Never-ending enjoyment (for a limited time only)

Consumers are craving the unique and brands are catching on…

— the following article is a trend-spotting piece that I wrote which ended up not being used. It is published here, with permission, and totally unchanged. Enjoy —

In this time-pressured digital age, the modern city-dweller has to be militant with their time allocation.

Friends (and family? maybe) come first; obviously, but how can brands break into the hallowed ground between 7pm Friday and 6am Monday?

Word of mouth marketing has never been stronger, yet while false scarcity isn’t any new kind of rocket science, all across the globe brands both big and small are coming ‘round to the idea that to be there today, you need to be gone tomorrow.

DRIVERS

Time Pressure
“Time Pressure is an almost universal experience for residents of modern cities” says Associate Professor at the School of Physical, Environmental, and Mathematical Sciences, Dr Paul Tranter – and he’s not wrong. Cities everywhere suffer from the same issue: scarcity of time. There is simply never enough time for consumers to do or see everything. Commuting, working, commuting, sleeping; the cycle never ends.

They are in what the New York Times refers to as ‘the busy trap’.

The race to be ‘different’
‘Be different’, ‘the Amazing, every day’, ‘Challenge everything’, ‘Make the most of NOW’ – Brand taglines are constantly falling over themselves to be unique, to stand out – two brands share at least one of the slogans above.

Been there, done that
Ever connected, the global village is now smaller than ever. Finding that one cool venue, or that amazing trip, that no one on Twitter or Facebook has seen or done is now more difficult than ever before. Consumers not only want the amazing, but they also want the kudos of discovering the remarkable – a thirst for being first, if you will.

Combine these three elements and you find yourself in a whirlwind of one-off experiences that are continually attempting to better what’s gone before…

EXAMPLES

1. The rise of the Speakeasy
From New York to London or Sydney to Shanghai, knowing what secret door to push at exactly what time and on what street is the true mark of a local’s ‘knowledge’. You can find whatever you need on the streets of the world’s busiest cities, from Cocktail Clubs to Breakfast Clubs; the speakeasy of 2012 has it all.

The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town, London
Situated behind a fridge door of a greasy spoon in London’s Spitalfields district, this underground cocktail bar serves up Bloody Marys and bites for those that ask for a meeting with the Mayor upon arrival. He’ll be seeing you shortly.

Crif Dogs, NYC
A greasy hot dog takeout store somewhere off the East Village is the destination. Cunningly named ‘Please don’t tell’, the bar itself is hidden through a hidden panel inside the restaurant’s phone booth. Once inside, the drinks are classic and the crowd are cool.

Eau-de-vie, Sydney
Hidden away at the back of the Kirketon Hotel, is a similarly themed destination. Deriving its look and feel from the prohibition-era United States of old, getting down down-under has never been easier (or more incognito).

2. The pop-up shop, bar, restaurant, hotel, play
The ‘pop up’ is king (and already fairly well-known in the retail space). However bigger brands are getting involved and the retail trend is evolving into other spaces, spreading its unparalleled wings and setting course for the exclusive.

— Branded stores
Coca-cola, Marmite, IKEA, Louis Vuitton – all these brands and many more have each experimented with temporary locations. Mainly located in areas distinctly matched to their audience (Apple’s iPad store at SXSW springs to mind), they all deliver in very much the same pattern: iconic style, on-brand personal experiences and, more often than not, high-end transactions for consumer of today, keen not to miss out on what’s before them.

— Theatre: You, Me Bum Bum Train
A play for the individual, sold out within 10 minutes of tickets going on sale late last year. Each audience member is sworn to secrecy, and then taken through their very own version of ‘the bum bum train’. Designed to provide the epitome of unique experiences – the train’s passengers never have the same experience twice. Ever.

— Hotel: Papaya Playa Project
85 cabanas make up this Mexico-based, eco-friendly pop-up hotel. With its ‘stay’ only scheduled for five months of the year, bookings are drying up fast and, as with nearly all examples here, the attraction is in the unique. A Berlin-based ad-agency has been brought on board to fill the cabanas with stories… but only while it stays.

