Next: A Spectacular Vision of Trends for the Near-Futureby Ira Matathia, Marian L. Salzman
A nonfiction armchair journey into the near future, "Next" breaks down the art of trend-tracking that made the authors' company, The Department of the Future, one of the most sought-after in the world. See more details below
A nonfiction armchair journey into the near future, "Next" breaks down the art of trend-tracking that made the authors' company, The Department of the Future, one of the most sought-after in the world.
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- 18 Years
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We begin with the big nexts, the overarching factors that will define the near future. Many are expressed here as paradoxes. These apparent contradictions suggest that, in the near future, making things work will require a more expansive worldview.
THE EVER MORE
Imagine you're sitting at your desk, waiting for an important contract. You check your fax machine, your e-mail, and even for Fed Ex and courier deliveries. And then you call the person who drew up the contract, and he says, "Don't worry; you'll get it. I dropped it in the mail slot yesterday." Fifteen years ago, that response wouldn't have raised an eyebrow. But today, who has time to wait for snail mail? We want everything yesterday, and we grow frustrated with people who waste our time with antiquated means of communication.
Well, that's exactly how today's consumers feel. Having made new technologies a part of our lives, we want everything faster than ever before. Anything that's not immediate is s-l-o-w. Sameday delivery. Instant news. Nuked meals. DirecTV. PC banking. Increasingly, we have no patience for products and services we can't access right now. In addition, our satisfaction with brands is defined increasingly by immediacy rather than quality of service, a point of great commercial significance. In North America in particular, retailers are discovering that customers aren't willing to wait until their local store reopens at 9 A.M. to buy aquart of milk. They want it nowand they'll get it, whether from a competitor that stays open late or at a twenty-four-hour convenience store. The result is a burgeoning number of twenty-four-hour retail establishments, from bookstores to restaurants to copy shops.
Not only do we want it faster, we want it customized. Consumers around the world are rejecting the notion that one size fits all. A popular T-shirt we've seen reads, I ASK ONLY THAT YOU TREAT ME NO DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU WOULD THE QUEEN. The T-shirt is a joke, but the attitude is pure reality. As new technologies have made it easier for companies to target individuals, consumers have grown accustomed to white-glove treatment. Time magazine comes with a printout showing how the subscribers' local representatives voted on critical issues. Levi Strauss lets us order computerized-fit jeans. Parents can buy personalized storybooks that feature their children's names, the names of their pets, familiar places, and so onvideos and dolls can also be personalized. And customer service centers around the world are scrambling to put a touch of 1:1 marketing in their responses. GTE Telesystems in the United States, for example, rates each call coming into its customer service center with three graphic devices (calendar pages to indicate customer longevity, sticks of dynamite to indicate past service problems, and money bags to indicate volume). The system allows personnel to respond more appropriately to each caller's problem.
It's really very simple. As consumers, we're being led to expect products that meet our specific needs. Why should I sit through world forecasts on the Weather Channel when I can have my particular city's weather report e-mailed to me each morning? We want to access products via distribution mechanisms that are convenient to us, whether through one-stop shopping, twenty-four-hour superstores, home delivery, or some equally agreeable method. And we want an immediate and satisfactory customer service response when problems arise.
Our desire to remain in control in an uncertain worldcombined with our insistence on having things when and how we want themalso translates into a demand for personalized marketing campaigns. Mass marketing is obsolete in high-tech cultures. Complex technology-based products, increased competition, and additional channels of communication, everything from the sides of delivery trucks to sponsored e-mails to customized couponing at point of purchase, result in declining advertising effectiveness.
In the near term, one can expect to see many more examples of increased interactivity between businesses and targets in the form of consumer-data collection and 1:1 marketing campaigns. In addressing the Public Relations Society of America at New York's Harvard Club, Larry Weber, who runs a national public-relations consultancy that bears his name, described one small example of a new communications channel. "Imagine you're at your local supermarket, buying a six-pack of Coca-Cola. The scanner that recognized the six-pack of Coke also triggers a software program, which spits out a fifty-cents-off coupon for a six-pack of Pepsi. Automatically. Let's say you ignore the coupon, or you take it home and lose it. The next time you buy Coke, the scanner recognizes the Coke on your debit card. The software looks up your record, knows you didn't respond to the last coupon, and spits out a $1-off coupon for Pepsi. Next time, it's a $1.50. If you don't switch in three tries, the software gives up on you for now. That's an actual system now being tested. Retailing is not about merchandise anymore. It's a war of information and communication."
