People, technology and life

Tag: future (Page 1 of 2)

11 Joie de vivre – the encore

Weren’t there to be ten posts about then trends? Yes, but as with any good band there is an encore. The encore to my series on social trends is a single trend that encompasses them all. And it is called Joie de vivre.

We are entering a time when people value the joy of life and the enjoyment of life as one of their main motivators for the choices they will make. As a result, you should be looking at how you can make your brand, your product or your actions tie into the joy of life. What are the factors that make people enjoy what you have to offer. What is in it that contributes to them and their desires?

Throughout the ten trends that I have described over the past two weeks, we clearly see that line that shows how society is changing towards something that is more playful, has more freedom and focusses on the relationship between individuals and their surroundings more than ever before. And most importantly, at this moment you are holding the keys to make your organization, your product, your service or yourself a big success.

If you want to take a shot at growing your organization, your product, your service or yourself, there has never been a better time than now. You can now see, hear and feel your target audience. You can talk to them on a whole new and personal level. You can touch them at the points where they need you most, just by making sure you know what motivates them. Is that going to be easy? Not really. Is it going to deliver you the easy money you see some people talk about online? No. But what it is going to do is grow you, your organization, your product or your service. If you get this right, it will grow beyond what you have deemed possible. And you will do it with a customer base that is far more loyal to you than they ever were before. Because there is one rule that is hard to break. You don’t cheat on a friend. A friend is someone who cares for you, who helps you out and who you can always count on. The challenge in the coming years is to develop yourself into that friend. Because whether you are an organization, a product, a service or just yourself, you can be that friend to them. And the ten blogposts I wrote before are great guidelines to help you make that happen. If you can connect your organization, your product, your services and yourself to that overall trend of Joie de Vivre in the minds of your target audience, you are on the right track. And you will get your point across.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on arne@arnehulstein.nl

10 Meaningful experiences

Life has changed, and so have our preferences. In the eighties and nineties we went out to ‘get a television’. The stores we did business with showed us rows of televisions and we picked the one we wanted and went home. After the turn of the century we changed and started to think of that moment when we get something as a moment that we consciously set apart for ourselves. Over the past ten years we have been growing towards the experience. The experience that should start almost the minute you think of getting something.

Now we are taking it a step further. No longer are we looking for just an experience. We are looking for a meaningful experience. We want the experience to tie into something which we value beyond the purchase, beyond the participation. We want an experience that adds to what we have decided has meaning in our lives. That is what the meaningful experiences are about.

Jack and his family have decided to go green. He has already installed a couple of solar panels on the roof of his house and has completely re-insulated the house to the latest standards. As a family they have decided that they will go organic, so they switched to a neighborhood shop that supplies them with all they need. Up until today they had two family cars and after much debate, they have decided to buy a hybrid car. This has Jack  jumping into his full size sedan to check out a couple of hybrids at local dealerships on a sunny Saturday morning. From this example we can derive a couple of things that are vital to providing a meaningful experience which will help Jack make up his mind about the choice he is about to make. Jack and his family have seen what is going on in the world, and they want to take their responsibility. A reason why they want to take that responsibility is that they feel themselves part of a community of people and the actions they take have a direct effect on the well being of the community. And realizing all the effects their actions have on society, Jack feels the choice to go green directly influences his personal integrity. There can be more things, but these are a couple of the most obvious that we can easily derive from Jack. Or from many others that are considering buying a hybrid car. The biggest put off Jack can face, is a dealership that still has its focus on traditional motoring. Large floors, chrome bars, big desks, sales people in tight suits, lots of artificial light, no plants and an emphasis on the power of the big engine. This is the dealership where Jack will find an experience that clashes with his own core values. Jack really is looking for a dealership that has lots of natural light and focuses on the values of society. A place where he feels his decision is wholeheartedly supported. Where a sales person meets with him who talks about his family, about taking trips with the family and about the latest happenings in the area. That will be the dealership where Jack will feel at home. And that will be the place where he will spend his money.