3. The one off, to never be seen again
‘Did you see that?’ – ‘Did you hear about this?’ – ‘Wait, you actually WENT there?’ – these are the questions that’ll be asked about our next batch of examples. The crazy, the out there, the experiences that everyone wishes they were there to experience. Instead, they just read about it on Facebook and hope they make the next one…

— British Airways Olympic Restaurant, ‘Flight BA2012
While this example should probably be in the ‘pop up’ section, the sheer exclusivity of the execution has pushed it into the ‘one offs’. Only open for a mere six days in April 2012, the 54-seater British Airways ‘cabin restaurant’ served food from celebrity chefs and based its dishes on the menu from 1948, in homage to the year the country last hosted the Olympic Games.

— Bompass & Par, Truvia
B&P, jelly mongers by trade, are becoming known for their food-based brand tie-ins. As recently as last summer, they flooded the roof of London department store Selfridges for the launch of a calorie-free sweetener known as ‘Truvia’. 45min trips to the top of the building (pre-booked, WAY in advance, naturally), promised a true ‘journey of discovery’ the likes of which have never been seen before and will doubtfully ever again.

— Projection Mapping Madness
From Nokia to Angry Birds, electro-cars to 80s pop songstresses – the use of Projection Mapping is almost passé in its usage. But nothing signifies the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ nature of the one-off experience than really well executed piece of projection mapping. The Vivid Light Festival at Sydney Opera House is a recent favourite…

Be there, or watch it on YouTube.

IMPLICATIONS

Without a doubt, brands are experimenting with experiences. While they might seem like just more YouTube fodder to the cynical, unique branded encounters are what today’s consumers CRAVE. They strive to be different and, to cater for this hunger businesses are getting in on the act.

If Apple is getting into the pop-up marketplace, then one may wonder if this trend has already jumped the shark. But, as the research shows, the notion is already evolving; cross-category, cross-market and cross-borders. Brands will work harder, and innovate further to get into the eyeline (and mindshare) of the paying customer.

Which brings us back to our consumer: time-poor, cash-rich. Give them something special, premium and – dare we say it again? – unique, and they’ll cancel tea with their own Grandmother just for you.

——–

2013 Social Media Predictions

Some trend analysis for your oculars…

Earlier this year I was tasked with doing some analysis that ended up not being used, so I’m printing them here. They’re not really Social Media predictions per se, more consumer/industry/technology focused trends.

Either way, have a read and let me know what you think in the comments –

— 2012/13 Technology Trends & Predictions —

The outsourcing of community management to emerging markets

The online/social-media-based customer care business is booming. Social network CMS platforms, such as Buddy Media, are being bought and sold quickly to larger and larger businesses and, as a result, more investment is going into building highly-powered software to monitor and measure the social media interface between brand and consumer. This is not news.

However, what is news is that brands will soon realise exactly how much they are spending in this area. First on their agencies, handling it for them. Then internally, when they start training up their existing customer care staff. Which, in turn, points to a time when brands (large and small) will soon outsource their social media customer care to indian / emerging market (read: cheap) ‘call’ centres. Easily equipped with 140 character long scripts, this new group will gladly speak in the authentic voice of the brand for a mere fraction of the price of the existing agency/care dept.

This will happen.

—–

2screening + Advertising

This is an immediate + obvious choice. The growth of this particular area, as consumers become more and more accustomed to seeing hashtags on their TV screens (related to the content they’re viewing), means that advertising will soon follow suit.

Super targeting is one thing, but soon smart media-planners will force Twitter to allow time-sensitive promoted tweets, with time-focused twitter ads designed to populate at specific times – down to the very minute. Whereas the traditional consumer used to put the kettle on, today’s viewers are now turning to Twitter (and away from the ads), the industry won’t put up with this for long.

This trend will travel.

Hashtags will appear in store, and on shelves. A walk through a furniture store, for example, will soon see shop owners proudly display the amount of likes (or Pinterest shares) each sofa has gained over the past week – encouraging sales and driving further online/offline integration.

