Posted on Updated on

Return to first principles

We’ll see rapid changes in consumer behaviour, as the sharing economy mainstreams across markets. Nothing is sacred – expect new models for everything from finance to healthcare, as the next generation rips up the rule books and reimagines the future.

Reinventing the Wheel

As a highly respected and outspoken advocate of ‘first principles’, Elon Musk is channeling his inner-Aristotle, who first coined the term nearly 3,000 years ago.

Aristotle said that a first principle is the “first basis from which a thing is known” and that pursuing first principles is, ostensibly, the key to creating step-changes in thought and action.

In a 2012 interview, Musk gives a clear and concise description of Aristotle’s teachings:

  • The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy… we are doing this because it’s like something else that was done or it is like what other people are doing… iterations on a theme.
  • [With] first principles… you boil things down to the most fundamental truths and say, “What are we sure is true?” … and then reason up from there.
  • Somebody could say, “Battery packs are really expensive and that’s just the way they will always be… Historically, it has cost $600 per kilowatt hour.”
  • With first principles, you say, “What are the material constituents of the batteries? What is the stock market value of the material constituents?”
  • It’s got cobalt, nickel, aluminum, carbon, some polymers for separation and a seal can. Break that down on a material basis and say, “If we bought that on the London Metal Exchange what would each of those things cost?”
  • It’s like $80 per kilowatt hour. So clearly you just need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell and you can have batteries that are much, much cheaper than anyone realizes.

It’s that thinking that helped Musk (and the team) create and develop PayPal and has been integral in his pursuit of Space X and Tesla. It is also the kind of thinking that has led to the development of Uber, AirBnB, KickStarter, Funding Circle and many, many more disruptive companies.

Many people have made causal connections to the development of the sharing economy to the idea of first principles. While there is myriad anecdotal evidence to support such assumptions, the history and heritage of first principles mean that it is unfounded.

That said, it is safe to posit that the increase in availability of connective technology will bring about an acceleration in such innovation and thinking.

Let’s All Share

The roll-out of UberPool demonstrates how people are searching for different value exchanges… The sharing economy has disrupted many notions of ownership beyond recognition.

From Millennials and beyond, the paradigm has shifted away from antiquated notions of ownership and toward the concept of access. Access to experiences, to people, to information, to ideas.

The use of open source R&D was something that powered SpaceX and later drove Tesla. What Gen X talked about during their wellness retreats, the Millennials have brought to life; they have destroyed the illusion of ownership, thus beginning the end of the idea of a consumer and creating the paradigm of the user.

This shift will see a spike in combinatorial innovation, as users and brands remove the shackles of fixed thinking and start to fuse ideas and innovations from other fields and sectors.

The new ‘rock stars’ in business will be those who connect seemingly disparate ideas and make something fresh, or those who combine the best of two fields to solve a problem in an elegant manner.

One company doing the latter is Ossur, which recently trialed a mind-controlled prosthetic leg.

But the fun will come from those who push and play in equal measure. 3Doodler is one such company, creating a tool that allows for 3D printing technology to be placed in the palm of your hands, so that you can free draw sculptures in mid-air.

Play Left Field

Essentially, the take-away is this. Verticals should be viewed as ingredients in an ideas mixer. Blend them together in a shaker and see what concoctions you can make; some will be foul, but others could be the signature drink for years to come.



Posted on

Video killed the radio star

What are the implications for comms as the ‘play’ button becomes ubiquitous?

The fact is, video is going to kill just about every other medium in 2016 as it continues its seemingly unstoppable takeover of the global web. The numbers are pretty staggering –YouTube now has over 1 billion monthly users and more than 400 hours of video content are uploaded on it every minute, helping to make it the world’s second largest search engine. By 2017, 74% of all internet traffic will be video, according to Cisco.

