Predictions Week: Can anybody copy Dolly Parton’s brand?

Dollyfication

The alchemy of Dolly Parton has been well-documented and celebrated with good reason. She crosses through every line: political, socioeconomic, geography, age, gender identity … you name it. Billionaires and delivery drivers both sing along to 9 to 5 in complete lockstep with the song’s protagonist.

Also well-documented: the seeming impossibility of replicating Dolly’s brand. The mix of joy, talent, philanthropy, empathy, and her unique history and place in American (and global) culture make her, seemingly, the last great “crossover” icon.

Or does it. You know what else Dolly’s good at? Making money. Superbowl commercials, Netflix deals, new books, new albums … she’s busier, more relevant, and worth more than ever (around $350M). Her current chapter has most definitely caught the attention of both publicly-traded companies and personal brands eager to copy her secret serum.

Efforts to manufacture realness inevitably fail, though the lag time for that is longer than it used to be. That won’t stop corporate brand strategy people in 2022 from trying to find the “next Dolly’ for their purposes: selling stuff, greenwashing, heading off labor issues, etc. Why not make your own crossover superhero? How hard can it be?

This sort of personality-led brand transcendence has been around (see Paltrow, Alba, Clooney, et. al.) for years, often accompanied by either a whiff of the unattainable or a folksy proletarianism. Or both. Next year even more businesses will study Dolly, looking for cues and patterns to emulate, seeking a way to thread all the needles of politics and taste she’s been able to thread. Get ready for college business courses tackling the subject with dead seriousness.

Savvy companies will increase their efforts to capture some of the magic, maybe via high-visibility partnerships with seasoned personalities who carry some nonpartisan credibility. Or, new versions of old-school company spokespeople, who trot out soft pivots into philanthropy, wellness, labor rights, climate initiatives … all deep-fried as job-providing, family-forward ways to rebuild America. Rebuild ourselves!
-Matt Brown, Head of Content and Marketing

The Apple Silicon Transition

Instead of a prediction, I’d like to offer you, and the Apple Mothership, a series of reasonable questions. As an Apple enthusiast, one of the big things I’m looking forward to is Apple finishing the Apple Silicon transition. They said it would take two years, and next year is that deadline.

So, we’re kinda wondering what their answer will be for the very highest-end Macs: the mainstream iMac 27-inch, and the Mac Pro. I think we know what the CPUs will look like. If the M1 is a single unit of computing, the M1 Pro is like two of them. The Mac Pro is expected to have 3–4 of them.

But we don’t know lots of other things, like GPU options, RAM, and storage. Will they redesign the Mac Pro? Will it be as expandable? Will there be a “Mac Pro Mini”? And what kind of display will they ship, if any?

The Pro Display XDR has been superseded in capability by the new displays in the latest M1 MacBook Pros. Will they update that? And/or, as many of us hope, will they ship a more reasonably-priced 5K display for connecting to MacBooks? Tim Cook call me!
-Aaron Vegh, Developer

Ego Checks In Hollywood

In early December Deloitte released its Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) 2022 Predictions report, and one of the standout numbers focused on global subscription churn for streamers. At least 150 million paid subscriptions will be canceled next year, up to 30% per market.

Not surprising, given how content is spread out these days. Unless you’re Disney+ or HBO Max, keeping a constant, uninterrupted stream of shows that appeal to your niches (WandaVision leads to The Falcon and The Winter Soldier leads to Loki…) has become a steep challenge.

This will only intensify the land rush in 2022 for content and IP. Every week we’ll see announcements and rumors about the exploration of catalogs of comics, books, music, podcasts, brands, and completely unexpected sources of material to feed 8-episodes. There will be a lot more of “I can’t believe that’s going to be a show.”

That much we know. But the thing that hasn’t really been reckoned with in Hollywood is how radically the COVID-streaming one-two punch has reshaped the culture and class system of American entertainment production. Throughout the pandemic, the media narrative on theatrical film releases is when they’re coming “back.” Movies will survive, stars will still be around, but there is no back, especially when it comes to the industry pecking order. Egos will get checked in 2022.

The financial and social structure that survived for 75 years — film production at the top, TV in the middle, music in a separate lane, everything else at the bottom — has finally reached its endgame. Out of necessity, some got ahead of it early (Reese!). But streaming’s insatiable demand for product has shifted the nature of “clout” in ways that 15 years ago were unthinkable, affecting everything from party invites to producer meetings to first-look deals.

The streaming release windows accelerated since 2019 all but obliterated the royal deference to film producers, directors, and actors. Adjacent to those IP announcements will be shorter press releases about executives from the movie-centric system moving on to pursue other interests.

While this restructuring will still feature a relentless resistance to diversity, Hollywood will continue to do what it does best: imitate and replicate. That has possibilities. We’ll see many variations on the theme of Insecure, I May Destroy You, Pen15, Hacks, Dopesick, Station Eleven, and all kinds of new, interesting stuff. Plus about a thousand Succession and White Lotus knockoffs.
-Tilda Aldinger, Marketing Coordinator

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