December 14, 2011
2012 Trendspotting: The Imagination Economy Arrives
By Billee Howard, Creative Development Officer and Managing Director of the Brand Innovation Group, Allison+Partners
As 2011 comes to a close, a hunger for change and a palpable thirst for reinvention pervades. The wave of empowerment spurred by the modern day technology revolution pushes forward, joining citizens in a united quest for a recalibration of our world, and a tweaking of the morals, tenets and values that dictate its core. The imagination economy resoundingly arrives, pushing us all to creatively reconjure the guiding principles of business and society at large, and what the greatest economic reset of all time should comprise.
Amidst all of the sea changes, people are creatively and passionately uniting in movements toward real change. Whether it was the upending of century-old political institutions we saw within the Arab Spring, or in the vehement determination of Occupy Wall Street revelers who challenged corporate America and Wall Street from the confines of Zucotti Park, a vibrant pallor of hope and aspiration toward a better tomorrow looms. The guiding unifying mantra, ranging from governmental ideology to private sector vision, is a resounding shift to focusing on lasting outcomes as opposed to temporary, superficial outputs.
As a result, as a critically important election year lurks on the horizon, while hope may have been something we once ached to believe in, today, only change — and an unfettered path toward it — is what we will expect from ourselves, and from those who lead us. As such, green is no longer the new black. White emerges as the new green, and quite possibly, the single most defining trend of 2012. Subsequently, a universal shift in action and ideology, (from East to West, and from business to government), occurs, with purpose arriving as the new metric of profit and performance.
Beyond the Product: It's About the Brand
The recent Meaningful Brands study illuminated these concepts saying that consumers worldwide were looking to interact, engage and purchase from brands who actually impacted their life in tangible, lasting and positive ways. The survey cited the Nike+ product as a great example of doing it right as they are not just selling their shoes with this product, they are aspiring to make us better runners. This type of societal benefit focus is quickly driving the innovation function at many leading companies including Pepsi's notable Performance with Purpose initiative, and Disney's new push into child healthcare.
In a world where brands will need to do more to convey their sentiments and worldly aspirations, opportunities for individual artistic expression also abound. As the wave of creativity continues to imbue the business landscape, a patina of artistic expression materializes. We see this in the continued artisanal movement, driving success in industries ranging from food, to beverage, to fashion. Whether you are Mario Batali, Sam Cagglione or Rachel Zoe, you are no longer simply chef, CEO , or stylist, you are artist extraordinaire. This combines with what the New York Times' hailed as "generation sell." A new generation infusing self-branding and entrepreneurial conviction in all they do to create an intersection of art + commerce that possesses a never before seen propensity to innovate.
All of this combines to tee up many lasting changes to our world to look out for in the weeks and months ahead, ranging from the businesses that will drive our economy, to the type of leaders who will guide us, to the skills required for success in our new world. As job creation, and envisioning a global economic reset remains a top priority for CEOs and our clients alike, and a critical component of any brand positioning hoping to succeed in today's environment, all are critical points of emphasis of note to observe in 2012. As we learned from Steve Job's and Apple's many victories, formerly unchallenged models of linear thought defining success will no longer suffice. Today, holistic and all-encompassing concepts of ecosystem creation, based on the notions of creating winning models of innovation and business execution, and built upon triangulated self-contained models of networks, platforms and content, will ultimately separate the winners from the losers within the new world order.
As such, how a brand responds to these changes, and communicates those actions into meaningful and authentic actions and experiences, becomes more important than ever before to a company's long-term success and positive growth trajectory. Consequently, reimagining communications as an innovation that can drive not only awareness, but business performance, and building freestanding communication ecosystems that advance these notions, becomes a tangible mantra to aspire toward in the days ahead during this critical time of change and reinvention for the world and our industry.
Additionally, doing so in ways that inspire mobile ingestion and interaction also becomes tantamount, as the world moves from a sedentary to entirely mobile society-one which will only continue to upend the foundations of some of the world's most critical industries. Key examples are the future of retail being altered by everyone from eBay to Amazon by calling for new "omnichannel" approaches to marketing, and the dawn of a new age of financial management being brought to life by banking behemoths like JP Morgan and Citibank via app.
Perhaps the way best to summate the guiding focus of 2012, as Steve Jobs once notably stated when defining modern day innovation: "Let's just stop worrying about what went wrong yesterday and focus on inventing a better tomorrow."
To recap, top trends to look out for in the year ahead include:
- The imagination economy resoundingly arrives, placing a premium on ideation over intake and rewarding the ideas and notions that will guide our world forward.
- Creativity remains as the single most powerful force driving our economy, with the highest potential for successfully catalyzing the greatest economic rest our world has ever seen
- Citizens of the world are uniting in the power of "movements"-change abounds and brands that can capitalize on these opportunities and the ability to focus on outcomes as opposed to inputs becomes paramount
- White emerges as the new green. Purpose emerges as the new metric of profit and performance
- Consumers are increasingly looking to brands that actually create lasting impact and drive benefit.
- The artisanal movement continues to play out across industry, making executives and professionals across category increasingly rely on creative and artistic flare for innovative inspiration
- Generation "sell" arrives loudly announcing the age of millennials who revere an emphasis on personal brand and entrepreneurialism. A new mash up of art + commerce occurs producing new levels of innovation never before seen
- A new economy, with new jobs, new skills and new leaders begins to take shape pushing for changes across business, leadership and overall culture
- The dawn of business ecosystems occurs replacing former linear business structures that defined traditional supply chains. Triangular business concepts based on networks, platforms and content drive innovative thought in everything from business, to globalization to communications
- The age of mobility resoundingly arrives, pushing everything from business model orientation to communication strategy to be "on the go" in nature and fit for the small screen.
- Communications increasingly presents itself as a critical tool in the CEO arsenal as the way brands communicate the actions and experiences that define their response to current environmental changes becomes as imperative to business success as business strategy overall