Top 3 Ideas Worth Sharing from the PSFK Conference

Apr 12, 2011

Elizabeth Canon

A publication esteemed for its thought leadership and emphasis on ideas, last week’s PSFK conference in New York was inspiring to say the least. Gathering an array of people across disciplines (speakers included the co-founder of FourSquare, the creative mind behind OfficeMax’s dancing elf, and New York City’s Chief Digital Officer), it’s next to impossible to leave without your mind spinning from the impressive work, thoughts and beliefs that have been shared throughout the day. Here are three of the ideas that have interesting implications for the fashion and luxury business:

-          Shift from Mindless to Mindful Consumption: Specifically, the shift that’s taken place is one from “mindless spending to mindful consumption”, as told by industry expert and author John Gerzema. Rather than spending against our personal values, as we once may have been, consumers are now spending in accordance with our values. Discussed on the panel was the notion that consumers have always been so far removed from the products we purchase, not knowing where they come from, how they are produced, the materials used or labor involved. As our society has evolved, social media has provided us with an instantaneous global community to connect and share knowledge with, leading to a more informed consumer. However, I would also add that there are emotional principles at work here as well that go beyond the logistics of where and how the goods we buy are made. The consumer psyche has changed, and with it our comfort levels for different goods and price points. While consumers can use the internet to gain information, brands and businesses can use social media not only to inform, but to calibrate people’s values. Since social media is open, conversational and relatively informal, brands can now observe the temperament of the target demographic to see if and how it’s changed over the past few years and then craft marketing strategies alongside the findings.

 

-          The Sharing Business Model: Access without ownership has become a hot business model, followed by companies across industries including Zipcar and Rent the Runway. What’s of particular interest is that, while a person’s motivation for sharing versus owning may be financial, it is the experience of an item that leaves a lasting impression. For example, Rent the Runway may be leasing dresses, but consumers get to express themselves creatively through choosing the dress and thus experimenting with different designers and styles that will be remembered long after the garment has been sent back. The takeaway for brands, regardless of the business model, is that people are inherently creative; they have a desire to express themselves through the things that they are associated with.

 

-      Entering A New Culture Through Strategic Understanding and Immersion: An unlikely source of inspiration was Billings Jackson, a company specializing in the design of urban structures like the public bus stops we see here in NYC (and throughout the world). Duncan Jackson and Eoin Billings described the importance of understanding each city, culture and people at the start of every project in order to deliver architectural solutions that allow the city life to shine through the structures, rather than be obscured by them. Their approach includes reducing clutter, using high quality materials and providing solutions that actually work for the city itself. Their approach does not impose on the existing culture of a city by re-creating the wheel, rather they appreciate the environment for what it is and enter in a way that their work can be embraced. I couldn’t help but think of the oddly interesting similarity where the city is social media, the people are the users and the culture is the way in which they interact online. Cities erecting bus shelters are concerned with vandalism, brands online are worried about negative sentiment. In either case, having a strategy and infrastructure that allows fast-acting solutions is key. For example, if a pane of glass shatters, it can be replaced in as little as 45 minutes by having a process in place that stems from a strategic design. Likewise, brands should have a response protocol for responding to digital mishaps or PR blunders. If brands approached social media in the same way Cemusa does city structures, to reduce the clutter, provide high quality content and talk with the users rather than at them, the social media landscape may work harder to foster more meaningful relationships between brands and their loyal customers.

 


Author: Elizabeth Schofield

Copy Editor: Gina Conforti

Photo credits: Justin Gignac shot by Catalina Kulczar-Marin for PSFK