Monday, March 27th, 2006
The distribution of the future
Tamar Kasriel, Henley Centre Headlight Vision.
I’m not a media expert. I did have a stint at the Guardian, but I’ve been at the Henley Centre for nine years, and we try to understand consumer trends.
Was some talk about asking consumers what they want and they ask for faster horses. You can’t ask consumers straight what they want but you can identify trends.
One useful way to think about the future is to see what the trends are now, and then push them, look for the extremes. And what can our response be to those? Try and rehearse what we can do in that scenario so that when the future happens we’ve thought things through and can respond better.
Consumer change and technology are chicken and egg. But any technology has to have a clear benefit in order to take it up. People in this room are not typical - more media savvy, interested in change and complexity, but for the vast majority, if it’s not easy and I can’t see why, I’m not going to do it.
The issues we are trying to grapple with are not new. E.g. 17th C debate on whether Catholic Mass seen by telescope counts. Is that participation?
Era of blind faith, collectivism, command. That has waned, towards individualism. Now moving to reasoned faith, elective, collectivism, contract. Rise of the personal network to navigate these things. Net has been very important in this.
Way we build identity is very complex, and the urge is to simplify. Global homogeneity, diverse locality, cultural boomerangs (stuff that goes away and comes back in a new version), hybrid identity.
World is changing, but every era says that.
Paradox. Time lords vs time slaves. Powerful, in control of out time… but we also end up a slave to time. Money-time trade-off. People willing to spend money to save time. Considering other consumer currencies, info, time, energy, money, space. Not perfectly comparable, but can get a view of how people feel about these resources. People think about money more often, but value time and energy more often.
Always on culture. Pizzled - how you feel when you are talking to someone and they just inexplicably take out their Blackberry and look at it. Pi(ssed off and pu)zzled.
Don’t have weekends anymore in the same way. Great to do chores on the weekend, but our weekends are lost now because we do all the weekday stuff during the weekend. Can be a burn on people.
Impact on news - tyranny of immediacy. Dominance of image culture changes the nature of news.
Going through a revolution in time, comparable to industrial revolution. Prior to the revolution it was about seasonal time, but with a rail network precise time became important, and this was when industrial time happened. now we have a flexible, Dali-esque view of what time can be. Being able to tell the difference between a live event and a time shifted-event becomes difficult.
What happens when time becomes this flexible? Talk about end of prime-time, and it being whenever you want it to be. Already major social changes, such as around the mobile phone, e.g. ‘approximeeting’, where you arrange the meeting on the fly using the mobile phone.
Another paradox. Infinite information vs. simplicity. Infinite amount of information, which is empowering. You can never have too much information, but if you have too much you go insane. The same amount of people say you can’t have too much information, but also they don’t have enough time to process it.
Consumers put up shields and barriers. Consumers don’t want junk mail any more, doesn’t get looked at.
Paradox. Closer to brands vs. distanced from brands. Is this a fantastic opportunity to brands, or are brands just desperately running after consumers who are hiding behind their PVR shield.
Idea that buying a famous brands is good because it ensures quality has declined. Consumers don’t believe that anymore. Not to say that people reject brands, but there is a long-term decline.
We have the tech to move closer to the consumer, brands are saying ‘we’re open’, and when you get up close you find an awful things. Can be dangerous to invite scrutiny.
American Apparel invited a journalist in, but she found out about some malpractice (of a sexual nature).
Some brands might prefer translucent rather than transparent.
Co-creation. Smart, savvy consumer who understands brands. Trust and genuine co-creation hard to create and maintain.
Copernican media revolution vs. commercial redistribution. Is the consumer now sitting in the centre now, or is this just another cycle? Exponential power of consumers, people are increasingly recommending and acting on others’ recommendations.
Democratisation of images. Can create, capture, take pictures. Charged visual culture. More disposable. Important to say you were there, and take a picture. Consumers have a love-hate paradox because we know images can be manipulated but we still value them.
So who’s really running the show? In some ways it feels like just a reorganisation of the big media. You have someone who is able to experiment, create something with an independent DNA, but they get bought by the big media.
In ten years time, the heavyweights will be pretty much the same.
Is this an expanding world? Or shrinking? Diffusion of hubs, wonderful things from round the world. Strong sense of serendipity, following leads, and finding people you’d never otherwise meet. But can create a self-imposed ghetto of taste, that you just find more people like you.
Geography is history vs. local revitalised. Communities of interest, and communities of geography. Location-based services, e.g. bluetooth messages tied to a location. Deepen relationship with physical spaces. Talk to people in shops, at point of decision (i.e. the til). Apartments having their own intranet.
Enhancing human touch vs. eliminating human touch. Older consumers find a lot of digital media very alienating. If your’e less used to it you only use it if you have to. Then others find it a brilliant substitute. But in younger people, it’s not a substitute at all, it is a real relationship.
Real and online worlds blur. People mourning online for victims of Hurricane Katrina was the best way for those people to share their grief. Games are real life, it’s not some sad thing they are doing in their spare time. People raised real money online.
What will humanity feel like? What will it look like? How will you be able to touch your consumers and your customers?
Haptic technology that sends touch over the internet, e.g. lover’s cups - glasses that have coloured LEDs, so when you pick up your glass, their glass will glow and you’ll know when you are both drinking. Or pillows that display the imprint of your partner at a distance as they sleep.
Lots of possibilities. Tendency to pick your favourite scenarios, but it’s worth stretching in all directions including the uncomfortable ones. Not about being right, but it is about being ready.