I caught a really great segment on NPR this morning talking about the history of the phrase "Do More with Less." While I've always looked at it from an athletic/efficiency lens, the context has certainly changed in these uncertain times.
It made me think of the shift in our global economic priorities. Only a few months ago we were living in an age of "Do Less with More." It's an attitude that promoted Cultural Obesity. While the shift is painful, it feels better to me that we are entering an era of "Doing More with Less."
There's always been a odd separation between digital and physical interactions. Aren't all interactions, interactions? Playing around with Twitter, Facebook, etc. I'm having interesting relationships with people that I probably wouldn't come in contact often. Whether it's seeing a picture from a high school buddy or getting a business question answered at the speed of light, these interactions are powerful. The distinction between physicality and virtuality need to disappear to reveal more human connections in a multitude of mediums. This HP video is a good example of the thinking.
Yesterday I got a note on Twitter from Steve Bendt, one of the founders of Blue Shirt Nation, that Best Buy had just uploaded to a new Yellow Tag interview series on YouTube about Emerging Business. It's cool to see Best Buy using technologies to communicate not only with their customers but also with their employees. Social media, like YouTube, is making the wall between inside and outside of a company more porous.
The world is becoming more transparent whether we like it or not.
A couple of weeks ago I got to see the new face of medicine in action. I was having some weird chest pains and thought I'd try to get in to see the doctor. My doc, Eric Zacherias, is quit progressive. We communicate most of the time via email.
Well, I emailed Eric and he responded in a matter of minutes and suggested that I come in that afternoon to check things out. He asked if I could call his front desk to let them know I'd be dropping by. I called his receptionist and, as expected, I had to wait for twenty minutes on hold to talk to someone. When I did talk to someone they said Eric was booked for a week.
I promptly emailed Eric back. He suggested that I stop by after work. At 5:15 I stopped by his office, emailing him that I arrived. He had his nurse in front to meet me and usher me back to a room where Eric was ready to go. After a nice chat and a 15 minute evaluation I was declared good to go.
Eric represents the future medicine. The ability to see patients as customers and to have a personal relationship with them with no walls in the way.
The receptionist, however, represents the past. It doesn't matter if you're in retail, technology or medicine customers want to have a direct relationship with real people. Walls just get in the way of getting things done.
At it's core, the economic crisis was brought on by the power of people to make direct connections, disintermediating, layers inside companies and even companies themselves, making them irrelevant.
The best way thrive in these times is to cut out the layers. Not only will you save money but you'll also have happier customers.
In his book about luxury, Living It Up, scholar James Twitchell compared the effect of certain rarefied, high-end brands with a dog whistle. As an example, he pointed to the various sorts of logo treatments on a Prada bag. A bag with a small logo would likely be more expensive than one with a big logo--and one with no logo whatsoever would be the most expensive of all: Only true cognoscenti would "hear" it. "This was connoisseurship applied to consumption," he wrote.
During the course of reporting my book Buying In--which deals with the intersection of personal narrative and consumer behavior in some detail--I had many interesting conversations with young creators of a newer generation of brands (I call it the "brand underground") that take Twitchell's dog whistle idea into a new realm.
These brands--like Barking Irons, or The Hundreds--may be unfamiliar to you if not are a participating in the subcultures they are part of. But they do communicate participation in a subculture, and in a way that has a lot more in common with Twitchell's dog whistle than with, say, the aggressively flamboyant regalia of punk: As in the luxury arena, you need the proper background to understand what you were seeing. To everyone else--underground arrivistes, Twitchell might say--the brand symbols mean nothing and probably don't even register. Brand underground badges are, in effect, invisible.
And this is not a failure; it is the goal. It suggests a tighter relationship between the brand producer and the brand consumer, and speaks more directly to that most crucial relationship: the relationship between the consumer and consumed.
If the underground logo is a badge, it's one that is most noteworthy for how few people can see it.
While I'm not a huge baseball fan, it was really cool to be able to go to the 4th game of the World Series. It would have been nice to see the Rockies play better, but being in the stadium was still electric. We had seats in the second row in right field, next to Dave (pictured on the left). Dave's a lifetime ticket holder and knows every stat and every cheer. Just being with him got me stoked.
Since last week I've been enjoying Radiohead's new album, In Rainbow. I have to admit, I've never been a fanatical Radiohead fan and am not much of a trendsetter when it comes to music. Yet, when I went to Radiohead's web site to download the songs I was willing to pay $10 because the context was set by iTunes. As a consumer, I'm willing to pay a reasonable price for the product and would rather pay the producer directly, cutting out the middleman.
After selling 1.2 million downloads at $8 a piece, Radiohead is proving that the value that middlemen bring to the market is quickly vanishing. Where there is currently a middleman there is disruption or soon will be.