The good news about meaningful experiences is that everyone can offer them. We see it happen all around us and there is more to come. The transition supermarkets have made in the past twenty years is enormous. From a place where you came for your weekly necessities, the supermarket has become a place where you spend time shopping for the experience you will have at your table that evening. Bookstores have ceased to be a collection of thickly packed shelves, but have turned towards recreating the feelings people get over the reasons for them to read a book. A place of rest and relaxation, a place you care to share with friends and which always has something surprising in store for you if you want to. But the same could go for government agencies that you have to visit for that ‘necessary evil’ of passports, licenses etcetera. It could be so different if they would be geared towards connecting to peoples‘ reasons to be there, instead of the most efficient way of handling the process. And the great thing is that if there is a meaningful experience, people will not care if the process is not as efficient as possible. As long as it is geared towards them and their needs.

So, how about you, your product, your organization and your projects? Can you create a meaningful experience for your target audience? The best way to answer this question is to sit down and go over your offerings to see how they can connect to the core values of your audience. Because tying in to those prime motivators in the right way throughout the thought processes of your target audience is key in helping them make a choice for you.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on arne@arnehulstein.nl

9 Purposeful living

More and more we see people consider the purpose of the things they are doing. The time they spend on anything is carefully measured and weighed against other things that could be done instead. It all needs to serve a purpose. And one that they can explain and justify at least to themselves if not to their friends and family as well

There is a risk that we only see this trend in the light of the searching for a things that could be associated with religion. However, even though that might be a part of it, it is not its sole focus. One of the most important balances people are trying to find is the one between their work and their private life. Another one that has been getting a lot of attention has been the balance between a consumption-oriented lifestyle against the effects that lifestyle has on everything around us. Purposeful living for many means that they ensure those balances lean towards their own preference. Unfortunately, as every balance is personal, there is no right and wrong here. However, in general we see that a good private life is valued higher these days and that people are willing to sacrifice income, status and even career options to spend time with their families or make other choices outside of the office. In the same manner, we see that there is a tendency to weigh choices partly on the effect they will have on what is around us. The environment being an obvious example of this, where it is getting less and less appreciated to buy the biggest car possible, but it is appreciated to buy a model which uses less fuel and has a lower impact on its surroundings. Those are the obvious balances, but they are not the only ones by far.
Does your organization or your product need to fit one of these balances? Do you need to get out of your way to make sure you do? Well, not really. The thing is that you probably already fit right into a balance which people use to measure their choices. The only thing you need to do is to determine what that balance is and what the other options are. From there goes the route to demonstrate on what side of the balance you are and how a choice for you benefits your audience. This is going to be your best approach to reach the people who are considering your product, services or projects.

Danny is a highly sought after technician. He has skills that enable him to do things with electronics that few other technicians can. He enjoys his work and loves to exceed the expectations of his clients when dealing with their problems. As a result, Danny is one of the best employees his boss has got. Whatever the problem, he knows that when he sends Danny, it always gets sorted and well within the time set by the planning office. Danny loves his sports. He has been playing football for as long as he can remember. He was always one of the first ones to be picked at school and still is a team leader for his own team and coaches two junior teams. At the football club everybody loves Danny. He has his heart in the right place and is always there for the club and the people around the club. So far, this is the story of my or your neighbor. Where it gets interesting is when we look at Danny’s boss. Danny just met Jamie and they are getting serious, so Danny wants to be able to spend more time with her. But he does not want to give up on his commitment to the club. However, he has always done at least 60 hour workweeks for his boss, because he loved his job. So Danny turns to his boss and tells him that he is no longer going to do the extra work and that he would love to be able to work more flexible hours with more personal responsibility. That hits the boss hard. Danny is his most profitable employee. Without the extra hours, the profit ratio of the company is going to go down. There are now two options. One would be to refuse and to try to get Danny to still do the extra hours with a tighter control on what he delivers in what timespan. This tips the balance towards work, something we know Danny is not going to like. The other would be to agree and give Danny the freedom he asks for. In this situation, choosing the latter option will prove the best. This tips the balance towards Danny’s private life which he will appreciate a lot. And in reality we often see that when a balance gets tipped towards the side we prefer, that the results are unexpected. In this kind of case it has been shown that often productivity goes up. That means that it could well be that after two months the boss finds out that Danny has done more work in less time than he did before, making the company equally profitable.

Remember Alice of the city council? She set up a community for people to help solve other people’s problems. Getting people to commit time to this project has always been hard. The main reason for this has been that it has always been shown as something you only do for the other person. In her project the balance was always favoring the other and showing no benefit for the participant. Now that she has that established, she can see that she needs to change the proposition. She needs to show that there is a balance in the community. That by contributing to the solutions for others, you contribute to solutions for your own problems as well.

