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Jun 12, 2018

How does the endless scroll of Netflix impact our desire for sneakers? How does the manufactured scarcity of shoes influence a billion-dollar secondary market? What is a sneaker bot?

The difference between iPhones and Sneakers: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade sit down with product designer Matthew Famularo to talk about sneaker appreciation, manufactured scarcity, and the second-hand marketplace built around sneakers. We get acquainted with sneaker bots and discuss the ways that teens unknowingly carry out digital strategy for their favourite brands. We also listen to Rich’s admiration of Paul Newman’s good looks.

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5:25 — Matthew: “Part of this multi-billion-dollar industry of sneakers winds up being sold because the supply is so incredibly limited and the demand is so high.”

7:25 — Matthew: “People will camp out for sneakers… It’s like Apple products, it’s like when the iPhone comes out.”

9:40 — Paul: “There was kind of a larger trend of athletes going from cool hometown celebrities to global mega superstars where everything is affiliated with them, like when Steph Curry came out with his sneaker and everybody made fun of it — I don’t follow basketball or sneakers, but that was big news.”

10:00 — Rich: “It’s fully baked at that point. You’re not wearing a sneaker to go play basketball in the schoolyard. You can, but it became fashion.”

16:18 — Matthew: “It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry, sneakers. It’s a marketplace. Because of this multi-billion-dollar industry and supply that doesn’t meet with demand, there’s now a billion-dollar secondary market that StockX is participating in, that eBay is participating in, that people are using platforms to sell sneakers.”

16:30 — Paul: “There’s a low cost of entry, it’s connected to street culture, there’s an element of hustle to it, and there’s a key thing you’ve just described which is that you’ve got this marketplace over here, you’ve got this waiting room here, you can automate this — or you could, theoretically.”

16:55 — Matthew: “There are a lot of different kinds of sneaker bots that you can get and it depends on the shoes that you’re looking for… Some bots do all of them. Some bots only do websites that use Shopify. Some bots only work on jailbroken iPhones because they work on the Nike SNKRS app. You have to understand what you’re looking for, and dependant on that, there are a number of options available.”

17:35 — Paul: “Everything you can do with the web has ended up in sneaker bot development territory.”

19:25 — Matthew: “We are now exposed to digital objects more than types of physical objects.”

20:05 — Matthew: “What you have today is between the digital objects [of music, TV, and film] is the notion of scarcity has exploded. Netflix will just pour content over your head until you drown in it so the perceived value is gone. I think that this is almost in a way a reaction to it, because you actually have this thing you can cherish in a weird way because not everyone has it. You know for a fact that because of the marketplace that there are just not a lot of them.”

20:50 — Paul: “That aspect, that sort of raw capitalist consumption part of street culture got really into the brains of cool rich young kids who are like, ‘Oh yeah, $1500 for a cool pair of sneakers, that’s no big deal. I’m a DJ and my parents are funding the next 30 years of my college education.’”

22:00 — Paul: “It’s not such a big market that serious, giant players are really deeply invested in it so it stays kind of ground level. Even the fact that there’s this whole sneaker culture and the bots and so on becomes part of the mystique. The marketplace is now connected to the big public branding event… They’re seeing this growing marketplace as feeding into their overall big brand efforts. Matthew at some level is pulling off the digital strategy around perceived value in the adidas and Yeezy brand for them.”

22:50 — Matthew: “One of the key points is that demographically you’ve got teenagers who fully understand that everything’s disposable. Everything. My Instagram, my Snapchat.”

27:35 — Paul: “Watches are very specific. Watches are rich people catnip.”

28:25 — Rich: “I just it’s cool that there’s this appreciation for this thing that there aren’t just endless amounts of.”

28:35 — Matthew: “There’s a separation between how widespread it can be. On social media, you can see photos of the shoe everywhere. But you go to… Ohio, and you’re not going to see that.”

29:30 — Paul: “When we’re having our kids play Pokemon Go, we’re training them to be sneaker drop consumers.”

31:10 — Paul: “As a species we find scarcity. I think it’s really exciting and I think it’s because we like having access to everything and then we get really excited about rich people having access to things we don’t and we’re like, ‘well why don’t I have it?’”

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