✍️ This piece was originally published as part of my new Substack newsletter, the Marketing Mind Meld. Subscribe there for weekly marketing reads!

In early December, I was back home for the holidays when a package arrived that caused everyone in my family to raise an eyebrow.

It was a scented candle, which in itself wasn’t surprising. Everyone knows I’m quite the candle hoarder.

But it was the scent itself that shocked them.

It was a Dunkin Donuts scented candle.

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Growing up in Northeast Massachusetts, Dunkin Donuts was a cultural phenomenon — a restaurant that carried all the frenzied popularity of an ancient cult. …


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Stillness at Lake Merritt after a day of reflecting

In my 2019 reflection, I mentioned how 2019 was one of my hardest years personally and professionally.

LOL.

As you can imagine, the momentum that came out of that reflection sputtered quickly into early 2020, forcing a whole new set of life adjustments. While it was a series of tough times, there are also some fun things retrospectively that happened in 2020:

  • Chatted regularly with a therapist for the first time
  • Took the longest hiatus from drinking since before 21 (almost 3 months)
  • Lost close to 30 pounds in peak quarantine (Mid-July)
  • Started a newsletter and actually shellshocked my imposter syndrome by growing an email list to hundreds of…


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Image: Caleb Dow from Unsplash

I remember one of the first moments I fell in love with marketing.

It was the Summer of 2015, I was working at IBM as a Strategy Consultant and I was casually scrolling Twitter at work, at the precipice of a growing controversy.

Meek Mill had accused Drake (both rappers) of ghostwriting his songs. Naturally annoyed, Drake responded with a series of cathartic disses and social media became a hotbed of debate around the feud.

Whataburger, White Castle, and Rosetta Stone all made quick jokes on Twitter at Meek Mill’s expense (his response to Drake was not well-received) and enjoyed their share of virality. …


✍️ This piece was originally published as part of my new Substack newsletter, the Marketing Mind Meld. Subscribe there for weekly marketing reads!

When I was seven years old, I remember attending an after school program where we were assigned an odd activity: We had to mix granola with glitter and put it into a Ziploc bag.

This was followed by an even more odd instruction. We were told to sprinkle it on the driveway right as the sun began to set on Christmas Eve so that we could make sure it got there just in time for Santa’s reindeer.

Bright as I was, I decided that this wasn’t nearly enough granola. …


✍️ This piece was originally published as part of my new Substack newsletter, the Marketing Mind Meld. Subscribe there for weekly marketing reads!

Every so often, I read a book that really shifts my perspectives on traditional marketing. One I finished yesterday did just that.

Rory Sutherland’s Alchemy is a wonderful mix of anecdotal and theoretical concepts based on a simple idea: Human behaviour is an enigma.

The premise of Alchemy is that marketers should look beyond logic to pursue the ideas that don’t quite make sense.

Over the course of the book, Sutherland pulls from his decades-long career at Ogilvy to share frameworks for “thinking like an alchemist”, with the conclusion that market research and standard economic theory don’t fully explain human motivation. …


ASMR is a budding yet eerie phenomenon — can low whispers and crinkled wrappers mold into an actual marketing strategy?

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Photo by Almos Bechtold on Unsplash

There are certain sounds in the world that are universally soothing.

The thunder of a waterfall. The crashing of waves. The crackling of a fire.

We don’t second guess nature sounds or wonder why our favorite meditation apps play them in the background of a narration. We’ve grown accustomed to associating nature with joy and relaxation.

But scientists have learned something interesting about the brain in the past decade. The joy and relaxation we get from nature — can also be induced by some odd sounds.

Whispers. Tapping on glass. A bottle rolling on a table. Pouring beer. Turning the pages of a book. Cutting soap. …


✍️ This piece was originally published as part of my new Substack newsletter, the Marketing Mind Meld. Subscribe there for weekly marketing reads!

It’s been a long month for Twitter.

After scrambling to brainstorm misinformation labels and trying to survive amongst an entire subset of their users losing their sanity, the company decided to throw a bone this past week by releasing something new: a feature it calls Fleets.

What are Fleets? Fleets are effectively another version of the popular stories feature. The UI and core functions are familiar to most social media users — if you’ve used Facebook or Instagram, you’ve likely seen the row of circles at the top, all platform users sharing an image or video. …


✍️ This piece was originally published as part of my new Substack newsletter, the Marketing Mind Meld. Subscribe there for weekly marketing reads!

December 29th, 2019 changed the trajectory of my life as a marketer.

After a cold kept me in bed for a good part of the morning, I slipped to the refuge of my phone and began my journey on a new app called TikTok.

The rest is history. Whether it was nonsensical skits, dance challenges, music, or even simply the sheer energy of content creators, I was hooked. …


Kit Kat, McDonald’s, and State Farm are just some of the many brands that have nailed iconic jingles — what’s unique about their strategy?

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

It was an early Saturday evening — I was heading back to my home in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco walking by a row of brightly-lit bars on Valencia Street. I heard the distant commentary of a basketball game while my phone tried to focus its gaze on the Google Maps directions.

The game cut to commercial and I suddenly heard the following sound:

Bah-da-ba-ba-bah!

I didn’t have to look up from my Google Maps to know it was a McDonald’s commercial. I briefly ignored it while the commercial moved on — but not for long. …


✍️ This piece was originally published as part of my new Substack newsletter, the Marketing Mind Meld. Subscribe there for weekly marketing reads!

Next time you take a roadtrip, here’s a fun game.

Take a minute to look at all the food fast restaurants you see along the highway. Think about patterns you see amongst the restaurants.

You might notice something subtle, something you would miss if you didn’t look close enough.

Fast-food restaurant logos are largely the same color.

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Think about it — almost all use some combination of red, yellow, and white to illustrate their brand identity.

Is it a coincidence? A secret pact of some sort written between the fast food overlords? …

About

Kushaan Shah

Growth @Livongo • Bostonian • Fan of sports and quirky theatre • Marketing Nerd • Weekly reads http://mindmeld.substack.com ✍️

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