I might have to rename this blog one part hope, two parts disappointment. Saw Grant McCracken speak this morning but I have to say that, like so many other talks recently, I came away distinctly underwhelmed. We kinda know that corporations/brands like to talk about themselves a lot, aren't as good at listening, lean on economics and business thinking and tend to dismiss culture, and that in the end the brands that people admire are the ones with 'cultural propositions'.
Maybe I'm just getting restless with the conversation and am getting excited about putting stuff into practise.
Anyway, as always, there were a few points to note:
- The existing model for large corporations is to wait for start-ups to test the model. This was one of the main themes in the 'Power of First', the book that Amanda and I never wrote.
- 'How rigourous can it be if you talk about it in ordinary language?'. We definitely need to get over this particular hurdle as a race.
- I liked the idea that there is a listening post in Canada that listens to the Northern Lights.
- Something that came out of the questions was that the reason that Nike, Virgin, etc are so successul is because they don't try to have a 1-to-1 conversation with their customers but instead give them content and platforms amongst which they can share stuff with their friends, which I thought was a good obvious to point out.
- Gen Y kids believe that their life chances are improved by networks, and realise that they have to sustain their networks. Content (with cultural meaning) becomes part of an economically-driven behaviour to sustain that network. Therefore successful brands help them out by giving them content.
The central theme of the talk was about how to spot trends that will impact business. The thing that I liked most was to remember the importance of slow culture as well as fast, i.e. the faddish, stylish, trend-y stuff, cos the slow bit makes up about 80%. His point was that the 80% almost never gets into discourse, no one seems to be studying it, but it just as importan (McCracken's overall hierarchy was Fad (Style) > Fashion > Trend > Culture, with Fad and Fashion in the 20%).
There are reasons why communications tend to operate in the 20%, but I think remembering the 80% is quite useful. We used to have a wall when I was at Flab that had all our trends - mini to major - plotted out. It was helpful to see everything together so you could make connections and understand what the bigger forces at play were, and actually meant that you always had an eye on the slow-moving but massive cultural shifts that were taking place.
Actually I read something the other day (I think it was Ariely in Wired) about how it often takes big events - erm, like global financial meltdown - to shift behaviour, but as we're creatures of habit those behaviours stick, i.e. cost-cutting. Applying this to the 80% of cultural 'stuff' takes you to quite an interesting place.