For your product, your service, your projects or your organization it is just the same. Find out what you are about and what kind of balances you fit into. Then find the one that matches your target audience most and how you tip the balance for them. You might want to rephrase what you do to show them clearly that you can tip the balance in their favor.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on arne@arnehulstein.nl

8 Personally tailored

Not  that long ago, people were pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from your organization which had their name in the header. In fact, just yesterday I saw a huge ad for a postal service which is able to print a personal letterhead on the mail you send to your client and they claimed that everyone would love it. Well, to be honest, they do not. Not anymore. We have gone past the stage where we loved getting something with just our name on it. What we want now, is something that is specifically tailored for us, in our situation at the time when I would receive it.

Some organizations say that we are just spoilt. That we have been given so much, that we are rarely satisfied with what they send out to us. However, the real question is whether it is us that are spoilt, or whether it was them. We only have to go fifteen years back in time to be back at a time when companies did not need to personalize their offerings to their customers. You either bought it, or you did not. And there were plenty of consumers around to make that a viable options. Now, the tables have turned and the consumers are the ones saying: “you either sell it, or you do not”. And then they are all too willing to demonstrate that there is a new balance where there is such a big number of trustworthy suppliers, that they are the ones choosing the supplier that matches their requirements best.

As a supplier, that puts you in an awkward spot. Or so it seems. But that is not necessarily true. In fact, as a supplier you have a wealth of knowledge about your target audience. And this does not only apply to products, it applies to projects and services just as well. Another great thing is that even if you do not have any data on the people you are trying to reach, there is a wealth of data out that that is readily available to you. Where in the past we could only enlist the help of organizations that would sell us addresses, there are many more possibilities now. One of the biggest changes that we have seen in this matter is the acceptance of social media into the mainstream. And the uninhibited nature with which people use these social media. However, their use creates opportunities as well as obligations if you want to reach out to someone. As a general rule of thumb, you can say that the more open people are online, the more personal and informed they are expecting you to be. It asks a pro-active role from the supplier reaching out to them because they expect you to know what they are looking for. And this ‘knowing’ has to go beyond just knowing they are looking to fulfill a certain need and just pasting in a general email you have sent to hundreds of others that might have had that same need. It means they are looking for you to send them an offer that is tailored to their needs at that time and that fits within their expectations of how they should be approached.

As an example, John is looking for a new car. He has been sharing with his friends on Facebook that he had just bought a new bass guitar and amp and speakers to use when touring with his band. In other updates, John has shown that he has a girlfriend and that they love to go climbing out in the mountains near to where they live. A quick look at John’s profile page also shows that he is the owner of a business that sells security systems to owners of large estates. As John’s old car failed him spectacularly and unexpected, he has now posted an update on Facebook saying that he now needs to shop for a new car, but has not got the time, nor a very large budget. Where it goes wrong is where a salesman then goes and sends John a message for a nice second hand Ford Ka which is low in price, but does nothing for any of John’s other criteria. The winner will be the one who will come up with a car that looks sporty and representative, has room for all John’s equipment and does not break the bank. Miss out on any of these qualities and you are guaranteed not to make a sale. And if in doubt, see if you know John well enough to call him to discuss what you have on offer and how that would fit his situation. The more personal, the better.

A key in this trend will lie with the company that will come up with the technology to combine an extensive CRM system with social media monitoring and a clear analysis of what has been posted online. This will be where deals will be won or lost. The organization that can present its employees with a complete analysis of the situation of their target audience will be the one that is most able to answer the questions of their target audience in a satisfying way. And the organization that offers the best fit is often the one that is chosen over others.As an aside, personalization does not need to find its roots in knowledge you gather online. It can be obtained from offline sources as well. But the key to success in this trend is getting the balance right for what you are offering.

Another factor that you need to keep in mind is the goals you are trying to reach with what you are sending out. As an example, a fashion brand wants to let their target audience know that the new summer collection is out. Their normal approach to doing this would be to have a photo shoot, then pick a photo and send that out to all their customers through the mail. However, you can imagine that the clothes in the picture are not to everyone’s liking. This fashion brand has stores all over the world, but they also have a web store that you can buy their fashion at. As a result, the mail addresses they have gathered over the years are usually connected to a profile in the shop. A simple analysis will show the kind of clothes people usually buy and perhaps even the colors that they tend to choose. This information can then be used to split the receivers of the mail into a number of groups, for which separate pictures can be sent out. These pictures reflect the taste of the receiver much more and as a result will trigger them much more to take a look at the web shop and make their first purchase.

