Willfull Wandering

Quick Read: A world fleeting by giga bytes per every nano second lends itself to the emergence of a paced down, nuanced and a deeper notion of travel as an experience  – of the body or the mind or the soul. 

Google ‘wandering’ and it says the following:

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What if there were to be an aim for wandering?

Speaking of which, what if a sign post says ‘Please Trespass’.

That’s literally one of the unique joys of living in Sweden.

Called allemansrätten, or the Right of Public Access, it means as long as the land is not cultivated, and as long as no damage is caused, most of Sweden’s nature is yours to explore. This right of public access allows anyone to roam freely in the countryside, swim and travel by boat in someone else’s waters or even to camp or park a motor home on another person’s land.

Because it has existed for generations, allemansrätten is a part of the national identity of Sweden. School groups explore the forests from an early age and families often fish, pick berries or go for walks in the woods together.

No wonder, many people in Sweden can identify a surprising number of birds, fish and trees by name. (source)

What if we could all go to the woods to live deliberately. 

What if we willfully subject ourselves to the challenge of stillness and get away from the tyranny of the screens to appreciate solitude and seek inspiration from the nature?

Walden, a Game‘ is an upcoming video game that challenges the player with this very question. See its trailer here.

Inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s classic Walden, Tracy J. Fullerton, the director of the Game Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, came up with this idea of a video game as a way to reinforce our connection to the natural world and to challenge our hurried culture.

A game that has apparently been in development for nearly a decade, ‘Walden..” takes takes six hours to play. It starts in the summer and ends a year later — offering players tasks like building a cabin, planting beans or chatting  with Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Should you not leave sufficient time for contemplation, or work too hard, the game cautions: “Your inspiration has become low, but can be regained by reading, attending to sounds of life in the distance, enjoying solitude and interacting with visitors, animal and human.” (source)

Costing $19.99, the game is billed  as the world’s most improbable video game for obvious reasons. Nevertheless it signals the mainstream arrival of the phenomenon of people seeking a sense of calm, a modicum of mindfulness and a pinch of presence amidst a world fleeting by giga bytes per every nano second.

So let the world wait 

Perhaps as a reflection of such times that we live in today, we also have brands that have positioned themselves around this emerging need of the individual to seek these moments of peace and calm.

In its recent set of commercials, Black Dog encourages one to pause to unwind and relax. It asks one to take the time to savor all the things that truly matter – “because life is in the pause”.

In his recent annual book of ideas and insights titled Non Obvious-2017 edition, Rohit Bhargava references some interesting trends in this space (of ‘willful wandering’ and its adjacencies) to watch out for in 2017. He calls them “desperate detox”, “deep diving” and “mainstream mindfulness”. (check out his insightful commentary around these trends and much more in his must read book)

Putting it all together, the industry that is rife with disruption due to this trend is obviously travel. And an emerging category of travelers in this space is called the ‘Post Tourist’.

The Post Tourist

The term ‘post-tourist’ is commonly used to refer to a new breed of travellers, those who eschew common tourist hotspots and opt for a more unconventional experience, immersing themselves in local culture for an extended period of time.

No wonder,  Airbnb tells us “Don’t go there, live there”

As Rohit says in his book..

“In a world filled with quick burst experiences, the future of travel seems to be something more meaningful, far deeper, and involving much more willful wandering.” 

Given this, what’s my insight?

If travel is nothing but a state of mind, I have a feeling we are just fastening our seat belts before the category takes off.

A category called, willful wandering – of the body or the mind or the soul.

(Featured Image: From Walden, a Game)

Experiences Shaped

Quick Read: 3D replicas can make a killer demo of not just products but also experiences.   

Vincent van Gogh’s bedroom in Arles, France is arguably the most famous bedroom in the history of art.

It also held special significance for the artist, who created three distinct paintings of this intimate space from 1888 to 1889.

(Van Gogh’s Bedroom Painting, Source)

Earlier this year, the Art Institute of Chicago was to throw open an exhibition called Van Gogh’s Bedrooms containing 36 of his works including paintings, drawings, illustrated letters as well as a selection of books and other ephemera known to have been in his possession.

As part of the promotional campaign for this exhibit, the institute did something innovative.

It recreated his famous bedroom in Chicago’s River North neighborhood and threw it open for rent on Airbnb.

Result: the first block of nights sold out in 5 mins on Airbnb. It helped generate massive buzz about the exhibition that saw 200,000+ visitors in just a few weeks making it the highest attended exhibit in 15 years.

See this video for a sneak view into this initiative.

Commissioning 3D replicas to drive awareness and trial of a product is nothing new. Examples like the above show that they can also make for a killer demo in the realm of experience marketing.

For these are professional grade art works at the intersection of consumer psychology, complex 3D modeling, con art and story telling.

Or take the world of shokuhin samples – the hypnotic world of fake Japanese food. 

In Japan, fake food can look very, very real. It’s called “shokuhin sample” (食品サンプル) or “food sample”, and it appears outside restaurants so customers can know what they are ordering.

And it is a damn big deal.

Shokuhin samples have become such an intricate part of the Japanese dining experience that many people stop in front of glass cases filled with fake food, decide what they want, and then enter the restaurant. Some Japanese even complain about the lack of fake food when dinning abroad—that they don’t get to see what they are ordering beforehand!