Developments such as customized products and 1:1 marketing initiatives are creating in consumers an expectation that we will be catered to. In some parts of the world, mail-order goods take weeks to arrive. In the U.S. todaybecause we have grown accustomed to top-flight servicemany of us get impatient if we can't have a product delivered overnight or if we're unable to have our customer service problem solved at 3 A.M. on a Sunday. This isn't going to go away. As new technologies are developed and as production and distribution methods are improved, consumers will continue to grow ever more demandingnot just in the U.S., but around the world. Any company that thinks the way it did business in 1970, 1980, even 1995, is going to cut it with today's consumer is going to be blown away.
Just twenty years ago, most of us worked in offices without PCs, fax machines, and voice mail. Our homes were not equipped with VCRs; our phones were not equipped with caller ID. Many of us would have scoffed at the notion that computer technology would fundamentally alter the way we live and work in just two decades' time. And now, with the new millennium upon us, we are taking a peek into the future, imagining how our worlds will change in the next ten years.
One of the terms that has emerged in the past couple of years is premillennial tension. In the Western world the general population's anticipation of the year 2000 is tempered with concern, even fear. The novelist James Baldwin wrote, "Most of us are about as eager to be changed as we were to be born, and go through our changes in a similar state of shock." We know there will be changes in the coming years, but we don't know what exactly they'll be or how dramatic their impact. The result: an intensified search for security.
Trust No One
A key reason we've become so demanding as consumers is that we no longer trust businesses to be looking out for our best interests. This attitude has been honed by years of being lied to and mislednot just by big business but by government leaders, celebrities, and just about everyone else in the media spotlight. In our travels across Europe, we spoke with citizens who are no longer willing to tolerate corruption in any form; they are unbending in their desire to have only honest individuals govern them. Americans always wanted to believe their government was corruption-free; with the exception of the Watergate scandal, there was a perception that elected officials were essentially honorable public servants. This has all changed at the end of the 1990s, and Americans, too, are starting to demand accountability during campaigning and upon a candidate's election to public office. (Expect more term limits and campaign finance reform as yet another way to "check" the power of those who seek office.)
Whether it's hedge funds, the volatility of the stock market, corporate accounting practices, profit performance versus expectations, or continuing personal crisis in the lives of elected officials, Americans have a distinct sense of unease regarding the institutions that drive the nation's fortunes. One of the forces contributing to this anxiety is increased access to information. Whether from the Internet, cable or satellite television, or independent 'zines, today's consumers have more access to more news, and to more styles of news reporting, including the Matt Drudge-style of "expose."
As the new millennium approaches, fearful and cynical consumers are seeking trustworthy brands. Laurence Bernstein, an ad man in Toronto, gave us his view of how the premillennial tension we're describing is affecting Canadians: "The most significant trend in Canada right now," he says, "is a profound change in the Canadian worldview, moving people from a society with a therapeutic perspective (`We can do it now because everything can be fixed') to a society driven by a prophylactic sense of caution (`Whatever we do now, we must be careful because we may not be able to fix it in the future')." Bernstein contends that this shift "is evident in almost every aspect of life and can be viewed as the force behind such social phenomena as environmental concern (people actually recycling), the antismoking campaign, et cetera."
In our view, people in many parts of the world are undergoing a similar shift from a therapeutic to a prophylactic perspective. As we attempt to take advantage of the benefits of new technologies and other conveniences, we remain acutely aware of the potential pitfalls. And in a world traveling at hyperspeed, it's a brave (or delusional) person who never questions whether he or she will be able to keep up.
