The death of cup cake and ten other trends to watch in 2010 – The Fantastic Tavern Report
And the winner is
- Fun and playfulness
- Behavioural architecture
- Augmented reality
- People commerce
- Mobile-enabled interactions – My little friend
- The 30 second TV ad
- Anti- trends
It’s February already, which means that any trend that will impact 2010 only have 11 months to do so. Nevertheless, The Fantastic Tavern started the year last week by considering ten potential trends and anticipating there impact and value – in a non-scientific and rather boozy kind of a way I grant you.
In reality, trends that will make a difference this year started earlier in 2009 or before that. Consider an army of disenchanted music lovers who raged against the machine and scuppered the ambitions of a young Geordie lad and the music moguls. This was another, very public manifestation of people power and a populous striving for authenticity. It’s just a shame that there isn’t a utopian political power in the UK that we could adopt in our general election.
There are also fads and faddish behaviour to take into account; some are symptoms of long-term trends, others are simply ephemeral short-term phenomena. For example, we were told, “people would build cities around the new Segway” – the electric golf cart. They didn’t. As a vehicle it is ridiculous, just like its relative and predecessor, the Sinclair C5. While both are faddish, they demonstrate an underlying trend that has been moving at glacial speed until the launch of the Pluris, environmentalism. While the idea of wanting to be seen to be green isn’t new, I believe it’s just the tip of the iceberg (no joke intended) of what will become a rather more mainstream and desperate search for alternative resources and energy solutions.
Trends do need to be taken seriously but The Fantastic Tavern is meant to inform and entertain and this was the point of our evening – to take a five minute look at a potential trend and then plot it on a makeshift Top Gear cool wall.
As always, this event was only a success because of the audience actually turning up and participating. @TFTLondonNYC is now very popular so we were all rammed into the Katzenjammers, a great tavern with a tempting sausage platter. And, of course, thanks to Michelle Flynn for helping me organise it and EMC Consulting for sponsoring the beer.
Lets get into the trends…
First up was Nathan Williams, the director of Digital from The Partners to discuss anti-trends, no-trends, un-trends – call it what you will. However, he had had to make a hospital mercy dash minutes before we started (everything’s fine) and he didn’t show up! Now that’s a way of making an ironic presentation! Hot? Roasting.
Next up, Cyrus Gilbert-Rolfe, Head of Retail, Media and Entertainment EMEA for EMC Consulting, demonstrating the wonders of augmented reality on his iPhone. Apps to find tube stations, apps that find free WIFI hotspots and apps to find local pubs gave way to Cyrus describing what should come next – apps that you can use in stores that give you information or pricing comparisons on the fly. Can I see it happening and would I use it? Yes and yes. While many apps leave me cold frankly, the ‘useful ones’ turn my phone into a swiss army knife and can become invaluable. Augmented reality apps certainly seem to do that.
Enter Chris Robson, founder of YouWish. Chris described VRM, vendor relationship management – a phrase he admits to hate. What does it mean? Well its about inverting the relationship model of business to consumer so that its consumer to business. An individual takes control of who markets to them with what services, products and prices. They say how and when they want to interact and transact and they take value out of that relationship with incentives e.g. getting paid to consume advertising. Is this a trend? I think that it is. For me it’s ‘I-ism’, the desire to be self-centred and in control. From a marketing perspective it’s about individuals becoming a personal brand. There are early examples of this trend – I found a local carpenter by advertising the job online and suppliers pitched to me – but it’s early days. Indeed, I think half the Taverniers audience lost the plot. Hot? Not. Apparently. While Chris jokingly twittered the following days that he was trying to get over the dismissive crowd, I think VRM will have its day. When? I think there will some traction this year and 2011 will see it become a more common trend.
Certainly, one of the conditions that make a VRM marketplace a reality is time and timeliness. Enter Dean Wilson, Senior Planner at EMC Consulting to describe real time. Now I not accusing Dean of cheating but I swear pornography was used to its best advantage and Dean approached the presentation as if I had invited him to a stand up comedy competition.
Dean didn’t use too many words to elaborate on what real time is – it speaks for itself. It’s the word of micro blogging like Twitter and status updates. But he picked his words carefully and two really made sense of this ‘trend’ (is it one?) – Creme Brulee. A guy in San Fran makes creme brulees and sells them in the street on a simple box stand. There’s nothing pretty about it. What’s interesting is that he just turns up intermittently and then twitters his location. Sure enough, his fans turn up in droves; flash mobbing him until he’s sold out. He has found a hook that turns people on to him and his creme brulee – immediacy and to be ‘a part of it’. Its here, its very this year and it’s warm (the trend not the dessert).
Behavioural Architecture was up next, courtesy of Richard Sedley, Customer Engagement Director at cScape. Now I don’t want to be controversial but I don’t really this is a trend. In my opinion, it’s a ‘school of thought’ for design practitioners. It doesn’t matter. Richard’s passion was ours for the evening, trend or not.
Behavioural architecture applies psychology to the design process to make things more effective and rewarding. Richard’s personal example was about signage near his daughter’s nursery to stop people dumping rubbish. Signs telling them not to do it didn’t work, the threat of prosecution failed too. Putting up a map to the local tip? Worked a treat. We didn’t explore why. Richard closed with some of the work from the design consultancy, mmmmm, who made interactive stairs next to an escalator. Delightful, playful and effective. Why? They appeal to our inner child. We don’t need to be told to use the healthier option – we feel compelled to. Hot? Definitely. It’s a step forward for User Centred Design and the world could be a better place if more of it was designed this way.