In general we see that the more personal an offer is made, the better it will be received. The key to making that best offer really comes down to gathering the right information at the right time to make that offer.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on arne@arnehulstein.nl

7 Doing it together

Doing it together is the new way to be individualistic as a brand or organization. People love to be a part of something that values their input. More and more they collaborate online with others to make things happen. This is a trend that we also find in terms as co-creation, co-design, co-working and anything else that “co-” can be added to.
Doing something together has always been important to people. In the current trend we see that they want to be part of some kind of together that values their personality, their input and ultimately their presence. And once they have found that group within their own interests, they are willing to invest time, money and knowledge to achieve something that they would not be able to achieve on their own. As an organization, this trend can be of incredible value to you.

There is a fair chance that you have heard this already. Co-creating with your target audience is a great way to get people involved. And once people are involved they want to share it with their friends, their family and anyone else they think can benefit from their experience. Besides the huge network that is reachable through such an initiative, it is also a great way to tap the brains of your target audience, which allows you to learn about their preferences, the way they use your products, the way in which they value you and many other things. All those things you previously hired market research companies for is now available to you, right where you want it. On your own doorstep, connected to your own project.

However, the big question for many people remains how they can apply these principles to whatever it is they are doing. And lack of knowledge has given birth to many different excuses. “Our company does not have an online focus, and co-creation is always based around something online.” Or: “You have to be an expert to create a product like ours, our users don’t really understand what is behind what we do.” And an even worse excuse I overheard at a government agency: “People are not interested in what we want to achieve. So co-anything does not interest me as we just initiate our own projects and the general public just has to deal with it by the time it is finished.” However, these excuses really miss the point. Doing it together can be much bigger than the excuses you can come up with. And once you see that, you can think of how you can facilitate the process. Your product might be too complicated for your users to design. But your users will have very clear ideas of what they would like your new product to be. At that point you can easily add a technician from your organization to translate the wishes of the participants into something that can be used to create a product.

Doing it together does not have to lead to a physical product. It can be used for anything. It is about getting people together to work towards a single goal. Whether or not that goal has to be set by you is another question that you might want to ask yourself. If you are operating in the public domain, as a government agency for instance, it could be that your ultimate success lies in having people define their own goal and then facilitating them to gather people around that goal. And at some point they will look at you in the execution stages of the project, or they might even take that in their own hands. That all depends on how you facilitate and encourage them to be successful in reaching the goal they have set.

As a rule of thumb, remember that regardless of what you do, this is a trend that will allow you to grow your organization with knowledge, time, network reach and sometimes even funds that would not have been available otherwise. And as a second thing, give your target audience the credit they deserve. This means that yes, they will be able to help you achieve great things through their passion for what you are doing.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on arne@arnehulstein.nl

6 Meeting and connecting

How many friend request did you get today? How many people wanted to add you to their contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Foursquare? Or how many people have decided to follow what you are doing through your Twitter account? It seems that everybody wants to connect. Even people you had completely forgotten about, now send you requests to be part of your life once again.

Meeting and connecting is an obvious trend if we look at what drops into our mailbox every day. However, the trend is much bigger than that. It is not just about the number counts on your favorite social network, even though most of them have started out that way. More and more it is about really making a connection and expecting others to do so as well. And the value for your organization is defined by the way in which you can meet that last criteria.

You might have heard about the value of social media for your organization. You might have heard about creating a group of loyal followers through Twitter and about gathering fans on Facebook. As if it were something magical that, through simple deployment will have people flocking your sites and desperately waiting to hear your every word. Let me burst that bubble for a moment, because that is not how it works. If you did not have your biggest fans standing outside your office waiting for your latest news, neither will they do that now.

The question then is, how does it work and how can we make the most of this trend? Meeting and connecting is about connecting on a relational level. It is no use just broadcasting how wonderful you and your products are. It is about meaningful conversation and how your fans can connect. It is looking at what they are talking about and how you can add to their conversation. It is about listening to their opinions and taking action. It is about being approachable and letting them know that you are there for them. And when you make those steps, that is when connecting really becomes connecting to them.

