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The hype is real. Now more than ever, brands are cashing in on their ability to garner devoted followings by using scarcity and to-die-for experiences. In the first half of this year, several standouts gained massive attention for, shall we say, their “unconventional” projects.
Lil Nas X broke the internet in March when he partnered with art collective MSCHF to release a pair of shoes in conjunction with his new song, “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” The Nike Air Max 97s used for the collaboration—named “Satan Shoes”—featured a drop of real human blood and accents like a pentagram charm. Despite the shoes retailing for $1,018 and there only being 666 pairs made, they sold out in under a minute. (Nike was not involved in the making of the shoe and later sued MSCHF.)
The idea of “drops” isn’t exclusive to streetwear. McDonald’s, which is almost 70 years old and not known for being particularly exclusive, launched a campaign surrounding its new chicken sandwich with a site called CHKNDrop.com. The online portal gave a limited number of customers early access to the sandwich, along with a never-before-heard song from producer Tay Keith and limited-edition hoodie, for $5.
What used to be just for the newest colorway of Air Jordans is for Supreme-branded paper bags, Birkin bags, and now even food. Even traditional restaurants are having to manage demand by creating waitlists. Columbus, OH-based pizza shop Wizard of Za sells out weeks in advance of when the pies will actually be made. Every time slot for the month of July is already sold out, creating pent-up buzz for the next month’s pizzas. Limited supply and short windows are hot right now.
“The only thing more satisfying than cookies is the feeling of getting something you thought you couldn’t have.” - Alana Arnold, Last Crumb Co-Founder
The Luxurification of Everything
Dubbed as “the Rolex of cookies,” Los Angeles-based Last Crumb is one of the latest brands to adopt the not-for-mass-market strategy. While founded just last August, Last Crumb enters the market after 10 years of research and development and a proprietary three-day production process. The brand developed over 1,000 unique cookie flavors before finally zeroing in on its 12 core offerings. I caught up with co-founder Alana Arnold to hear more about the new insanity her business is driving in the fine cookie world.
What prompted you to create a cookie company and what inspired the brand elements?
AA: Derek Jaeger, my longtime friend, and the co-founder of Last Crumb is a genius when it comes to cookies. For years I’ve been eating them and knew they were the best dessert I’ve ever had, period. We had been entertaining the idea of starting a cookie company and when we finally decided to pull the trigger, we thought they deserved a much more elevated experience than you’re used to with a conventional cookie company. We think that customers value experience more than ever and while the product must be great, we deliver an unmatched experience from the ordering process to the delivery and unboxing. We have created an experience that offers consumers the perfect combination of luxury and indulgence.
In order to match consumer perception with the cookies’ “Michelin-star quality,” Last Crumb uses elements from luxury brands like Tom Ford and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as Supreme. The bakery is hoping to shift the idea of the classic treat from a cheap package of Chips Ahoy! to a delicacy like caviar.
How'd you build up a following so quickly?
AA: We’ve built a team with an incredible network and who have put the cookies in the hands of some amazing people. Luckily for us, when someone receives the best cookies they’ve ever had, which also comes in the most luxurious packaging they’ve ever seen, their first reaction is to share it with all of their friends and followers. While other companies struggle to create these partnerships, all our posts have been completely organic, and we attribute that to having a great product that people genuinely love. The authenticity of our brand comes across easily to anyone who sees it.
What shifts in the consumer landscape are driving Last Crumb's success?
AA: Now more than ever, consumers are interacting with brands on a screen to determine what they like, and we think we’ve done a great job of capturing the essence of our brand in our content.
During the pandemic, we saw a massive increase in demand for premium and luxury products, especially luxury experiences. The idea of creating a memory has become all the more important and that’s part of what has made this an amazing gifting experience. We can’t count the amount of times we gave or received underwhelming gifts we forgot about the next day. With Last Crumb, we knew that in order to be successful we had to create an overall experience that was equally as over-the-top and indulgent as our incredible cookies. That’s what makes us stand out above everyone else.
The Next Chapter in Hype
Last Crumb wants to be the next place you buy a special gift from, not Gucci or Louis Vuitton. I can attest to this—the first thing I noticed when receiving my box of cookies was that the unboxing was way more similar to a new suit or laptop than a box of sugary sweets. As for the cookies themselves, I’ll leave with you a few texts I received from people I shared them with:
For brands looking to gain a cult following, investment in packaging and the unboxing experience seems to be a winning strategy. As Arnold noted, the first thing customers want to do when receiving a beautiful product is post it on the internet; social validation is what drives most higher-end purchases so seeing these techniques bleed into new consumer categories makes sense.
Last Crumb is quiet on plans for the future, but if the next cookie frontier looks anything like the last year, it’s bound to be enticing. It has been the first company to successfully translate “drops” from streetwear to snacks able to be purchased online. Will other brands follow in its footsteps and try to create buzz around food? Will Nike or MSCHF launch a protein bar? Will Rolex launch a cigar? In the meantime, I’m going to put myself on the waitlist because Last Crumb’s cookies get eaten fast once they’re delivered.