📈 Recession Depression

We’re surfing economic waves, swimming in investment tips, and drowning in obsolete job skills.

Welcome to Trendlines!

With all the lovable hijinks we pack into each newsletter, it’s only a matter of time before we reveal that Trendlines is actually just three charts in a (Gradient-branded) trenchcoat.

But late August and trenchcoats don’t mix, so perhaps a Gradient-branded t-shirt is more appropriate. Refer Trendlines to your friends and colleagues and you can earn the t-shirt you didn’t know existed until five seconds ago, along with cash and other sweet, sweet swag. Just one referral is all you need to earn some cash, which we assume you’ll put toward your next trenchcoat purchase. Scroll to the bottom of the newsletter to check out our updated rewards program!

If you’re still not sold on referring Trendlines, wait till you see the data-driven insights we’ve precariously stacked underneath a long, beige outer garment, such as:

  • Squinting at our MC Escher painting of an economy to determine whether it’s the staircase or the economy that’s receding.

  • Investing in whichever brand promises to make the athleisure version of a trenchcoat.

  • Cowering in fear at the possibility that both The Great AI Job Replacement and the AI itself will have legs.

Enjoy reading.


Recession Depression

Major news outlets have warned of a current averted impending recession in the United States for what feels like forever. But with the rising costs of goods, services, and Big Macs, it’s not hard to see why people might not be confident (condiment?) in the economy. After all, as a wise man once said, cash rules everything around me (cream?).

But why rely on headlines, economic indicators, or burger prices to tell us whether we are in a recession when there are perfectly good vibes to be measured? So we asked Americans whether they believe the United States is in a recession.

Three in four Americans (73%) believe the United States is currently in a recession. Younger generations are most likely to say that we are currently in a recession, while Boomers are the group least likely to agree. Which makes sense, given that back in their day they had to walk 5 10 25 miles uphill in the snow barefoot to experience sustained economic downturn.

When asked which products and services Americans prioritize during a recession, an overwhelming majority (81%) list groceries, followed by going to the doctor (44%). In a distant third place, streaming services (17%) barely edge out investing (16%) as a priority among respondents. We’d like to think that if you bought enough shares of Netflix, they might let you share your password with friends.

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Periscoping the Athleisure Market

Welcome to the Trendlines featured product section! Over the years, some of you (okay, maybe one or two of you) have asked how we use our data to help real organizations solve complex problems. In these features, we’ll lift the curtain and give you a sneak peek of the types of strategy questions we answer for some of the world’s most influential organizations.

Imagine you’re a brand manager; the question keeping you awake at night has to be, “How do we market our brand to increase its value?” or “How do I know my marketing is actually working?” At Gradient, we use our bespoke analytical platform, Periscope, to help brands discover what actually drives customers to swipe (a credit card, not left or right).

The famous British-American economist Benjamin Graham once compared the stock market to a voting machine, essentially highlighting how, in the short term, the value of a brand is measured by those who think it’s worth investing in. Using this logic, Periscope measures brand strength by assessing the percentage of a target population that would consider investing in a brand and those who would actually make an investment (if it were possible). For this example, we asked Americans to imagine they had $5k to invest in an athleisure brand.

Overall, Nike outpaced most other brands, with 56% of respondents willing to invest in the brand—almost double and quadruple the share willing to invest in the next most popular athleisure brands, Adidas (29%) and Lululemon (15%), respectively. “Ok cool,” you might be thinking, “this is interesting but not terribly helpful answering that damn question that keeps me up at night.”

The real power of Periscope lies in its ability to pinpoint the key brand attributes that drive investment preferences. In this case, when considering which athleisure brand to invest in, Americans-pretending-to-be-investors view brands with high growth potential, premium products, and a loyal customer base as more likely to be considered to receive their investment.

Yet, when it comes to actually making the decision to invest, these hypothetical investors are most likely to put their money in brands they perceive as being market share leaders and having strong leadership. Specifically, for every one-point increase in average ratings on perceptions of “being a market share leader,” a brand can expect a 94% increase in the probability of someone considering to invest in them.

So what should brands not named Nike do to boost their overall brand equity? Pander! Or, use Periscope to assess where their brand stands across the attributes that actually drive investors to consider and invest in their brand. Athleta, for example, would benefit most from updating their positioning via marketing to convey their products as premium and serving a niche audience. In other words, they should adjust their positioning to be as flexible as their $99 joggers pants by playing up their premium-ness.

Do you work for an organization (perhaps Athleta?) that is unsure what your brand equities are? Contact us to get acquainted with Periscope.



We’ve stopped watching after the first act of enough dystopian movies to know that technological advances are unequivocally good. Yet, a growing chorus of experts warn that language-based artificial intelligence (AI) like ChatGPT will disproportionately impact white-collar jobs, perhaps even replacing them in large numbers. Hopefully, these experts are just Mad (Max) or playing (May)tricks on us, and their opinions will be Total-ly Recall-ed. Blade Runner.

Are American workers checking under their ergonomic keyboards for lurking AI replacements? Of those who are currently employed, 63% feel their job is at least somewhat threatened by AI. And among those who are worried about AI in the workplace, job loss ranks as their number one concern. We’ve watched the first act of enough romantic comedies to know that Americans will feel a lot better about their new artificial coworkers once the AI gets a haircut and takes off its glasses.

Want to see the data? Curious about the methodology? Just reply to this email.

That’s a wrap, folks

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About Gradient

Gradient is a cross-functional team of industry analysts, market researchers, data scientists, technologists, and storytellers who help organizations uncover missed opportunities, find new layers of clarity, and pioneer new directions with confidence and statistical integrity. We work with startups, Fortune 100 brands, consulting firms, and political campaigns.

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