Can consumer creativity become mass

Can consumer creativity become mass?Can consumer creativity become mass?

The idea of consumer participation has been in the headlines in the last couple of weeks; first with the rise of the citizen journalist and yesterday with the announcement that key Google investors would also be investing is Zazzle.com (a site that allows users to put their art on stuff). Also, Business Week has a whole piece on consumer-created advertising. Last Friday the BBC reported from the TED Oxford conference stating:

“Digital technology is providing people with the tools to produce and share content like never before, and it is set to throw the relationship between them and institutions into turmoil, say experts.”

If one was to join all the dots and one could easily be led to believe that the gates have been opened and a torrent of consumer creators have been unleashed.

The problem is the analysis is all rather general. What’s the participation we are talking about here? Is it putting a picture of your kid on a t-shirt, shooting mobile video at a bomb scene, or making a hit record?

Currently there are some things that are holding the true mass development of participation. There’s clearly a scale at work, that is just like the classic pyramid; with the true artists at the top and those less talented at the bottom.

What’s changed is the means of access and distribution. We all now have the chance to do it. There are no excuses; we can publish and sell books, make music and release mp3 files, take photographs and get our stuff seen and heard by thousands of people.

However, most people believe that you are either really creative or your not. There is no middle ground and after being told that you are not creative, often there’s no turning back.

However, this might all change if some new entities emerge.

Tier One: Find new stars

Who:”New Middlemen/Editors”

They sift through the mass talent; find and nurture the ones that could make it. Once a few of these people make it, this could be the signal for a lot more people to get involved.

Tier Two: Give potential stars the means of production and distribution

Who: “New Distributors/Publishers/Studios”

They allow consumers to publish,create and distribute. These include; Lulu.com and cafepress.com and Amazon is also moving into this space its purchases of Custom Flix and BookSurge.

Tier Three: Educate the wannabes to take it to the next level

Who:”Artistic educators”

With increasing opportunities for personal expression among the mainstream consumer base, there could be a role for creative educators to help consumers add new skills and to critique their work. Imagine webeducation courses, etc…

Tier Four: Empower Everyone

Who:”Brand Personalizers”

Personalization is a key driver for all consumers and important for brands to embrace wherever possible. Nike ID is a great example and it has been extended brilliantly with the store where you book an appointment with a designer who helps you design. The model could obviously work for lots of brands in the fashion space; empowering consumers to design their own products and then giving them the opportunity to create enhanced designs through collaboration with creative professionals.

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creativity or design

The apprentice creativesThe apprentice creatives

For months, the latest season of The Apprentice has filled our television screens with young business types trying to solve brand problems for some of the biggest names in the country.

The candidates on the show are a mix of bright young self-starters and expensively educated MBAs. It’s interesting that in almost every single recent episode, the candidates have to solve a problem that involves creativity or design..

They are not tasked with solving production issues, management issues or personnel problems, because that wouldn’t make compelling television, instead design and advertising are seen as the sexy, but more importantly, the palatable and accessible sides of the business world.

What’s most frightening for people involved in the creative services profession, is that it creates the impression that any one can do this. When some of the biggest brands in the country seem willing to place their trust in un-proven talent, it seems to further reinforce this idea.

Obviously, it’s more complex than that, there’s a clear deal going on here with the brands desperate to leverage and maximize the attention from the show. It’s not about quality of the finished solution, but the fact the solution was birthed and seen by millions of consumers across America.

However, thanks to shows like The Apprentice, design and advertising can be seen as the sexy side of business culture. The creative industries now need to recognize this and make sure that the best work is seen and merchandised on Wall Street, as much as it is on Madison Avenue.

With the creative awards season upon us, now would seem like a good time to do this.

Otherwise, the myth that anyone with an MBA, a large espresso and marker pen, can create effective brilliance, will continue to be perpetuated.

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Trends for 2006-part one

Trends for 2006-part oneTrends for 2006-part one

As part of a series, Influx Insights is asking bloggers around the world for their perspective on trends for 2006. They were asked to name one trend that they believe will emerge strongly in the next 12 months. The first comes from Charlie Edwards at the UK think tank Demos,who picked risk.

Here is Charlie’s explanation.