You might think all of this is a huge amount of work. Listening to people online, monitoring what is said about you, engaging in conversation and all that. That will cost you a lot of time and time equals money. So, the obvious would be to just skip this trend and move on to the next one. After all, just publishing news on your site, press releases and running an ad campaign should cover the exposure you are looking for. And that is where the advantage you might have had, turns into a disadvantage. Yes, having meaningful conversations with an audience will take time and money. But the results of building meaningful relationships with your target audience will deliver more than advertising ever will. It will turn a good part of your audience into ambassadors for you. They will testify to the way you have helped them achieve what they wanted. They will testify how you listened to them and solved their problems and they will tell their connections that if they ever need something similar, they should go to you.

So, what does this mean if you have a dealership and you are trying to move your cars? Basically, it means that just putting the makes, models, years and mileage on a twitter account will not get people flocking your dealership. But if you hear online that someone is looking for an MPV, a response from you might just sell that car. And responding to online questions on your brand and on general questions on car maintenance will grow your reputation as the best place to go. And you will see people answer that with a positive advice to others online to be in touch with you, to ask you questions or to check out a car that you have. And your audience will be happy to be in touch with you. Mainly because you show them that you are pleased to be in touch with them.

Show your customer you care, by connecting to them in the way you would like to be connected with. That is the least they deserve as they are the reason for your organization to be successful.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on arne@arnehulstein.nl

5 Passion and craftsmanship

Another trend we currently see is the appreciation of passion and craftsmanship. This appreciation has been slowly on the rise. This also is the trend that has been the driving force behind sites like Etsy.com. Etsy is a great example of people creating something based on their abilities. It often results in unique products that are handcrafted and focused on a smaller audience. An audience that is willing to spend more on a product to obtain something that is unique and that has an attention to detail that surpasses that of mass produced items.

The same goes for every other product or service. More and more we see that people are willing to spend that little extra on a product that displays a passion for the product by its maker. And this trend is not limited to specialized products. This can go for anything. Whether you mend bikes at your local workshop, give financial advise as an accountant or want to address aggression in a bad neighborhood. Regardless of what it is you are offering to your target audience, they will all appreciate the fact that you have a passion for what you are doing. And they will appreciate that passion. More and more, people choose for a passionate producer, a passionate person, a passionate goal. And that makes your audience willing to put in more effort from their side for the same reason.

So, how do you translate this trend into something practical for your organization or your product? The good thing is that it does not require a complete rethink of your organization. What it does require is attention to what you are doing, how you are doing it and why. After all, making the most of this trend means that your product, service or project needs to ooze passion. The best way to get to that stage is to ask yourself what you are doing what you do. Is it because it was convenient, or because you care about what you are doing. If you cannot point to a reason why you love to get to work in the morning, you need to sit down and find out what part of what you do you can change to get to that stage. Sometimes it only requires minimal change. Or even just refocusing on a part of the work you do that you really are enthusiastic about. When you can focus on that enthusiasm, you will be able to translate that into passion and that passion will be translated into a better product, a better process and a better service.

Moving back to the motorcycle manufacturer I used as an example a couple of days ago. The bike was beautiful. It was well crafted. You could see it was special just by the way they did the welds, the custom frame, the suede seat and the airbrush on the side of the bike. However, the bike was sitting the wrong way around on a small square block that was painted with wall paint underneath a less than glamorous banner. You could see the passion and craftsmanship in the bike, but it did not impress because the surroundings completely took the attention away from the bike towards the less than passionate presentation. A real shame. So, keep in mind that the way you radiate passion and craftsmanship is only as good as the weakest moment you have in your presentation. Go over it. Pay attention to the details. Even the details that you would think would never pull the attention away from the product itself. Because it will. Passion is in packaging with attention to detail and showing off that you care about every little part of your product or service.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on arne@arnehulstein.nl

4 Being transparent and clear

There is little that annoys people more than organizations and people who are not transparent. Shrouding yourself in secrecy and complicated procedures is a sure way to drive customers away. The trend is about openness, being clear and transparent on what you are about. And there is a supporting trend that people are watching you closely to see whether you walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Your conclusion might be that that means you need to tread carefully not to drop the ball. But that is missing the point completely.

