media x commerce!

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