THE GLOBAL VERSUS
As the world gets smaller, we aren't just becoming more globally aware, we're becoming increasingly focused on the hyperlocal (think small and easy to masterhyperlocal communities can be anything from the town of Sparta, New Jersey, to Jewish divorce attorneys, to parents of Eagle Scouts) places and communities in our lives. Our perspective» as businesspeople and marketers, is decidedly global ... Yet we are also decidedly hyperlocal. This very Monday, Ira needs to race from a session with our publisher to a school board meeting in the Connecticut town where he lives and where two of his children attend the public schools. (School budget cuts are a matter most Americans can relate to, especially if they have kids in public schools. And the desire to raise smart kids is a universal goalwe've seen it in quantitative data from Taiwan, heard it during interviews with thirty-somethings in France, know it about our fellow Americans, and lived it with Dutch neighbors who put enormous emphasis on nurturing the academic skills of their offspring.) Marian has a date with her university alumni club penciled in for this week too, because that's the community that has been one of the most important to her over the last decade. She also has a Women in New Media breakfast to attend; networking is a 1980s buzzword that in the 1990s translates into forging hyperlocal ties. Ira too belongs to a number of committeesmainly ones that do outreach involving the advertising community.
It seems to us that achieving a balance between the global and the hyperlocal will be of increasing importance to both peopleand brandsin the years ahead. Hyperlocal ties help people partition the world into manageable chunks. I might not know how to solve the problems that will arise from Europe's new single currency, but I can create a workable budget for my homeowners' association or chess club. I might feel overwhelmed when surfing through Usenet newsgroups, but I feel very much at home when "chatting" with people in my online birding group.
For brands, the push and pull of the global and hyperlocal continuum is somewhat different. Aided by their embrace of new technologieswhich keep them plugged into world events and points of viewnew consumers are beginning to develop a global outlook that infuses the way they think, act, and buy. A brand can invent desire in Milan using the same triggers that it uses to invent desire in Miami or Memphis or Melbourne, Australia. Transnational commerce is leading, in turn, toward the media globalization of MTV, CNN, Sony, and the magazines in the Condé Nast empire.
As consumers become more global, we're seeing a deepening sense that marketing messages canand shouldbe transmitted across borders, sometimes even using the same (localized) vehicles to do so. The trick lies in providing messages that balance universal appeal with sufficient localization to attract and retain the interest of consumers in each market. Disney, Coke, Nikon, Apple, IBM, Levi's and Nike are just some of the brands already globally consistent. But if "Think Different," featured just one iconographic image it would have become "Think American,"; instead, the advertising campaign used unique insights into who would be admired and emulated in each culture in which Apple sought to be reborn. But remember that hyperlocal advertising can mean reaching all the advertising creatives in a variety of nations, just as it can mean reaching Parisians.
Today's drive toward globalization means companies need to make hard decisions on everything from whether brand names need to be globally consistent to which brand messages translate across cultures to what logo or icon will best represent a brand around the world. Not every company can have a symbol as globally recognized as the Nike swooshbut all of them would like to.
As brands consider the implications of going global, it's important that they also recognize the enormous draw of hyperlocal connections. Forging hyperlocal links with consumers is a must for tomorrow's brands, no matter how global the overall distribution and marketing goals and objectives. Brands need to be "just right for people like me" versus "just right for someone else." That requires intense connecting with the consumer, and messaging is a necessary step in cementing that connection. In fact, we can safely assume that tomorrow's mass-appeal brands will share three characteristics: global relevance, hyperlocal desirability, and strong ties to multiple niches.
How can a product have both global relevance and hyperlocal appeal? Some smart brands will take advantage of convergence opportunities. When done right, convergence is about brands bonding because their combined power is greater than the sum of their parts (what used to be called synergy). Moving forward, we can expect to see global champions such as Frito-Lay co-brand with local winners such as the Netherlands's Smith's chips, thereby ensuring that ubiquity and familiarity are in sync. Frito-Lay would be ill-advised, in our opinion, to distribute Smith's far beyond the Netherlands-Belgium borders but can easily cross-promote global Frito-Lay's snacks with local Smith's chips in Holland.