At home

Central to why I think risk will continue to be such an important trend is that society is increasingly made up of individuals (witness the increase in online dating agencies/more M&S ready meals being bought/ and more single homeowners) As individuals we are rarely able to rely on others so we have they to make our own set of choices /judgments and because this is often based on our own ‘research’ (sometimes a gut instinct) we tend to be more risk averse (as we have more to lose). I think this is a growing trend in society)

Business

The management of risk has been a growing trend for business since the Brent Spa episode and the collapse of Barings bank (1995)- since then companies have been preoccupied with making sure they have the most comprehensive internal controls in place and that they manage everything- anything that remotely looks like it will come up on the auditors books has been dealt with (at least hidden) for fear of the fall out and the impact it might have on the company.

The business community was further battered in 2001 by the Enron saga- and so companies once again began to look at what they needed to do and governments helped too with their own regulation…

Recently we have seen the rise and fall of Kate Moss- an industry in herself. No one was that surprised by the panicked reaction of the companies who sponsored her- Reputation for them is crucial – so (arguably) they took one look at the media tsunami approaching them and ditched her….since her detox program she is back to making her millions.

However – it might be worth pointing one thing out ref Moss and Virgin Mobile (who have since taken her on). For Branson and Virgin, reputation is both a strategic goal of the company and a business philosophy- it is because they are so good at understanding and managing risk that they took her on, not as some as the media thought that he was a risk taker…

I think these examples illustrate why our aversion to risk (in business and in society as a whole) will continue to grow in the next couple of years.

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Toyota takes scion to europe

Toyota takes scion to europeToyota takes scion to europe

Toyota is taking much is its learning from the successful launch of the Scion to Europe in the form of the Aygo. Although the Aygo is a completely different design from the Scion, similar marketing tactics will be used.

Like Scion, Toyota intends to use the brand as a bridge to the parent Toyota, it will be launched with a non-traditional marketing effort that includes events and the internet

This “Scion-like” marketing is already underway on the web, where you can find 10 European artists creating their own design treatment for the Aygo. The website has expected features like mixers, mobile logos, urban diaries and screensavers.

The car is more of a Smart competitor, in the newly developing micro-city-car space and boasts the astonishing fuel economy of 61 mpg. This is the type of car that could do well in China given the urban congestion and pollution problems.

It will be really interesting to see if Toyota can achieve success in Europe by using a US type marketing approach.

Clemmow, Hornby and Inge handles the European advertising account

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Smart and human

Influx interview- jeff macarthur-commandNInflux interview- jeff macarthur-commandN

commandN is a new type of television network, one that’s based around vidcasting and built on typepad software. The network is getting rave reviews and has around 50,000 viewers for each of its shows. The network focuses on technology and brings to life tech stories in an interesting and compelling way. Influx Insights got a chance to ask Jeff MacArthur, head of Business Development at commandN a few questions.

Here is the interview:

1.What’s the production cost for each show?

Our production costs are principally incurred in relation to the amount of hours we all spend on commandN. Without considering all the business stuff I do for the show, I would say that we spend about 40 man hours total each week to get an episode out. The value of those man hours is anyone’s guess, as we sure ain’t getting’ paid for ’em! :-)

2.Do you believe your format is the future of television and if so, why?

commandN is dedicated to producing television-quality content with ever-increasing production values. We do believe that vidcasting will impact the television industry, although we hope this isn’t accomplished solely by replicating TV content. Television (for the most part) has the selling of advertising as a principal goal. This tends to put a lot of focus on production quality and doesn’t always guarantee the best content. Vidcasting has it the other way around: content must be king while production values are secondary. We believe that, as vidcasting becomes more popular, the best shows will be able to compete with television while also maintaining a very grass-roots connection to the online community something that is not as embedded in conventional television.

3.How has your viewership grown over the past 6 months?

Our viewership has grown very quickly since we launched in June 2005. Our downloads for October and November have exceeded 5 TB (more than 15 times what it was in June) and we now have an average of roughly 50,000 viewers per episode.

4.Who is your typical viewer?

Because we have received emails from all over the world, from kids to grandmothers and everything in between, it isn’t easy to describe our “typical” viewer. However, I would estimate that our most common type of viewer would be a 20-35 year old North American male, although we have gotten a great deal of response from female viewers as well.