Finally, as we’ve seen with Xbox SmartGlass and Wii-U, 2screening will cross over into the gaming world. Unifying the under-the-TV box into one, core multimedia system. Zombie-U, from Ubisoft, has sections in the game where the player must ‘view’ the TV content through their second screen, highlighting previously unseen areas and bonuses.

Speaking of bonuses, this gaming innovation also will also make way for a hidden benefit: broader consumer acceptance of augmented reality.

—–

4G networks spurring further innovation

The USA has had its version of 4G for a little under a year, while the UK has even yet to discuss licensing. Like the future, 4G is already here, it is just not evenly distributed. As mobile growth continues at an exponential rate across the globe, mobile networks will look to ‘leap frog’ in strong 2G markets where the jump to 4G will not only be immensely attractive to consumers but will also come with tax deductions from the local governments.

Again, we see emerging markets being a core area here, especially Russia, and Africa, where the large expanses mean that a single 4G tower can provide high speed downloads for the many who live nearby. Coverage isn’t an issue when each connected device can itself turn into a 10MB internet hotspot.

The end result being that previously unconnected nodes suddenly gain access to the worldwide web, allowing all kinds of new connections and data points to become accessible. Questions such as ‘What is the price of meat in the next village?’ or ‘What are the whereabouts of our town’s first aid packages?’ and ‘How’s uncle?’ will be answered quickly, confidently and, in some cases, visually – with video calling.

—–

Bonus round: [App] Eco-systems within [app] eco-systems

Foursquare apps within apps. Spotify apps within apps. Facebook apps within apps.

Eco-systems are IN and they’re only going to evolve. Internet fridges are a joke, but linked up technology, software and – dare I say it – the Internet of Things really aren’t that far away.

—–

Your thoughts are welcome –

1000heads: Creativity + Curation

This past week saw the Exeter-based gathering that is known as the LikeMinds 2010 Autumn Conference.

likeminds starting day 2

Photo via the lovely Benjamin Ellis

If you’re a regular reader here at 1000heads you’ll know that LikeMinds has become one of our favourite things ever since our first attendance back in February of this year. I’m pleased to say that last week’s event – based around the themes of ‘Creativity + Curation’ – was no disappointment.

Unlike February’s event, where the one key takeaway (for me at least) was the audience-wide understanding of the importance of listening, this time around the lessons were much more broad; touching upon various different subjects, specialisms and industries including; Music, Film, Publishing (traditional and new) as well as other, more thought-provoking pieces along the lines of the impact of social technologies and the much-discussed ‘Big Society‘.

For me personally, the highlights came in varying forms. First, the opening Publishing ‘immersive’ session hosted by Andrew Davies of Idio was rammed to the rafters as everyone came together to discuss the impact of the social web upon the traditional publishing industry. For such a packed event, Andrew facilitated well as the rest of the group swiftly leapt from one area to another covering off not only the real value of brand/consumer relationships (throwing in some real world examples to boot) but also whether or not true curation is just filtering other people’s content.

LikeMinds resident live-blogger, Adam Tinworth, happened to be in the room also and his blow-by-blow recap is definitely worth a look.

Second, Chris Carey from the PRS, yes really – the PRS. Chris is an in-house economist for the music industry and he used the patterns that he is paid to spot day-in and day-out, to illustrate the pitfalls in any market of relying on what you think you know. His example of NBC’s mistake of turning off the Gossip Girl stream on their website was a lesson to us all.

And the third and final one (again, that spoke to me personally) was that of Benjamin Ellis. Who, with one phrase, captured the whole audience:

“A fish would be last to discover water”

— and to give that context, I’d spend some time looking over his rather awesome presentation –

Benjamin Ellis: Why the ‘We’ Generation ‘Knows’ Different

View more presentations from Like Minds.
We’ll be back with more LikeMinds analysis at some point later this week (or maybe next).
In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you on any of the above.. So why not leave us a comment! 🙂