Smart marketers are also coming up with other ways to give mass-produced products local appeal. How many of us have been fooled by supposedly homegrown microbrews and specialty snack products in our grocery stores that are, in fact, manufactured by the very same conglomerates selling mass-marketed products a bit farther down the aisle? (Altoids is just the latest success storywould you believe it is brought to you by Kraft General Foods?) Companies slap on a local-sounding name or the colors of a local sports team knowing that consumers are not apt to read the fine print about the product's true origins. Häagen-Dazs, taking a similar tack, manufactures not only fresh, exotic flavors but also a name that sounds foreign and luxurious. In fact, it is a product brought to you by a local American ice creamery. Somehow Häagen-Dazs turned all its consumers into special affluents, buyers of Godiva versus Hershey's, travelers to the Gold Coast of Australia versus the Gold Coast of Florida, and all for just a small premium over the standard cost of a pint of chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry.
McDonald's has managed to reinvent itself, depending upon the customs and traditions of the countries in which it establishes itself, according to The Chicago Tribune. (The company earns 59 percent of its profits outside the United States, which isn't too surprising but is testimony to the brand's universality.) In Japan it serves sausage patties with teriyaki sauce. In Norway, one favorite is the McLox (a salmon sandwich), and Manila gets noodles. In India, the Maharaja Mac is the cultural representation of America's Big Mac, using lamb instead of beef out of respect for Hindu beliefs. McDonald's success in foreign markets proves it must be doing something right globally.
One successful strategy is that McDonald's sells more fish where consumers want fishthink Japanand more burgers where consumers want burgersthink England. But in countries like India, where more vegetarians live than anywhere else in the world, menus reflect that preference. The idea is global branding, global menus, and local highlights and modifications.
On a city level, one can see how global and hyperlocal approaches can not only coexist, but even enrich one another. Amsterdam, for instance, despite being a comfortable participant on the world stage, has the feel of a village. When Adidas, one of the most on-trend brands of sports apparel in the world, relocated many of its creative, marketing, promotions, and sales functions to Amsterdam, the Dutch press explained it this way: Amsterdam is chosen as second headquarters for its international cosmopolitan feel, in a village setting.
Contrast June 1997's European Union summit (a.k.a. Eurotop) in Amsterdam with the Olympic Games at Nagano, Japan. The Amsterdam event felt as though the world had been invited to a New Age picnic (BYOB) and musical celebration of the future (there were many performances during the celebratory moments and plenty of respites from the meetings). In contrast, the sleepy, isolated village of Nagano seemed determined to resist the exhortations of CBS to "spend a moment with the world." Amid reports that local businesses were turning away foreigners, the prevailing view of the townsfolk was that this intrusion from the outside world was simply to be suffered through as they eagerly awaited a return to anonymity.
NOSTALGIA AND FUTURISM: A WINNING
YIN AND YANG
Throughout our global village, residents are being asked to accommodate change at an unprecedented pace. The new world orderone characterized by real interdependence (based on connected social, political, and economic systems) and by networks based on new technologies that create legitimate global mediadictates that "change is the only constant."
In the West, as we discussed earlier in this chapter, anxiety about this change is exacerbated by premillennial tension. As observed by Megatrends author John Naisbitt, the millennium is a metaphor for the future. Wrapped up in it are our greatest hopesand our greatest fears. We're uncertain how the changes to come will affect us personally. The result has been an oscillation between optimism and anxiety. Indeed, we have been struck by how much of society's "future view" is caught up in such paradoxes. Today's trends include a push toward both risk and safety, indulgence and cost-consciousness. But no paradox is as interesting, or as marketable, as that of nostalgia and futurism. As marketing consultant James Rosenfield says, "People seem to be trying on both the past and the future for size."
Given these circumstances, coexisting tendencies toward nostalgia and futurism are not so surprising. When confronted with accelerated change, people often gravitate to the familiar and comfortablean accustomed food brand, an old TV show or a retro fashion. But because swearing off the changes of the future simply is not an option, we alleviate our anxieties by finding a balance between what has been, what is now, and what is to come. The exact comfort equation among the three is as unique to each individual as his or her fingerprints, but most involve creating a sturdy bridge that spans past, present, and future.