The challenge in this trend is to open up your company. To make it more and more transparent and allow your target audience a look behind the scenes. This will be harder than it sounds. You will run into internal resistance within your organization. It might be hard to open up on the materials you use and where they come from. It might feel unnatural to reveal the environmental risks that are associated with some of the things you do. Or it might just be that your company has grown habits, departments, choices that are not at all focussed on the target audience. And you might be right in thinking that your audience would not like it if they knew. Well, this is your chance to make a difference. Changing now, you might have the ultimate advantage on your competitors who are likely to be in the same shape as you are. But if can make the turn before they can, you are on your way up and leaving them behind.

In your communications, be as transparent as you possibly can. Tell about what is going on. There is nothing wrong with a positive twist on what you are saying, but make sure you are not telling fairytales. If you are the most personal insurer in the country, you need to make it your business to know your clients’ name and their packages when you answer your phone. If you can answer all of their questions based on your knowledge of them and half of the question they asked you, they will feel like you know them. And they will feel like you care. In another example, if you claim your company is the most environmentally friendly producer of household appliances, you have to be it. And you can show people that you do recycle and do care about creating new products with a smaller footprint. Because that is in line with your company philosophy.
In both cases, living up to your claim will give you an edge over others. You will be talked about and people will testify to the fact that you live up to your claims. If you claim to be things you are not, you need to be prepared for bad publicity and possibly worse. A Dutch bank went down almost entirely based on public opinion. Another example is BP that saw a huge amount of corporate value vaporize due to public opinion on its approach to an environmental disaster.

After all this, it might sound like a contradiction, but transparency can be easily achieved. You just need to be careful to be consistent throughout everything you do. Transparency can be as easy as having someone who is approachable. It can be as easy as showing what it is you do behind the scenes so your target audience feels like they know your processes. And it can be as easy as sending out the emails to your mailinglist with a reply address so people can respond to you when they have read your news.

Transparency is a great trend for anyone who wants to get their point across. Because if you have a transparent image, that means that people are willing to trust you. Just because they know you.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on arne@arnehulstein.nl

3 Playfulness

Jack is a personal injury lawyer. He just walked into his office at 10th street and earned  enough points to steal the mayorship of his office from Dan, his colleague. On his way to the office he picked up a coffee at the local Starbucks with a 10% discount for being their mayor. A mayorship he really enjoys as he loves their coffee. Foursquare checkins determine a geographical location you check into through your smartphone. Points are awarded for traveling, for checking in, for adding venues and for other things if a company chooses to do so. And people are checking in to beat their friends on points. Everybody wants to be at the top of the scoreboard.

In the coming years we will see playfulness become a bigger factor in society. Playing is no longer just for kids. Managers play, ministers play, gardeners play, entrepreneurs play, kids play. And they all play together or against each other to achieve the top position on scoreboards we never even considered before. Ken posted the most replies on a travel forum to achieve the status of “World explorer” on the forum and the top spot in their “Biggest travelers of the world” scoreboard. He is proud of it and intends to keep it. But he knows Barbara is right on his heels with just forty points separating their positions. So Ken keeps on posting relevant content to the site, because when his posts are marked as helpful he receives extra points. It is the competition that keeps him on his toes. And he loves it.

Playfulness is a great tool to work with. Over the last two years we see scoreboards emerge on everything. The motto for playfulness, or gamification is “If you can count it, you can score it”. And if you can score it, you can use it as a trigger. A trigger for thought, a trigger to buy, a trigger to participate.

Within playfulness we also see social gaming as a fast riser. Games like farmville, where you build a farm and share livestock with your friends would never have become a success five years ago. But now everybody is playing Farmville or other social games through facebook, through portal sites or in other ways. Social gaming allows you to play along and against your friends in games without having to have them present. But you are still competing to be the biggest, the best, the friendliest etc. And people love it. They play it for hours on end and they are willing to spend money to achieve higher scores. Just as they do with many more online games all over the world. As an example, games company Spil Games serves 130 million unique customers about 30 billion games every single month. That means 11,500 people are playing a game with them every second of the day.

