You might dismiss as mere gimmicks products from YouTube stars like MrBeast and Logan Paul—think Feastables snacks and Prime energy drinks, respectively. But billionaire venture capitalist Marc Andreessen leans toward another view: that they represent the future of consumer-product relationships.
The reason that Coca-Cola, Kraft Mac & Cheese, and their ilk exist, he recently argued, is “because of the media of the era in which those brands were created.”
Andreessen laid out his reasoning this week on The Ben & Marc Show, a podcast he hosts with Ben Horowitz, a fellow cofounder of the VC firm a16z, aka Andreessen Horowitz.
He cited other notable brands led by non-YouTube celebrities, among them George Clooney’s Casamigos Tequila and Kim Kardashian’s Skims shapewear, which she’s turned into a $4 billion business.
“The historical way of looking at this, I think, would be these are gimmicks,” Andreessen said. “Fans of somebody are going to buy the thing they recommend for a while,” but “most consumer markets are not this.”
It’s conglomerates like Unilever, Kraft Foods, and Procter & Gamble that provide the consumer products shoppers generally encounter.
But a “more aggressive argument that could be made—which is kind of where I am—is maybe the influencer/creator-branded, kind of individually-branded things, this might be the future of consumer products generally,” Andreessen said.
In the mass media era, he continued, companies built brands primarily via TV commercials, where “you had a single shot get Coca-Cola established, or whatever is was. You had celebrities in those days, but they weren’t front-and-center in this effort because you were just trying to get the basic message of the of the product out, for the most part.”
But that led to an “unnatural configuration,” he said, where individual consumers had a relationship with a brand or corporation, rather than with a person. “If that’s all I can have, then okay, fine, but like, really, that’s my emotional affinity? That’s how I’m going to kind of process things?”
By contrast, he said, his young son loves MrBeast, a role model for him and millions of other kids. One could argue it’s still not a real relationship since it isn’t two-way, but “it’s a relationship with a person,” Andreessen noted.
“Maybe we’re at the beginning of what is a monster wave,” he said, “and we’ll be sitting here 20 years from now and it will turn out this was basically the great transition, and in the future the brands will actually all be individually led.”