Marketers and product developers must take this consumer ambivalence into account to strike a balance that's appropriate for their target. Chanel's last ready-to-wear collection rose to the challenge by featuring both long skirts (a nod to the attire of Coco's youth) and a new bag designed for the millennium and called "2005."
When we consider brands for the future (sometimes called "millennium brands"), it's clear to us that, whether classic or newly minted, these brands will share a capacity to be reinvented, reinterpreted, and reoriented at an extraordinary rate. Rather than be motivated by a chameleonlike hypocrisy, such change will be an extension of the brand's guiding force. Authenticity also is important. Worn down by an unceasing barrage of questionable product claims and an unrelenting need to read the fine print, consumers gravitate towardand seek outpeople and products that deliver honesty and integrity.
Smart marketers have been quick to take advantage of consumers' nostalgic leanings. Microsoft launched Windows 95 with help from the Rolling Stones; Nissan reconnected to its history with the aid of rock group Van Halen and toy soldier G.I. Joe. Around the world we're seeing a rise in companies setting out to "stake-claim" their legacies (asserting their histories and their authenticity, versus being "me too" follower) as businesses work to ensure that tomorrow is familiar. Going forward, we'll see that the most effective marketing strategies meld the essence of nostalgia (reliability, quality, beauty, familiarity) with the positive elements of futurism (functionality, convenience, versatility).
· NEXT: ENTHUSIASM FOR RELIGION
Attention citizens scanning the horizon of the twenty-first century: You'd be well advised to tune your radar to religion. Quite simply, God is back.
For many years, adherence to organized religion has been on the decline across much of the industrialized world. Witness the dramatically reduced birthrates in former bastions of Catholicism Italy and Spaindespite the church's ban on contraception. Yet figures indicate that the ebbing tide of religious interest is turning. In the most recent wave of data from Y&R's global consumer survey, 54.2 percent of the almost six thousand U.S. respondents expressed strong or moderate agreement with the statement "Religion plays an important part in my life." Even more significant is that this figure is higher among trendsetters.
Using our TrendTracker segmentation, Brand Futures Group identified the leading 10 percent of the Y&R sample. Among those respondents, 59.4 percent agreed with the above statement. Of course, this doesn't necessarily equate to a rise in conventional religious beliefexcept that 41.5 percent of U.S. trendsetters agreed strongly or moderately that "The world literally was created in six days just as the Bible says." That's in line with the overall U.S. figure of 40.9 percent. In looking at the sample of fifteen hundred from the notoriously freewheeling Netherlands, we saw similar results: 26.5 percent of trendsetters said religion is strongly or moderately important in their lives, compared with just 23 percent of the total sample. As in the U.S., belief in the six days of creation also is higher among trendsetters (17.5 percent agree strongly or moderately) than among the population as a whole (14.8 percent).
A study conducted for the Center for Gender Equality, cited by the Herman Group's Trend Alert, points in the same direction, with findings that 75 percent of U.S. women feel religion is very important in their lives. This is up from 69 percent in 1996. Illinois-based Teenage Research Unlimited, which interviews two thousand U.S. teenagers every six months, confirms an increase in religious interest among teens.
· NEXT: WEAR IT WITH PRIDE
For most of the rock 'n roll era, displays of religious faith have been deeply uncool in much of the Western world. U.S. President Jimmy Carter's piousness arguably was more damaging to his public image than President Bill Clinton's sexual misadventures were to his own. Yet in the late 1990s, it's perfectly possible for a public figure to be both religious and trendy. One case in point is the ever-trendy British Prime Minister Tony Blair who won by a landslide in 1997 despite his religious avowals.
Of course, how uncool could religion be if it's showing up in tattoos (praying hands, sacred hearts, angels, crosses) and teen apparel? The popular WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelet worn by seventeen-year-old Cassie Bernall during the Columbine High School massacre attracted the attention of one of the gunmen. Holding a gun to the girl's head, he asked her if she believed in God. She said yes, and he killed her. If the history of the early Christian church is anything to go by, Bernall's martyrdom is likely to spur many more public professions of faith.
