Most of us still haven’t processed 2020 yet, and here we are already rolling into 2022.
From an actor pretending to be Tesla's humanoid robot prototype to the launch of dystopian-themed cryptocurrencies-turned-scams, this year introduced our social media feeds to an assortment of questionable, confusing, and downright strange headlines from the business world.
As we reflect on the year that was, join us in commemorating the weirdest things that happened to our collective memory originating from the likes of Silicon Valley and Wall Street.
(Note: This list is not exhaustive; we couldn’t fit every new Dogecoin rally in here if we tried.)
9. The Year of the Meme Stock
“I am not a cat,” will forever be immortalized in the public record thanks to Reddit trader Keith Gill, better known as "Roaring Kitty.”
Gill’s testimony before the House Committee on Financial Services in February was part of a greater discussion around "meme stock" regulation after Reddit traders took Wall Street by storm at the beginning of this year. Unsurprisingly, regulators have yet to succeed in making concrete changes around retail investing.
While the meme-stock craze surprised institutional investors this year, the movement actually began years ago in a small corner of the internet called r/WallStreetBets. What’s come of it so far? A resurgence of trading in businesses like GameStop, AMC Theatres, and Bed Bath & Beyond, in addition to a shift in investing culture. We can aso thank the retail trading community for several new additions to our vocabulary, including “Diamond Hands,” “HODL,” and “YOLO trades,” among others.
8. The Billionaire Space Race
A rivalry amongst the world’s richest people? What could go wrong?
This year saw a lot of firsts: the first paying customers to blast into orbit, the first movie shot in space, and most importantly, the first off-planet UberEats delivery. But it hasn’t been all pleasantries; Blue Origin sued (and lost) its case against NASA over a lucrative astronaut lunar lander contract that was awarded to Elon Musk’s SpaceX earlier this year instead of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ space company. (Musk later responded to a Bezos tweet with a second-place medal emoji)
We’ve also witnessed the private space industry skyrocket (pun intended) to new heights with star-studded launches, including Star Trek actor William Shatner and Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan.
While some tensions between Musk and Bezos have been bitter, both billionaires made a point to congratulate fellow space enthusiast Sir Richard Branson after he beat out the competition in July to become the first rocket company owner to reach orbit. Bezos shared an Instagram post to congratulate his peer, and Musk showed up at Branson’s house at 3 a.m. the morning before the historic flight to wish him luck (without his shoes).
7. Peloton vs. Sex and the City
And just like that, a reboot sent a company’s shares down over 11 percent on Wall Street. Peloton wasted no time (literally three days) in spoofing a deadly product placement in HBO Max’s Sex and the City spinoff after a main character suffered a heart attack following a 45-minute cycling class.
And then, just like that, the ad was gone. Peloton took down its rebuttal video, starring "Big" just days later following sexual assault allegations against the actor who plays him, Chris Noth. Peloton’s stock is down about 70 percent year-to-date, since it also experienced a product recall, data leak, and slowing sales this year.
6. A Hamster Got Better Returns Than You
We’d hate to bruise your ego, but a hamster could trade stocks better than you.
Mr. Goxx, a crypto-trading hamster from Germany, rose to fame this year after his stock portfolio outperformed that of Warren Buffett and the S&P 500.
To make his financial decisions, the hamster would run on a wheel in his high-tech cage, select the cryptocurrency he wanted to trade, and then choose whether to buy or sell by traveling between two tunnels.
The beloved hamster sadly passed away in November after showing no signs of serious illness, though he experienced some kidney issues, according to his owners. Rest in peace to a legend.
5. Dollar Tree Is No Longer a Dollar
While it’s not as weird as one might expect, Dollar Tree’s new price point does leave a lot of room for confusion for their marketing team.
One of America's last remaining true dollar stores announced in September that it would test $1.25 and $1.50 price points at some traditional Dollar Tree locations after it received "positive customer reaction." The company, whose slogan is “Everything’s $1,” confirmed weeks later that it would raise the prices of most items to the higher price points by the end of April.
Dollar Tree said the price hike was “not a reaction to short-term or transitory market conditions,” and it will allow the company to sell new products at higher price points, like frozen meat and seasonal items.
4. To Sell or Not to Sell
From threatening to leave JPMorgan a one-star Yelp review to calling a United States senator a `Karen,’ the world’s richest person moved markets and memes throughout the year.