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Shokuhin Sample (Source)

Most shokuhin samples are still hand made by highly skilled artisans whose painstaking craft – honed over several years of training – results in textures and colors that are so precise that it’s often difficult to tell real food from the samples.

Today shokuhin sample manufacturers fiercely guard their trade secrets as business is lucrative; the plastic food industry in Japan, by conservative estimates, has revenues of over 10 billion yen per year.

Unsurprisingly there are also stores that sell this fake food. Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya  is one such shrine dedicated to all things fake food. It has been producing plastic replicas for display in restaurant windows since 1932, but in recent years it’s even wisened up to the tourist trade by selling fake food keyrings, magnets and phone straps as souvenirs.

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Shokuhin samples in a restaurant, source

Journalist Yasunobu Nose has a theory that links the plastic replicas to the visual aesthetic of Japanese food appreciation. In his book titled “Me de taberu Nihonjin (Japanese People Eat With Their Eyes),” Nose writes that food samples are part of the Japanese tendency to “first ‘taste’ dishes by sight, then eat with their mouths and stomachs.” (source)

With such a strong visual aesthetic underpinning the Japanese way of food appreciation, it would be a massive opportunity lost if the food brands (all kinds from ingredient brands to ready to eat brands) in the Japanese supermarkets do not leverage the power of shokuhin samples in their visual merchandising on the shelves.

After all, this is serious performance art that seeks expressiveness of deliciousness and a sincere pursuit of reality as its objectives. While being rooted in local culture.

Can you think of any other multi sensory experiences that can be brought to life with the help of 3D replicas?

Other than sex dolls, I mean 🙂

(Featured Image:  Van Gogh’s bedroom replica as listed on Airbnb)

The New Marketing Mindset

Invention and Innovation could sometimes be polar opposites.

Seems counter intuitive, right? But when you read this brilliant piece on Segway, it would seem almost commonsensical. Segway, the article posits, failed because it was focused solely on inventionbelieving that it alone has come up with the perfect idea for a great product. The company didn’t spend as much time or effort on innovation the ongoing iterative process of going back and forth with the consumers to test and understand what the market wants and ensuring that the product meet their needs.   

This on going iterative process with the consumer to test and understand what market wants and applying these learnings to make your product meet their needs has a specialised name today.

Growth Hacking.

Depending upon who you are / what you’ve been smoking / or what you’ve been reading recently, this could possibly be the first time you hear this term or probably even the zillionth! Whichever be the case, Growth Hacking as a term is topping the charts in popularity, appeal and relevance to describe a must have mindset in the world of product design and marketing.

Coined by Sean Ellis in this legendary article, Growth Hacking is essentially marketing albeit repurposed to the evolving dynamics of consumer, product and consumption today. Chances are that most of us would have been witness to, experienced, and were target consumers of live Growth Hacking experiments. Don’t believe me?

  • Did you yearn for an invite for a Gmail account back when Gmail was introduced? That was neat Growth Hack from Google!
  • Did you refer your friends to try out Dropbox to get free storage space in return? You were being Growth Hacked!
  • Do you remember those end lines in mails that said something like Sent from my Blackberry/iPad/iPhone..? Growth Hack, it was!

Read about the 10 of the best growth hacks of all time here. Aaron Ginn’s page is a great place to start on a journey to explore more resources on Growth Hacking and Ryan Holiday’s book Growth Hacker Marketing could make for a great primer on this topic over an afternoon meal.

Today ‘Growth Hacker’ as a term has gone mainstream even in the jobs’ lexicon. For it is not unusual to run into marketing job postings that come labelled as “Wanted Growth Hackers”!

While case studies of how Growth Hacking has worked out for (now) big brands like Instagram, Pinterest or Airbnb make for a fascinating read, lesser known examples can give an equally compelling perspective and an insight on how Growth Hacking can actually move the needle. The story of Bilingual Child – an iOS App to teach Spanish for kids – is a recent example. Not content with how their sales were panning out, the team at Bilingual Child went on to delve a bit deeper into the data and discovered a Growth Hack. The result:  they tripled their revenue by adding one button! Read the story here.

Bilingual Child

(Source, Medium. Click on the picture to read the story)

Well, if you have come this far you could be forgiven for thinking that Growth Hacking is majorly applicable to software products or startups. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Amy Webb was having no luck with online dating. So she figured out the system, monitored and measured the impact of her  ‘hacks’ and went about achieving what she set out to do – finding her match. Hear this story of how she went on to hack her online dating life — with frustrating, funny and life-changing results.

Is this Growth Hacking? You bet it is – Amy’s bold and calculated attempt to drive growth in the quantity and the quality of potential matches for her. The core essence of her approach is equally (if not more so) applicable to something like say updating my LinkedIn profile. And that for me is a compelling takeaway from her TED talk.

So the bottom line is clear, irrespective of the field of application – a company, a product or even a person, the ability to delve into data, bring in curiosity and operate with a mix of creativity and an analytical ability has huge implications in driving growth. No wonder then, Growth Hacking is said to be redefining the very mindset of marketing as we know it.

After all, when was the last time you had a name for a discipline that neatly encapsulated the objective and the enabler of the activity in a single breath?  

(Featured Image, Medium’s collection on Growth Hacking, Another great resource on this subject)