5.How are you planning to evolve your content?

commandN has been constantly evolving its content since the beginning, with the most significant change happening at Episode 18 with the launch of our new graphics and music package. We have moved towards a more segment-ized production (as outlined on our website) and this is working very well for us. We are planning more “on the road” segments in the future, as well as delving into some specialized topic areas in a little more depth.

6.What advice do you have for anyone else thinking of setting up a C21st television network?

I think the one thing that we really hold on to from television is the expectation of new content at specific intervals, so I think a big priority has to be to release your production on a regular schedule (whether that be weekly, monthly, quarterly, or whatever). Another piece of advice would be to interact/pay attention to your audience, as an online production gives us unprecedented ability to do that. Finally, make sure you actually like what you’re doing/covering – there is a great deal of (unpaid!) work in producing a well-crafted vidcast, and both you and the audience will enjoy it a lot more if it’s something you’re truly interested in.

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Brand like a humanBrand like a human

We keep going on about Flickr, but there’s good reason. They do a lot of things right, especially with their brand voice. This message, the distorted little jpeg in the right hand corner, is a screen grab from the site on Saturday night.

The site was down for server maintenance or something, they could have just said that. Instead, they added a touch of humor and instead of getting pissed because the site is down you leave with a smile.

Smart and human- it’s not really that difficult.

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Wal-mart wants all your money

Wal-mart wants all your moneyWal-mart wants all your money

Business Week recently reported on Wal-Mart’s move into financial services, its latest move came with introduction of the Discover Wal-Mart credit card, a partnership with GE Financial services.

It has also started to make a move into in-branch banking with Sun Trust. They currently co-operate 45 branches and have plans for a total of 100.

Wal-Mart is aiming to sell financial services to the un-banked and low-income customers that frequent its stores. Banking appeals to the company as it leads to an increased frequency of store visits.

Wal-Mart only needs to look at the UK to see how successful grocery banking can be. The market leaders, Sainsbury and Tesco now have a total of 5.8 million customers, 9% of the credit card market and 2.6% of the loans market. Success has come from the grocery stores not just relying on location, but introducing competitively priced product. Taking on established financial institutions wasn’t easy, but the grocery stores had one thing in their favor, trusted brands.

As Wal-Mart expands into financial services, brand trust is going to be critical. It’s currently fighting a battle with skeptics over this issue and although its future success isn’t entirely dependent on this, but still it’s a war Wal-Mart wants needs to win.

Its recent PR moves have been aggressive and perhaps a little naive. They were recently ridiculed by Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

It’s always possible that Wal-Mart might respond to critics with concrete actions that would speak louder than any PR campaign. Actions that could instantly re-gain brand trust.

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Performance gear for the street

Performance gear for the streetPerformance gear for the street

With consumers looking for more technical performance and durability in their clothing, Germany’s Acronym might be the latest answer. Founded by ex-Burton and Gravis designer, Hugh Errolson, the tiny company takes durability and functionality to a new level, it might just be the first clothing company to find inspiration in a video game; the products look like they were inspired by Metal Gear Solid, instead of the standard Everest expedition. Perhaps we should mention that Errolson’s design experience includes projects for the Special Forces.

acronym website

Acronym’s limited-run products feature multiple elements and layers that foster functionality; they use Goretex, cashmere, fiber encapsulated technology and feature multiple pockets and fasteners.

It’s clear Errolson is aiming for a very discrete target; late twenty something city dwellers looking to make a strong personal statement. This brings Acronym into direct competition with elite outdoor brands like Arcteryx and to a lesser degree Burton. However, unlike both those brands, Acronym is not looking to the outdoors to gain credentials; this brand is all about design.

arcteryx website

Errolson already has credibility in the sports design community and was a keynote speaker at this year’s influencial ISPO show in Germany. The brand buzz is already spreading for Acronym with boutique retailers clambering to get hold of product.

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Pixar

Pixar goes hi-browPixar goes hi-brow

It’s one thing doing huge numbers at box office and another critical acclain. Pixar already has these and it’s going one step further with an endorsement from the art world. Cartoons and animation have often been frowned upon by the art establishment as lo-brow, but Pixar could be stepping away from the pack. It appears that Pixar’s work is now officially hi-brow, as next week, New York’s MOMA hosts a retrospective review of 20 years of the company’s work.. The show starts on December 14th.

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