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)


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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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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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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Who will rule the living room

Who will rule the living room?Who will rule the living room?

Following the over-hyped E3 announcements of PS3 and Xbox360, there is much debate amongst gamers on the processing power of the consoles and if the visuals shown at both presentations were pre-rendered or not. This being E3, it’s about gaming, but clearly both consoles are about far more than that or are they?

These consoles are supposed to represent the future of home entertainment and it’s interesting to see how Microsoft and Sony each has a very different visions of what that should be. These visions are essentially extensions of each company’s core competence.

Sony presented PS3 as a quantum leap in gaming as an experience. It offered up a compelling vision that was almost a sc-fi writers view of gaming’s future; a place inhabited by lifelike characters and massively imersive environments, where separating the real from the fake is almost impossible.

Add to this, PS3’s ability to play the next-level in DVD quality in Blu-Ray and you have a machine that is all about the enhancing the entertainment experience in the living room.

Microsoft is on a very different track. It is certainly highlighting the power of the console as a games machine, but they are also heavily pushing community, connectivity, customization and commerce. These are four attributes that the Internet has already brought to the PC and things that Microsoft knows quite a lot about. Microsoft’s living room is starting to look very different from Sony’s.

Ultimately, the consumer will decide which one they prefer, but it seems obvious that Microsoft has the biggest challenge ahead of them, not only to catch up with Sony, but also to sell their new vision. Microsoft desperately wants Xbox to expand beyond the current hard-core group of gaming users and reach a mass audience, but the trouble appears to be that much of what Microsoft is offering is already available for the masses on their PC.

Why would a consumer want to buy an additional machine, if the only benefit is doing what you do on your PC, in your living room?

For Microsoft, customization is a nice addition, but only if the machine performs and commerce is something of a double-edged sword; while it suggests flexibility and ease, it also shows how gaming could be an increasingly expensive pastime.

So to succeed, Microsoft must develop a single-minded positioning that focuses in on the Xbox360 as quantum leap in the gaming experience, because it combines both power and connectivity. This could be compelling enough to move non-gamers from their PC to an Xbox360 in their living room, where they can happily engage in commerce and customization.

So despite the hype over the future of the living room, the starting point for both companies has to be about the future of gaming. Both companies clearly have different visions of this; Sony is about power and Microsoft is about connectivity. If they start with gaming, it will be much easier to add in the other elements that have the potential to transform the living room experience.

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