What would Bowie Say? Apply Culture and Creativity.
“I don’t think we have even seen the tip of the iceberg…” David Bowie went on to describe the impact of the Internet in society and the new ways of expression, art and communication in a 1999 interview. Google was a few months old; YouTube, Facebook and Twitter were not even an idea. The interviewer, Jeremy Paxman, sceptical stated, “It’s just a tool, isn’t it?”
At that moment and during this discussion, one person had a rear-view mirror perspective of the future; the other applied Culture and Creativity to his considerations.
In hindsight, we often neglect to consider Culture — the ideas and social behaviour of people — when we think about the future. History is littered with examples; from Socrates warning against writing because it would “create forgetfulness in the learners’ — because they will not use their memories. To a renowned management consultancy forecasting the mobile phone market at one per cent of the value, a decade later.
We all know that the business world loves a spreadsheet, sprinkled with ‘Financial Foresight Formulas’, and sure we need to consider the commercials. However, on their own, you get a rear-view mirror perspective of the future, as data from the past drives each financial forecast. After-all, there is no culture multiplier.
Today, the Covid-19 crisis is a cultural catalyst, a moment in time that is influencing peoples ideas and social behaviour at unprecedented pace. So what cultural insight do we have now and what does this signal for the future?
Insight: What’s changed and signals future changes.
Everyone’s Covid-19 experience is uniquely different and now is not the time for sweeping generalisations and flippant remarks. For some, their world will never be the same. The immediate ripple effects on peoples lives and livelihoods are far-reaching and frightening; from the implications for people with cancer to 33 million Americans that have filed for unemployment.
The positive business changes have been well documented; from brands — with a creative and cultural mindset — repurposing their capabilities to produce Personal Protective Equipment to reimagining their role in a local community. All of these brand actions are part of the cultural cocktail of our time; influencing how people feel, think, and behave.
Our research into peoples future-facing perspectives during this period indicates changing mindsets and signals for future intentions; characterised under four themes.
1. Financial Prudence. I intend to be more careful with my money.
2. Eco-Consciousness. I intend to impact the planet positively.
3. Personal Well-being. I intend to invest in my mind and body.
4. Community Connection. I intend to support my neighbourhood and society.
Arguably, these themes are not entirely new; however, they are more pronounced, pertinent and perhaps more widespread. Furthermore, some things may not change as much as ‘predicted’. Afterall, changing behaviour personally is tricky.
Foresight: Apply Creativity and Culture
Circling back to the start of this article, Bowie’s internet optimism, was bang on in 1999. If Bowie could share his perspective on the future scenarios that lay ahead today, I’d like to think he’d suggest we all apply Culture and Creativity — to help define opportunities and course of action.
The first step for brands today is to apply Culture and Creativity to the four insight areas outlined above; (1) Financial Prudence (2) Eco-Consciousness (3) Personal Well-being (4) Community Connection. The benefits for people are clear; the business-based benefits according to the 2019 Meaningful Brands Study are as follows:
- If 77% of brands disappeared, no body would care.
- 76% of people expect brands to contribute to their quality of life and well-being.
- Purchase intent increases 24% and advocacy 44% for brands that do.
If business leaders and brand managers cannot navigate our ever more challenging constraints with Creativity to tap into Culture, commercial planning and capability investment are academic.
Those who do this early, boldly and meaningfully will become the new leaders and help shape society for the better. So let’s remember Bowie and let’s dance along the way.