America's Greediest Family Escapes Again, Overspending on Branding and the World's Most Nutritious Food | Non-Obvious Insights #273

Dear karl,

What is the world's most nutritious food? Are small companies and startups overspending on branding? Is the Sackler family actually evil, and will they escape prosecution for their role in the opioid crisis yet again? What can a 24,000 year old organism teach us about the search for life anywhere? Can a sonic journey from Etihad Airways reawaken the magic of travel? We will explore these questions and lots more in this week's edition of my Non-Obvious Insights Newsletter. Enjoy!

Why Startup Companies Should Not Spend a Fortune on Branding

One of the early mistakes that I have seen business owners make is to feel like they need to invest lots of resources and time into developing a beautiful brand right from the start. As this article points out, doing so is probably a mistake because you can waste early resources and lock yourself into a look and logo before you're really ready for one.

Having started two businesses and done many iterations of branding, I know that a beautiful brand is something that you graduate to, not something you aim to create overnight. Instead, this article offers some smart tips for getting the branding right without spending a fortune. One example: use a wordmark for your logo instead of a logo. This can be achieved simply with a font and color. This is the sort of tip I also shared in my Non-Obvious Guide to Marketing & Branding as well. The point is, great marketing doesn't have to cost big bucks. 

Tiny Creature Comes Back To Life After 24,000 Year Deep Freeze

It sounds like the opening of a movie plot. After lying frozen in northeastern Siberia for more than 24,000 years, scientists have brought a tiny single-celled organism back to life. This creature, known as the bdelloid rotifer, is "the hardest proof as of today that multicellular animals could withstand tens of thousands of years in cryptobiosis, the state of almost completely arrested metabolism." Apparently, it's not the first such creature that scientists have found, but this idea that there is life which survived for so long is just so fascinating when you consider how much attention the search for extraterrestrial life is getting right now. Some are even calling 2021 the "year of the UFO." Yet even as we explore other planets, it turns out we are still discovering new life forms right here on Earth too. It only took us 24,000 years to find it. Hopefully the search for life on Mars goes a bit faster.  

Are the Sacklers America's Most Evil Family?

After years of explosive journalism reports about the exploits of the Sackler family, an upcoming book called Empire of Pain from investigative journalist Patrick Radden Keefe is reawakening the discussion about the family's central role in the global Opioid crisis. Several weeks ago in this email I shared a story about a marketing agency getting sued for their role in aggressively marketing addictive drugs to vulnerable patients on behalf of Purdue Pharmaceuticals.

Now with the perspective of time, it appears this may just be another textbook example of how corrupt owners remain in power by letting their vendors take the fall for them. The details emerging about the family's unchecked greed and stubborn refusal to accept any responsibility seem unrefuted and infuriating. Judging by the book's early popularity, the story is resonating with people as well. Will it be enough to tip opinion and litigation against the family? They have survived the scrutiny before and seem poised to get immunity from prosecution once again. Sadly, it may be easier to take the family's name off buildings than to take down the family itself. 

Etihad Airlines Creates Sonic Journey To Accompany Travel Experience

I am not quite old enough to remember a romantic time of air travel. I've seen pictures, of course, of a time when people looked forward to their flights as much as their destinations. But I never grew up with that. Most travelers blame the airlines for this, citing cramped seating, terrible food and and overall experience that feels more like being a piece of cargo. Being in Business Class on any flight certainly helps, but what if airlines could get back to that sense of adventure? It's a perfect moment to ask that question.

As some lucky people start to travel again - there is a golden opportunity for airlines to reimagine the experience to be something much better. Etihad Airlines has the right idea with a new sonic journey experience they just launched for travelers. It uses custom music to make the entire flight experience more positive, relaxing and uplifting. Three words that most people would ordinarily not use to describe airline travel. At least, not yet. 

Secret IRS Files Show the Obvious (and Legal) Way Billionaires Avoid Taxes

There was an explosive Propublica article published this week titled "The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax." It's an undeniably provocative headline. Unfortunately, the "secret" ways that these Billionaires are avoiding taxes are neither secret, nor surprising. Two passages from the article in particular tell you everything you need to know:

"[Billionaires'] wealth derives from the skyrocketing value of their assets, like stock and property. Those gains are not defined by U.S. laws as taxable income unless and until the billionaires sell."

"If you own a company and take a huge salary, you'll pay 37% in income tax on the bulk of it. Sell stock and you'll pay 20% in capital gains tax — and lose some control over your company. But take out a loan, and these days you'll pay a single-digit interest rate and no tax; since loans must be paid back, the IRS doesn't consider them income."

The conclusion of the report is sobering and frustrating, but not surprising: "Billionaires don't have to evade taxes exotically and illicitly — they can avoid them routinely and legally."  

Ex-Teacher Tells Off Parents Who Coddle and Enable Their Kids

It's hard to imagine a profession as routinely undervalued as teachers. This week a social media post went viral when a teacher decided to finally call out the rude behavior of kids and parents in her classroom. The pandemic has forced teachers to reinvent how they educate and most have been near heroic in their desire to still create an environment where their kids can learn. Sometimes, it gets disrupted by entitled, coddled kids and their enabling parents. This post has since been taken down and she has probably already lost her job (or been fired). But her point is an important one. Whether you are a student or a parent, respect your teachers. They deserve much better than what anyone gives them. 

And the World's Most Nutritious Food Is ... Almonds! Cherimoya is #2. 

A team of nutrition researchers ranked the ingredients in more than 1000 raw foods to identify the ones that provided the best balance of your daily nutrition requirements. Each food was ranked and the top 100 were published in a list by the BBC. It's an interesting list. At the top are almonds with a winning nutritional score of 97. Just below it at 96 is Cherimoya (also known as the "Custard Apple"), a favorite fruit of the Inca people and primarily grown in Central America.

Two fish made the top five foods: Ocean Perch and Flatfish. And the rest of the top ten was rounded out by Chia Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Swiss Chard, Pork Fat (!), Beet Greens and Snapper. You can read the full list of 100 top foods here. And in case you were wondering, the list obviously did not take taste into account because cauliflower (yuck!) made an appearance at #93. 

Even More Non-Obvious Stories ...

Every week I always curate more stories than I'm able to explore in detail. In case you're looking for some more reading this week, here are a few other stories that captured my attention ...
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