I am regularly asked by students and start ups for some pointers as to what are the most important elements for a successful business. I used to say hard work, perseverance, constant creative thinking. Now I add ‘generosity’.
Social media is rapidly changing the way that brands ‘behave’ and need to ‘behave’. Social media has allowed the public to question, unpick poorly conceived marketing strategies, take brands to task for dodgy service and poor public relations at a pace and depth that was impossible before the digital age. There is no longer the ability for brands to hide behind manipulative press departments.
All this partially explains why, you see brands relying less and less, on big budget telly advertising as their primary form of interaction with their customers. Narrative is the new Christmas blockbuster advert. Is this a permanent shift by the likes of Coca Cola? From spending vast sums on high production adverts where they tell us that they would like to ‘teach the world to sing’. Small, but with a massive impact, with the aid of a social media seeding, like the “Small World Machines” advert?
High-tech vending machines installed in two popular shopping malls in Lahore, Pakistan and New Delhi, India – two cities separated by only 325 miles, but seemingly worlds apart due to decades of political tension – invited consumers to put their differences aside and share a simple moment over a Coke.
The “Small World Machines” provided a live communications portal linking strangers in two nations divided by more than just borders, with the hope of provoking happiness and promoting cultural understanding around the world. Coke and Leo Burnett used first-of-its-kind 3D touchscreen technology to project a streaming video feed onto the vending machine screen while simultaneously filming through the unit to capture a live emotional exchange. People from both countries and various walks of life were encouraged to complete a friendly task together – wave, touch hands, draw a peace sign or dance – before sharing a Coca-Cola.
Clever and simple projects like this that allow Coca Cola to promote its “Happiness is sharing a Coke” marketing mantra by letting social media spread relatively inexpensive projects that speak for themselves. Projects that would have most likely been lost in the pre-social media world. They allow the public to see that brands can be a force for good and can be generous.
It’s not just brands that need to be generous. Recently, I took part in the Business Innovation for Growth conference hosted by Creative Lancashire at Lancaster University. It was a vibrant, lively event where the dominant vibe seemed to be about what these individual businesses’ roles were in society. It got me thinking back to what a business conference might have been like in the 1980s when we started out. Discussions would have centered around maximising profits, margins and ROCE (Return on capital employed). The delegates would have largely consisted of men who really cared about what level of company car they were driving.
I am sure that there are business conferences out there where this is still the case but, by the very fact that that the bastion of the old order, The Institute of Directors, has lost a third of its membership since 2006 (including yours truly) is a sign of a new modern, generous and socially minded new business world order.
As a design agency we are reaping the benefits of being generous with clients and potential clients. Sharing our ideas, suggesting directions and possible initiatives before getting the job in writing used to scare us. We seem to be winning new clients quicker than ever by being open and opening a discourse prior to contract.
Those looking for work should also try the generosity route. At HemingwayDesign we get inundated with CV’s and pdf’s of the applicant’s body of work. But, when we get something in our inboxes or in the post that is clearly tailored towards our work, product design to compliment one of our ranges or is an idea that can be of benefit to one of our housing or regeneration projects then our eyes are often opened and our ears prick up. The newest recruit to the HemingwayDesign team has arrived by this very route.