New York–Lisbon: our month of innovation
News, trends and curiosities from two of the most important world events about innovation.
The month of October saw us crossing the pond and Europe to attend two events on the topic of innovation: Gianfranco and Irene took part in the Innovation Festival in New York, whilst Sara and Marta immersed themselves in the world of startups at the Web Summit in Lisbon.
New York, with its energy and speed, left us feeling as though we had immersed ourselves in the not-too-distant future, packed with brands and experiences that from here, we merely observe (for now) on the platforms of e-commerce and blogs. Between the post-industrial buildings of Dumbo and the arenas of Manhattan, we had the opportunity to cross the length and breadth of the New York of the most innovative agencies and brands to hear CEOs and founders speak on the topic. Energy and location are definitely two ingredients that we are more than happy to take home with us: more keynote speeches and fewer workshops, however, is what we would have recommended to the organisers as far as content goes.
During the Web Summit, Lisbon comes alive with people from around the world, events, talks, speeches, meetings, elevator pitches in which innovative startups and the big players in the industry - from Netflix to Google, from Booking to Burger King - take the floor. So many things to see, discover and lose yourself in at the world’s largest and most important technology conference. Maybe too many. At times confusing. If you don’t have an exact idea of what you want to see, the risk of getting lost is just around the corner.
What did we bring home?
Gen Z is not that far away: An interesting speech by DJ Capobianco, Research Manager of Twitter, analysed a survey held amongst the freshmen of UCLA every year for the last 50 years in which the interviewees are asked to define a priority from a series of proposed values. What has changed between the different generations? The hierarchy of baseline values is essentially the same... so why is Gen Z, the focus of reports and conferences, represented and talked about as so incredibly different (such as here, or here or here)? His answer is simple - and almost banal - but illuminating: it is the technology that enables new ways of communication and representation of reality over the course of the generations (think about how the people in Victorian times were portrayed... they couldn’t all have been so boring and uptight, right?). Essentially, deep down we are all the same.
How to tame distraction: Nir Eyal, author of the bestseller Hooked, wondered on the New York stage about how to deal with the most aggressive of threats to our working days: distraction. Eyal identifies the smartphone as one of the most powerful devices from this perspective, but he sees it with fresh eyes: it is not the cause of our distraction, merely a symptom. Of a malaise, of a lack of incentives and clarity about the activities we have to perform. On the other hand, how can we say that we “have been distracted” if we don’t know “what” we were distracted by?
The golden rules for direct-to-consumer brands: Direct-to-consumer brands are now engaged in a fierce competition in consolidated industries. What do Casper, Parachute or Brandless have in common? Amongst other things, they designed their value proposition starting from pain points of current experiences, they are extremely consistent across all points of contact, they aim at having as transparent a supply chain as possible, the founder is the brand, the product is the result of constant adjustments which come from feedback loops in which the user is king. But even more interesting is that for them, brick-and-mortar retail is a crucial marketing tool for building trust around the brand and a solid relationship with their consumers. These aspects are placed before the sales channel. All this for the benefit of the online universe itself: once they are “in town”, they are also more effective at guaranteeing excellent delivery performance, such as same day delivery.
Have a voice: Today, brands decide to speak up. They decide to demonstrate and affirm the values they believe in. Whether it’s with a marketing project, like Coca Cola, transforming a homophobic and racist expression into a symbol of pride for the LGBT community. Or with tailor-made services for local communities, such as Stayfree, a project promoted by Dove India, with the aim of helping and supporting the women who work in the sex trade by teaching them a new job whilst they are on their periods.
"What are the basic ingredients you need to cook a brand? 1 kg of political and philosophical beliefs. Brands need to stand for something. 1 kg of personality. Brands need to express their beliefs in a way that makes sense."
Be on every screen: Consumers are no longer the ones who adapt to what is offered to them, but rather the brands which must adapt to the different ways in which their users experience content. Whether it is on the train, at home, at the office or in the park, consumers must have the ability to access content wherever, however, and however much they want to. Ideally with content that is tailor-made for each channel. Just think that Netflix is available on 17,000 types of device and used by 518 million devices worldwide.
Let them create: Consumers are no longer satisfied with simply accessing multimedia content or products - they want to engage with it firsthand. They want to get stuck in and create something that is of value to the whole community. The result of this new level of interaction between brands and consumers is Minecraft Marketplace, which allows players to create their own games within the platform and then sell them on that same platform to other users. Penrose Studios, meanwhile, has created a proprietary technology to render their films more quickly, in order to take advantage of VR interaction. It then made it available and open-source to allow anyone interested in this new technology to experiment with it.
Yes, it was worth it!
Regardless of the depth of the content that we may have encountered, our job is to explore, to be curious, to discover. With or without the festivals, with or without the trips, these moments remind us how essential it is to be able to have a fresh, critical and watchful eye which is always open to everything around us. Yes, it was worth it.