Archive for February, 2009

Renting, not owning


Andrew Curry writes:

Our Executive Chairman Crawford Hollingworth popped up in the pages of the Sunday Express – in an article about the Japanese trend for renting out pets (journalists, eh?). It’s not online, it seems, but the trend is big in Japan but not so big in the UK, where a company that tried to launch a dog-leasing service has been criticised by animal organisations and MPs; and has been put on hold.

Crawford’s not known as an expert on pet trends, but he saw the phenomenon as part of a wider trend moving away from full ownership to part- or “fractional ownership”, in which we can get access to something when we need it.

“We grew up with the belief that we needed to own and accumulate, and maybe the concepts of ownership and accumulation will fundamentally change. We will perhaps be happier renting something instead.”

The trend seems to be strongest right now in the transport sector, with outfits such as Streetcar and Zipcar developing pay-per-use cars, and a range of city bike-use schemes being launched. Members get access to the vehicle for a few hours, with transactions smoothed out by a combination of mobile phones and smartcards. Although it seems like a ‘recession trend’, it was moving quite quickly before that, because of concerns about consumption, resources, and a desire to ‘declutter’.

Tools seem likely to follow suit – community ownership schemes for irregularly used tools, such as drills and lawn mowers already exist. They make sense when times are tight, and digital sensors makes tracking and monitoring use far easier.

The image at the top of this post is from Timeless Tools.

23 February 2009 at 9:10 am 2 comments

Rebranding Brand America

Image by Andrew Lockhart

Image by Andrew Lockhart

Andy Stubbings writes:

Much has been written about the effect that Barack Obama might have on perceptions of Brand USA; it’s also worth considering what it might mean for American brands. Much of the explicit Obama-related marketing during the election campaign and before the inauguration was fun but gimmicky; from Ikea’s invitation to redesign the Oval Office with flat pack furniture, to Pepsi’s in your face Yes You Can message; to Ben and Jerry’s ‘Yes Pecan’ flavoured ice cream, with initial revenues going to the non-profit Common Cause. Part of the issue for brands wishing to capitalise on the “Obama effect” is that the President remains something of a cipher (a long-standing theme in Obama coverage) and appears reluctant, perhaps understandably, to define himself too hastily.

But perhaps there’s a deeper story at play here. In a long reflective piece (opens in pdf) the management thinker Charles Hampden-Turner describes Obama as “the leader who reconciles” apparent opposites: continuity and change; cooperation with opposition; victory with self-sacrifice. What is intriguing about this is the suggestion that, in the context of current uncertainty, leaders and brands that can manage a massive national cultural transition by reconciling opposites do well.

Indeed, Douglas Holt, Professor of Cultural Branding at the Oxford Said Business School argues that iconic brands are built by seizing on “cultural contradictions” and reconciling them: whether that be a divide between young and old, black and white, or continuity and change. After the noisy simplicity of the Bush years, it may be that some quiet ambiguity from America’s leader – and from its leading brands – is the smart strategy right now. Any thoughts from American readers?

The image at the top of the post is by the graphic designer Andrew Lockhart.

19 February 2009 at 11:48 am 1 comment

Watching waste


by Sarah Catlett

The beginning of any new year is inevitably marked by the disposal of things from the old one, be it the trash from holiday festivities or an often futile attempt to rid ourselves of bad habits from years past. For most of us, New Year’s 2009 was no exception. But for “Sustainable Dave” Chameides, the New Year brought an end to a year-long experiment in taking (very) personal responsibility for dealing with his daily waste: 365 Days of Trash.

The experiment was hatched following a discussion with a friend about how easy it is for all of us to throw things away, “because we are not confronted with that waste since it goes ‘away.’” The question became: What happens when we are confronted with the ugly truth of all the “stuff” that results from our living and consumption patterns? So for the 366 days of 2008 (it was a leap year), Chameides kept all his trash—including recyclables, e-waste and food waste that went to the worms for composting—in the basement of his Los Angeles home. Yes, Dave credits his wife for making the experiment possible.

On his blog, Chameides kept a running trash diary of sorts, describing his detritus in terms of how he would eventually have to deal with it and where it would end up—garbage, recycling, re-purposing. The hope was that the experiment would allow him (and perhaps others) to honestly assess what waste could be cut out simply by making better choices, what “necessary” waste could be dealt with in a sustainable fashion and what waste could not be avoided.

In the end, it turns out that he produced only 30 or so pounds of real garbage in a year—because most of his waste was recyclable or otherwise reusable. On reaching the end of his 365 Days of Trash, Chameides blogged of feeling uneasy about the odd experience of actually throwing something “away.” While he may not have achieved zero-sum consumption, the challenge of keeping his trash went a long way, to reducing it, while providing an interesting case study in conscious (rather than conspicuous) consumption.

There’s more at CNN, in the Ney York Times, and in TIME.

The photograph at the top of the post is via Treehugger

6 February 2009 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

The Futures Company blog

The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.

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