In true 2021 fashion, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk polled his 66 million Twitter followers in November, asking them if he should sell 10 percent of his Tesla shares (the majority said yes). Before the sell-off in recent weeks, Musk held 22.8 million stock options that were awarded to him in 2012 and due to expire on August 13, 2022 with a large tax bill.
As of December 16, Musk has sold nearly 13 million shares worth about $13.6 billion, according to Barrons. The billionaire said he expects to pay a total of $11 billion in taxes this year.
3. Big Tech, the Remix
Why address internal issues at your company when you can just change your corporate name? To celebrate Facebook’s rebrand to Meta and its efforts to build the metaverse, CEO Mark Zuckerberg snuck bottles of sunscreen, Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce, and other Easter eggs into his October announcement. The rebrand declaration came shortly after former product manager-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Congress, accusing Facebook of choosing “profits over safety.”
Square also went 3D this year, rebranding in December as Block shortly after its co-founder Jack Dorsey resigned as CEO of Twitter. H&R Block took notice of the change, albeit weeks later, filing a trademark infringement lawsuit, saying the fintech company’s new moniker “would improperly capitalize on the goodwill and consumer trust cultivated by Block since 1955.”
An honorable mention for the Great Name Change of 2021? General Electric, which announced in November that it will split itself up into three publicly traded companies, marking the end of a 129-year-old conglomerate.
2. Ronaldo Coca-Cola Bottle
One word: Agua. That’s all it took to briefly knock $4 billion off of Coca-Cola's market share in June. When soccer legend Cristiano Ronaldo sat down to speak to the media during Euro 2020, he spotted two bottles of the carbonated soft drink, moved them offscreen, and held up a bottle of water, appearing to encourage others to do the same. “No Coca-Cola,” he said.
Coca-Cola, an official sponsor of Euro 2020, responded to the snub, writing in a statement that "everyone is entitled to their drink preferences.” John Murphy, the company’s chief financial officer, later said the beverage maker did not see any direct sales impact from the event
1. The Ship That Couldn’t Steer Straight
If there was one thing to unite social media users towards a shared cause this year, it would have been the six days we all watched crews desperately trying to dislodge a massive container ship from the banks of the Suez Canal.
The blockage was caused by strong winds and held up about $9.6 billion worth of daily marine traffic every day that it was stuck, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence.
Once freed, the Ever Given spent several months under seizure while waiting for a compensation deal to be finalized between the ship’s owner and the Suez Canal Authority, and it finally left the canal in July.
The ship redeemed itself, however, in December, when it successfully navigated the busy waterway for the first time since its accident.
1. Lil Nas X Sold Sneakers Infused With Blood
While a creative promotional campaign, the rapper’s collaboration still led to a lawsuit from Nike, which was not happy that the rapper used their Air Max 97s to make 666 pairs of “Satan Shoes” which sold out in under a minute. Similarly, Tony Hawk also announced a blood-infused product line, selling skateboards with his actual blood mixed into the paint in collaboration with Liquid Death.
2. The Bitcoin City Upon a Hill
Try to imagine telling the 2019 version of yourself that one day soon, a world leader would try to create a global empire by harnessing volcanic energy to power cryptocurrency mining. During a rock-concert-like event, El Salvador President Nayib Bukele announced in November that his government will build a “Bitcoin City” at the base of a volcano. The oceanside location at the base of the Conchagua volcano will include residential and commercial areas, restaurants, an airport, and more.
Earlier this year, El Salvador became the first country to make the cryptocurrency legal tender and has continued to make headlines with its bold new crypto initiatives.
3. Barneys Briefly Became Spirit Halloween
Brick-and-mortar is deader than ever. The former home of Barneys' downtown New York City location briefly turned into a Spirit Halloween this fall, just in time for spooky season.
Barneys opened in 1923 and became one of New York's most iconic upscale department stores until the chain filed for bankruptcy in 2019.
Now the location serves as a humble metaphor for the state of in-person shopping.
4. The Supply Chain vs. the Consumer
We would be remiss if we did not reflect on the laundry list of product shortages that have irked consumers this year. Most troubling, Canada was forced to tap into its strategic maple syrup reserve and New York City bagel shops trekked out of the city to find enough cream cheese amid a schmear shortage.