In this month’s Coordinates 07.15, we share articles putting points on the trend horizon. We cover topics on Consumer & Culture, Economy & Industry, and Brand & Marketing that give insights into which direction the wind is blowing.
The Cultured Masses
- In this The Atlantic article, “The Triumph of Consumerism,” Rebecca J. Rosen references a 1962 Atlantic article written by Edward T. Chase, in which he had suggested that the U.S. was moving towards a “society of self-realization,” which included an interest in cultural activities. While the article’s point is to emphasize that we have not moved away from a desire to consume, it also makes the case that cultural activities are quite prevalent in our society, and more so than one might think. Rosen notes supporting data from Chase’s 60’s article and combines that with today’s stats that are even more impressive, such as: “’arts and cultural production’ today account for 4.3% of GDP;” there are more museums than some fast food restaurants in the U.S.; and visits to U.S. museums eclipses that of sporting events and theme parks.
- Along these lines, The New York Times just reported that The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City hit record levels of attendance this year at 6.3 million visitors, making it one of the most visited museums in the world.
- Given this engagement with art and culture, perhaps it’s not too surprising to see brands partnering with artists. For example, H&M partnered with Jeff Koons in New York City last year. Just one of many brands creating opportunities for such shared equities.
How marketers use the vast amounts of data gathered on consumers and their purchases to motivate behavior can have unintended consequences. This month I heard of two examples of consumer brand communication related to such data analytics—one had a positive, reinforcing impact and the other was simply TMI, negatively impacting purchase interest.
- Good Example: The first was from Sprig, the on-demand food service that delivers delicious, healthy meals to your door. For people who have a subscription, paying a monthly delivery service fee, the company sent a communication letting them know how much they had saved on delivery fees that month based on the number of times they had ordered. Since my friend was a heavy user, he was thrilled to see that his investment in the delivery subscription was well worth it. The communication made him feel smart about his decision and like he had gotten a great deal. Sprig succeeded in reinforcing his commitment and continued frequent use of the service.
- Poor Example: In contrast, take this example from Uber. A frequent, heavy user of their service wasn’t as thrilled to be reminded of how many times she had used the service that month. A colleague, almost ashamed, noted that she had received an email from Uber confirming her many trips that month using the service. The sharing of such data didn’t make her feel great about using the service; rather, it had the opposite negative effect, for she took away that she was being frivolous and should be taking public transportation instead. It didn’t reinforce the behavior Uber wants (more rides), and rather told her she should be saving her money elsewhere.
The lesson: more data and more information is not always better; be strategic about the information you share considering how it will influence and if it offers the right incentive for the consumer.
Living Through Global Mistakes.
- When one looks back at the experiences of the Iraq War, the Great Recession, and what Europe is currently experiencing with the Euro, one could say that for over a decade our global society has been living and suffering through monumental mistakes.
- Take for example the Euro and its impact on countries like Greece. Paul Krugman in his Op-Ed for The New York Times, “Europe’s Many Economic Disasters,” flat out said, “Does this mean that creating the euro was a mistake? Well, yes.” This isn’t the first time Krugman has explained the downsides to the Euro and how participating countries gave up their ability to control their own monetary policy to find their way out of such economic downturns as many countries are experiencing now.
- Finland is another member of the Euro that provides evidence of Krugman’s point. Matt O’Brien wrote on Finland’s account in the Washington Post. Both Krugman and O’Brien note how different Finland is from Greece, yet each is suffering the consequences of having joined the Euro.
- Robert Reich also writes on Greece and how Goldman Sachs contributed to this colossal mistake in “How Goldman Sachs Profited From the Greek Debt Crisis” in The Nation.
Show me a trendy, successful business model, and we’re likely to see a new Amazon venture starting to compete in the same space. We all know that Amazon wants to take over the retail world, and of late to achieve this goal the company is launching competitive offers to such company’s as Etsy, Angie’s List, TaskRabbit, One Kings Lane, Zulilly, and Kickstarter. Here are several examples of their recent entries into competing business models:
- Craft, the Etsy competitor.
- Amazon Home Services, the Angie’s List (and more) competitor, for finding vendors for custom home services including work in the home, the yard, and for electronics.
- MyHabit.com, the flash sale site for home goods and apparel.
- Launchpad, a marketplace for start-ups, developed in partnership with Y Combinator, Andreesen Horowtz, and Indiegogo.
Making a Classic Better
Converse just released a new version of the classic Chuck Taylor called the Chuck Taylor All Star II. The company focused on keeping the classic elements of the shoe, while adding new comfort features. The moves were made after understanding the needs of its consumers, asking what would make the shoes even more lovable. Since the almost 100-year old shoes are as popular as ever, Converse is avoiding a “New Coke” uprising; this All Star II won’t be replacing the classic, rather it will sit alongside it. Read about it here on Adweek.
Breaking Up is Easy to Do
Much has been written about how technology is muting our emotional reactions and human interactions. Perhaps that’s why we’re seeing new behaviors around relationship break-ups. It’s not consciously uncoupling; these are new non-confrontational, some might say non-adult, ways to end what was started.
- Without a formal technology solution, “ghosting” is an official term for silently ending a relationship with another. Read about it in Valeriya Safronova’s article on The New York Times.
- Still wanting to address the break-up, but not experience any of the pain? Now there are services popping up to do the dirty work of splitting from one’s significant other. Two Australian based companies, Sorry It’s Over and Break You Up, offer services in different formats from a text message or a phone call to sending flowers or handling the face-to-face meeting for you.
NYC Exhibit on Sneakers
Sneakers are a must-have in today’s shoe closet, whether you’re a man or woman. Read more from Business of Fashion on the Brooklyn Museum’s current exhibit on how sneakers came to be what they are today.
Women’s Sports Power
- Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers were right on when they called Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit out for putting down women’s sports.
- Instead the U.S. women’s soccer team broke records in attracting viewers to their World Cup win over Japan.
- The game was the most watched soccer game in history in the U.S., according to The New York Times.
Crayons for Adults
Coloring isn’t just for kids anymore. It seems coloring books have made inroads with adults. People laud the activity for its mindful, soothing-ness and for inspiring creativity. Here are two recent articles that tout the practice:
- Sonali Kohli on Quartz: “Coloring books are suddenly catching on with adults”
- Alexandra Alter on The New York Times: “Grown-Ups Get Out Their Crayons”
Guaranteed Government Pay
On PSFK, Adriana Krasniansky reports on a study being conducted by Dutch city, Utrecht, in conjunction with its university on what’s called “unconditional pay.” Unconditional pay is a government program that provides a living income to citizens. She notes different program goals, but it’s sure to lead to questioning of its merit or whether or not such a program can cause more harm than good.
Photo Credit: OliBac, license