· NEXT: RECONCILING FAITH AND SCIENCE
The upsurge in religious interest begs the question: What about science? For most of the 20th century, education in scientific method, with its insistence on objectively measurable results, has been at the expense of religious faith. Applied science has delivered the goods with seemingly miraculous innovations in virtually every area from medicine to agriculture. And now rapid developments in genetics are allowing scientists to "play God" not only by prolonging life, but also by actually creating new life forms.
Yet on the threshold of the next century, there are signs of a growing desire to somehow reconcile science and religion. Y&R's survey data shows that trendsetters who express an interest in religion also tend to have an above-average interest in reading about scientific subjects47.1 percent versus 9.6 percent of regular folk. It seems science and religion, to many people, are not so incompatible after all.
That's hardly surprising given that, for nonspecialists, contemplating the further reaches of scienceblack holes, quarks, antimatter, and so onrequires no less faith than believing in God and an afterlife. Science popularizers such as Fritjof Capra (author of The Tao of Physics) laid the groundwork, drawing parallels between Eastern religious thinking and the cutting edge of physics. In the words of Australian Margaret Wertheim (author of The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace and the recent television documentary "Faith and Reason") in the Tampa Tribune, "We need to correct the idea that a person can't believe in science and religion at once. This is important because at the beginning of this century many people thought religion would die out, but the opposite has happened. We're going through a new wave of religious belief in this century, and it affects science."
PERPETUAL YOUTH AND
OUR AGING WORLD
It used to be that people over fifty were old and people under thirty were young. Then people like Mick Jagger began to turn fifty and continued to strut their stuff, and our theory of aging had to be revamped. Today midlife crises occur not on one's thirty-fifth birthday but on the forty-fifth or fifty-fifth, or even later. Men and women in their seventies and eighties are remaining physically (even sexually) active, are traveling the world, and sometimes are even still running companiesand countries.
Throughout Europe and North America, women are delaying childbirth until their thirties or even forties. Adults are running around in tennis shoes and short shorts. They're working out at the gym in an attempt to delay some of the normal processes of aging, and they're having plastic surgery to mask others. The fashion industry has been forced to redesign its youth fashions to fit the bodies of the middle-aged men and women who continue to wear them rather than adopting more "grown-up" fashions.
In the years ahead, expect the world's "elders" (whether aging boomers or their parents) to command unprecedented attention from marketers and the media and to have an enormous impact on the rest of the population. We're entering an era in which the elderly will make up a larger proportion of the global population than ever before. Already the most rapidly growing age group is eighty-five-plus. In the United States this age group will double by 2025 and increase fivefold by 2050. Consider the implications: By the year 2030, approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over age sixty-five. That's sixty-nine million people. Around the world, half of all people aged sixty-five and over who have ever lived are alive today.
Our aging population promises to influence everything from financial planning to home design to the way products are made and sold. Likely developments include everything from "adult friendly" caps on medicine bottles to wider car doors to foods that compensate for changing tastes and dietary needs. We'll see even greater changes in our attitudes toward aging. As seniors increase in number, so will they increase in power. Images of the elderly as victims will become history. Their favor is already being curried by all the major institutions. We'll see seniors who grow more active in politics and who maintain and even increase their economic power as they move fully into their second half century of life. Socially, politicallyand certainly economicallywe will all feel the implications of this Big Next.
THE EXPERIENCE ECONOMY
Welcome to the Experience Economy, where it's no longer enough to provide goods and services. To be competitive, companies are finding it pays to stage experiences, turning something as ordinary as a meal or plane ride into an adventure. It's all part of catering to consumers' increased appetite for fulfillment of the senses.
Driving this quest for experiences is an intensified focus on creating full, flexible, diverse lives. We're seeing a growing number of people take an à la carte approach to life, seeking thrills by taking on adventure vacations, grazing for cheap luxuries, such as storefront massages, and buying "memberships" in exclusive coteries, even if the purchase entails a mere hour at an upscale salon. Our mission: to drink in as much as possiblemultitasking (doing several things simultaneouslywatching TV, reading, and talking on the telephone all at once) to ensure that not one moment is wasted.