The statistics are great. But how do you translate that into something that you can benefit from? You might be in a very serious business. You might think that there is nothing playful about what you are doing. But you need to reconsider. You need to look at what you are doing in a new way. If it can be counted, it can be a game. If it can be shared, it can be a game. And your playing field is your whole target audience.
Alice runs the city council safety department. For years she has been trying to involve citizens in what she is doing. She knows that when she can have them involved, the streets will become a safer place quicker than she could ever achieve. Alice could use gamification in her process to involve people. Things change when there are things you can achieve for yourself and for others. Alice can go out onto the streets and ask people to add their worry to a list. The list is then transformed into an achievement board which shows problems, their owners and the people who solved the problem. By solving the problem you can earn points. Problem owners can also offer rewards for solving their problem so there is more to achieve than points. As Alice has found out the problems of the community often relate to their safety, solving these problems will solve a large part of the problems Alice’s department needs to address.

The trend is that we see adults play as much as we see kids play. And their games are not much more serious either. People will take time to just have fun. And there is an angle you can work with. Make what you do fun. Make it count towards something your target audience can believe in. Make it something that is in line with your goals or your product. And you can. Anything can be turned into a game. A good one. A game that triggers your target audience to have fun. And if they do, they will credit you and your products for it.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on arne@arnehulstein.nl

2 Creativity

“Creativity is great for selling sketchbooks.” “We are in insurance, not creativity.” Just some random remarks you get when talking about creativity. But whether you think it fits your company profile or not, creativity is a social trend that allows you to reach your target audience.

Just to get it out of the way, creativity as a trend does not mean you ought to ditch your pinstripe for a red suit, nor does it mean your business cards should now be done by a graffiti artist. The trend in creativity means that people love to be creative themselves. It also means they appreciate an organization that has a creative edge to their products.

Within this trend, the best ways to reach people is through challenging them to be creative with your product or around a theme that fits your products or services. A great example of this would be a coffee chain that would ask people to take pictures of their favorite place to drink coffee and post them on a Facebook fan page. In return the fans can win a chance to have coffee there with 30 friends, muffins and other extra’s included.
Another option would be to ask people to help you develop a new product or service for you. In the Netherlands crisps maker Lays did this when it asked people to suggest new flavors for their crisps. Out of all the suggested flavors three were chosen for the final test, selling them in the supermarket. The sales of the three chosen flavors even exceeded the sales of all the time favorite crisps flavor. Brand awareness over the campaign period even went up to 80%, which is a big improvement over the 60% normally measured at Lays. The huge success of the campaign can be attributed to a couple of other trends as well, but unleashing the creativity of people to create new crisps has been one of the major factors in the success of the campaign.

Adding a creative edge to your product or service from within your company can be one of the toughest things you could want. However, people will appreciate it once you have got your edge covered. The edge you are looking for is something which makes your product remarkable. Something that is just a little bit different, but which changes the feel of your product or service enough to surprise people. It might be incorporating a local flavor in the product you are selling. Like the baking tin that was created by an artist based on an old button used in the traditional dress in Zeeland, the Netherlands. At first she wanted to make a limited edition of 2010 baking tins for the area. Four months later, she has now sold over 8000 tins in 30 countries and she is looking to expand with a new series of recipes from around the world. Another way to make a change would be to give your service a twist. You could be the world’s first socially responsible and environmentally focussed accountancy firm. But it would have to be in the genes of your organization. This would mean that all employees only wear organic suits, they only use electric vehicles to visit their customers and the office should be as paperless as possible. At the office fair trade and organic products are chosen for every solution possible and every employee can spend a couple of hours every week to provide a charity with their expertise. It can be done and it will pull a new group of clients towards you. A group that will choose for the best solution for themselves as well as the world around them. And when that choice is made in this way, the price is no longer the main issue at your negotiating table.

Creativity can be the trigger to involve people. Whether that is involvement with your organization, your goals, your product, your projects or your services. It can be one of the decisive factors in the choice your target audience makes. And that is not the only way you can benefit from creativity. The creativity of your target audience can also help you to explore directions that you would even have considered otherwise. And the good thing about that is that if your target audience leads you to new grounds, they also follow you to be your best customers and ambassadors there.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on arne@arnehulstein.nl

1 Excitement

We love to get excited. So, what is the news in that, you might be wondering. Did we not always seek excitement? Not really. There have been times when people were looking for security more than excitement. But now people are looking for excitement in almost everything.

Excitement has become on of the factors on which people base their decisions. They are more likely to buy a product, choose something or take part in something if it is exciting to them. Does this mean that everything needs to be a roller-coaster ride? Not really. Excitement comes in many shapes and sizes. However, you need to make sure that you choose a type of excitement that fits your purpose. Get it wrong and it will have customers turn away from you.