The theme continued with a simple message from Colm Brophy, User Experience Architect at EMC Consulting – the trend for 2010 is playfulness. Foursquare got yet another name check for using game play psychology to fuel interaction – collecting badges and having a ‘position, status or station’ being two of the accelerants for compulsive behaviour designed into it. I don’t know if Colm washes up more or less because he uses Chore Wars but it’s a very good example of making something like a game to affect people, who will do it more. Is it hot? The Taverniers certain thought so – voting it as the hottest trend of the night.
The halfway point. Phew!
Enter Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson, Marketing Director at Huddle. Apparently her presentation didn’t have a single lie in it – useful as her trend was trust. I think that trust is actually a part of the DNA of the authenticity trend rather than one in its own right. Nevertheless, it’s a great thing to consider, especially as we race towards our general election – against a backdrop of lies and deep mistrust – and rebuild our economy with what remains of the banking sector.
Zuzanna built on points made in real time, arguing that people wont take bad customer experience, poor management and leadership lying down any more. We’ll expose it at speed to wide audiences we could not reach so easily before. And what we say sticks. Transparency then is the way to build trust in an environment where reputation is everything.
I think that there will be much said about reputation management and trust building this year, not least by Tiger Woods and Accenture. Traditional agencies and new start-ups alike will be talking to clients about the whys and wherefores about reputation management – especially in light of ‘social media’. So is it hot. Yes. Did the taverniers like it? Not really and certainly little more than VRM.
Then my new mac went pop! Technology it seems remains undependable for 2010 and I wished we’d done the whole night on boards or post its. Powerpoint, machine and projectors feel very 2009 to me!
When we returned, Vaughan Denny – Sales Director at Coull attempted to pitch that the 30-second commercial was going to have its day again now that it could be disseminated and shared virtually on sites like You Tube. And yes, we saw interactive video too with imbedded hotspots. What is certainly true is that a great advertising idea can catch on like wild fire – faddish and fantastic (think dancing Evian babies) – but is the trend something that will have a huge impact in 2010? Taverniers thought not but I’d argue that ads online benefit from being very measurable and that if they catch, they can deliver much higher value than a broadcast paid for slot and can extend ad reach. Nevertheless, the baying crowd place Vaughan at the cold end of the spectrum. I think this pays testament to the trend title more than the content, maybe he’d been dismissed simply by mentioning ‘ad’ to a digital crowd?
Chris Reed from Brew Digital said he was some kind of digital guru and sure enough he did a masterly job of talking about social commerce. This is a dead cert trend for 2010 and I’m excited to see the new peer-to-peer interactions, sites, services and opportunities emerging. Chris’s main point was that people like people that like what they like. We are tribal by nature. This being true we are more likely to take recommendations from our social network than a store representative we have never met. We don’t want algorithmic impersonal personalisation – we want authentic suggestions, support and advice.
Some services are taking the power of friends and networking further – they offer to pay commission back to the recommendee – yub.com and mflow both being good examples. I am sure that this trend will be folded into another – status – such that key influencers will be tracked and highly valued as a marketing channel (they already are, take a look at Nike’s new iPhone app).
Last up was Michael McClary, Platform Strategy Advisor at Microsoft to describe his ‘little friend’. With huge regret, all technology failed us by this point and Michael had to describe how mobile interactions would be revolutionised this year with the introduction of mini-projectors. Imagine having a life size chat with a facebook friend projected same size on the wall. Project Natal makes use of these natural interactions and the gestural language that comes with it.
But Michael wasn’t pushing Microsoft, he had wanted to show the SixthSense demo from the TED talks.
Michael did a commendable job the ad-lib his presentation but people struggled to see it as an important trend. I apologise that a highly visual topic didn’t come across. However, the theme is another example of an emerging technology being fuelled by a bigger trend – convergence. And while this incantation might be faddish, convergence is here to stay.
So there we have it. None of the fads, themes and trends presented are irrelevant this year – they are all worthy considerations for designers, planners and clients wanting to be effective in a fast changing culture.
All ten presentations done, it’s award time. Dean Wilson gets second prize for the most entertaining presentation, receiving £25 pounds of B∧Q vouchers (at his request). But the outright winner was Colm Brophy with his sense of fun designed into interfaces. It feels good that this might actually be a consideration for designers and that we don’t have to take thing too seriously. Well done Colm – your prize is on its way. And my tanks to all ten speakers – you made the night a great success.
And then rather serendipitously, we had a whip around for Toybank, charity in Mumbai, that gives children toys so that for a few moments they can escape their reality of poverty. I don’t like to be pushy when fund raising but the Taverniers did me proud, raising over 125 pounds for this happy cause.
Once again The Fantastic Tavern shows there’s a lot of fun to be had and plenty to share. A fantastic blog on the event has also been written by one of the taverners so you can see I am not just biased
The Next TFT will look at augmented reality in more detail. And if you are in NYC on Feb 8th, join us for the very first #TFTNYC discussion, where we will look at total experience design.