Conversational Value as a Form of Wealth
Permanence used to be the quality of greatest value ("Diamonds are forever"). Today, experience value is becoming for many the ultimate form of wealth: For many, an African safari is far more compelling than a "big rock." The result is a rise in everything from ecotourism to kickboxing to classes in Kente cloth design. Not sure what to get your little one this holiday season? You could shell out thirty-five thousand dollars for FAO Schwarz's Castle Bed, but for a mere twenty thousand dollars, why not buy one of the two available "Barbie Experiences"? Your two-day visit to New York will include a private meeting with a Barbie doll designer and a custom-designed doll, created to your child's specifications. (How can one customize Barbie? Use your imagination.) Now, that's something for a kid to brag about when school's back in session!
Experience collectors want to sample as many things as possible, so portions must be manageable. Products and serviceswhether a piece of furniture or dinner for twoneed to deliver rich and memorable stories. Virgin Atlantic doesn't just sell a ride across the Atlantic. It sells a hip, fun travel experience. On TWA, a vacation begins at your destination; on Virgin, a holiday begins when you board the plane. From the personal video players in economy class (with a first-rate selection of movies), to menus that excite (decent steaks, pasta Bolognese), to a free goodie bag with items from the Body Shop and other British "high street" boutiques, to comfy socks, Virgin salutes its passengers. Two major ingredients are required to create memorable experience: surprise and indulgence. Without the unexpected, there's little reason for most people to repeat an experience.
Companies expert at turning an experience into a memory understand the value of keepsakes. Theme restaurants (from the Hard Rock Café to Planet Hollywood to Boogie's Diner in Aspen, Colorado) have been particularly adept at selling such merchandise, ranging from boxer shorts to beach towels. The National Restaurant Association reports that more than a third of table-service restaurants in the United States sell merchandise, with customers spending well over five billion dollars a year on T-shirts alone.
Collecting isn't just about accumulating goods. It's about tying yourself into something larger and enjoying the experience of hunting down that priceless (to the collector, anyway) print or autographed playbill. For many collectors, the hobby is less about a financial investment than about belonging to an exclusive clubpreferably one with a reputation for discerning taste and an air of scholarly or artistic refinement. Worth magazine reports that in the United States alone, retail sales of figurines, toys, plates, and other collectibles topped ten billion dollars last year. Also growing are sales through collector clubsup almost 25 percent since 1995. In addition to gaining access to members-only pieces, club members can socialize with "others like them" at special events, whether in person or on line.
Raising the Ante
As consumers clamor for better and bigger and more memorable experiences, companies are forced to go to further extremes. In the case of movies, we're not just seeing skyrocketing budgets and special effects, we're also seeing changes in the venues in which people watch. Today's megaplex theaters feature stadium seating, premium sound systems, plush seats, and enormous concession stands (or even full-service restaurants).
So how can a company, an organization or an individual maintain an edge in a world in which the bar of entertainment keeps being lifted? In "Welcome to the Experience Economy," an article in the Harvard Business Review (July/August 1998), B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmor lay out the following five principles for success: First, create a consistent theme, one that resonates throughout the entire experience. Second, layer the theme with positive cues (e.g., easy-to-follow signs). Third, eliminate negative cues, those visual or aural messages that distract or contradict the theme. Fourth, offer memorabilia that commemorate the experience for the user. Finally, engage all five senses to heighten the experience. Consider, as an example, the promotion of a film, especially to its prime audienceoften kids and teenswhere the marketing program will include not only conventional advertising, but also an exhaustive media tour of its stars on the talk show circuit, prerelease and active promotion of the soundtrack, including a title song from a "name" artist, which will ensure its active radio play, and the requisite fast food chain tie-in for collectable toys.
We've chosen to place our final two Big Nextsthe United States of Europe and an Independent Asiain separate chapters. These Big Nexts differ from our usual stock in trade in that they focus on geopolitics and regional economics rather than on consumerism, popular culture, and the like. Whether you live in one of the regions in question or in the Americas, Africa, or elsewhere, the implications of what's to come in Europe and Asia will be enormous.
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