So, what choices do you have? At the word excitement most people immediately think about something like the roller-coaster I mentioned before. But you can also become excited about taking a long hike in the mountains. You can be excited about working with your neighbours to clean up the street. But you can also be excited about going to see the band you love. These are all very different things to be excited about. And you target audience can be excited about what you have for them. But only if you can hit the sweet spot of their excitement.

Your first challenge is to analyze your offer. It is not really important what you are offering. Just about everything can trigger some kind of excitement with its target audience. About three years ago, I talked to an online seller of chess games and chess materials. They were looking to grow their business, but they did not really know how. As you will understand, excitement over chess is the excitement of pushing your own strategic abilities. It is the excitement of solving a hugely complicated puzzle. It does not give you an adrenaline rush, but it does give a sense of achievement. Together we decided that this ought to be the excitement that should be aimed for. The excitement of pushing yourself, of beating the ability of others through commitment.

An example of how to get it wrong was presented to me last weekend on a motorcycle show. Here was this beautiful hand built bike which was built as a tribute to Barry Sheen. It is easily the fastest production road bike in the world, of which only 52 are to be built. Everything on the bike was purposefully created. Nothing was overlooked. And the €130K price tag reflected this. However, it sat on a square meter pedestal in front of a magazine stand with only a banner drawing a bit of attention to it. A shame for a bike that could replace the current bike in the dreams of men loving fast bikes. Interestingly a talk with the owner revealed that that was just the thing they really wanted to do. They wanted to put this bike in the heads of people as the ultimate performance road bike. The audience was there, but few people noticed it. The image of the bike would have been helped much more if the display would have been bigger and had a more exclusive feel to it. It would have helped if it would have had screens showing the bike beating other bikes in sprints and circuit races. And that theme could be extended to their online presence where they could trigger an online competition that would prove that whatever you pitch against it, their bike would always beat it convincingly. That would give this bike the sporting legend they are looking for. A mix that would get their target audience excited when they spotted a glimpse of the bike anywhere.

So, how about your product then? The first thing to do, is to determine what the excitement around your product could be. And then reconsider it. Ask others who do not know your product or yourself to give their opinion on how your product would excite them. Because honestly, we all have pre set ideas on what excitement would be for our products. A city council might think the excitement in cleaning up your street would be in living in a nice neighborhood. However, for its citizens the excitement might be in pulling people together from a couple of blocks and achieving something together. Never assume you know the answer. Have a number of people look at it from the outside. Often they will come up with things you never thought of.

But at the end of it all, be exciting. Be something that people can warm up to. Be something that they look forward to. Be something that they can care about. And don’t be afraid to move outside of your primary goals to achieve this. Because you, your product, your idea or your project can get others excited.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on arne@arnehulstein.nl

Getting it across – 10 social trends for the future

All we ever do, whether in sales, marketing or communications, is getting something across to our target audience. It is that something that triggers buyers to buy, citizens to become involved, people to donate to charities and others to listen. But what are the keys to making them hear what you are trying to get across? The key to being heard is to be connect to a social trend at the time it is happening.

Social trends go beyond the tricks that are often used. Social trends are trends that we can see in the way we relate to one another in society, they are the movements that live in the core of our society.

In the coming weeks I want to go over ten trends that we currently see and that open up loads of opportunities for people and organizations to communicating to their target audiences. I specify people and organizations on purpose, as these trends are as important for an individual building a personal brand as they are to corporates, government as well as the one man corner shop.

The coming ten posts will focus on these ten trends:

  1. Excitement
  2. Creativity
  3. Playfulness
  4. Being transparent and clear
  5. Passion and craftsmanship
  6. Meeting and connecting
  7. Doing it together
  8. Personally tailored
  9. Purposeful living
  10. Meaningful experiences

These are the trends that you need to connect to if you want to really reach your target audience. Over the coming ten blog posts, I will be taking a closer look at each of these trends and what they mean, or can mean, to you. I will also try to make them practical by adding examples, ideas etc.

Just as an aside, these are not just trends to follow in social media. They are not even trends that just pertain to online media. These are trends that are happening across society. They are happening to all age groups and all walks of life. I am certain that you will recognize most of them, as these are trends that influence you as well.

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