In our age of information overload and dwindling attention, video is the ideal infotainment format, particularly as new technology and high quality mobile devices allow consumers to access and watch more and more video content.On YouTube, the average mobile viewing session now lasts a lengthy 40 minutes and 65% of consumers have watched a video online of 30 minutes or longer. Blog posts like this one may well be an endangered species, as the old adage that a picture paints a thousand words is shown to be true many times over when it comes to video.

As Google ranks video content more highly and looks set to adopt in-SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) video advertising, we’ll see the play button becoming the standard call to action for communicators in all sectors and geographies. According to Nielsen, 64% of marketers expect video to dominate their strategies in the near future and we may reasonably wonder why that number isn’t higher.

It’s not just Google putting video first. Publishers and social networks are also in love with video and are giving it priority in their news feeds. Facebook boasts more than eight billion daily video views and Snapchat is not far behind with more than six billion a day, having more than tripled in six months.

Social entertainment provider, Buzzfeed gets an incredible two billion views a month for its video content – most of this via social channels, increasingly on mobile. Another growing trend is allowing people to comment on forums and posts with a video clip rather than typing their thoughts, in an effort to keep visitors more engaged whilst also combating anonymous trolling.

The Buzzfeed Formula

Brands desperate for positive attention will be taking video lessons from the likes of Buzzfeed to create sticky videos that directly target specific functional and emotional needs of their audience.

Buzzfeed creates videos in three main categories that are defined by the motivation for watching or sharing:

  • Identity – content that helps define/explain you;
  • Informational/Utility – content that helps you learn/do;
  • Emotional gift – content that provokes a strong emotional response.

Brands must decide which of these motivators best suit their purpose, message and personality if they want to find a genuine audience rather than buying empty views.

Those that can afford to, will be working directly with the publishers, like Nestlé Purina teaming up with Buzzfeed to create a series of funny branded entertainment videos such as ‘A Cat’s Guide to Taking Care of Your Human’ which have gained millions of views and shares.

Brands Leverage Influencers

Vloggers will also become ever more powerful as Viners and YouTube creators become a critical channel to reach key audiences and establish credibility. A study by DEFY Media found that 62% of 18-24 year olds would buy a product endorsed by a YouTube creator.

McDonald’s has been working with mom vloggers and YouTubers as part of its See What We’re Made Of campaign to show where its food comes from in an engaging and believable way.

Top Viner, Lele Pons has collaborated with brands including Ritz Crackers, HP and Kotex to give them real promotional clout with her huge audience of more than 10 million followers.

Meanwhile American Spanish language broadcast television network Univision has created its own multi-channel video network that brings together influential Hispanic creators on YouTube, Vine and Snapchat.

Others will be going straight to consumers for their content, such as Disney incentivizing visitors to create authentic video content of their Disney experience with their ‘Vine Your Disney Side’ competition.

New Formats

New video formats will proliferate in the coming year and offer alternatives to individual repeat watch video productions. We can expect to see corporates, brands and politicians trying to find an audience for their Snapchat Stories (stringing photos or videos together to create a narrative that lasts for 24 hours) to create brief but powerful connections with hard-to-impress digital natives. Burberry used this visual story-telling to great effect with its #LFW SnapChat Story debuting the Spring/Summer 2016 collection a day before the live runway show.

Meanwhile live streaming will become the norm as marketeers share events, behind the scenes footage, interviews, performances and competitions in real time through platforms such as Periscope and Meerkat and new-comers such as Blab which allows up to four simultaneous live video streams. Grayling achieved a world first with its live Periscope broadcast of the great Wildebeest migration to a global audience, for our Make it Kenya campaign

So organisations and brands who decide to put video at the heart of their communications and content strategy in 2016 will certainly not want for options, but it’s going to be a steep learning curve. As the flood of video grows, gaining attention is going to be harder than ever and achieving genuine love and virality a rare thing. Video for the sake of it will quickly become a waste of valuable resources but as always a clear purpose and laser focus on the audience’s needs, attitudes and behaviours will be a good starting point for creating and/or generating content that people genuinely want to watch.