By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy
Branding and rebranding – Notice anything different? There comes a time in the life of most products when they are due a change. This week, in a long tradition that includes: Marathon Bars (Snickers), Opal Fruits (Starburst), BT Cellnet (O2), and the Millennium Dome (also O2), New Europe is today emerging from its chrysalis to become a butterfly. Yes; following an Olympic logo level of budget commitment that got reduced to a couple of beers with our marketing team, we’ve arrived at the name (drumroll…) Futures /Cut. (The suspense will have been less for those who are mobile or who have their Outlook configured to download the picture banner to this email). On the cutting room floor (pun intended) were various contrived variants of ‘RExxx’, or ‘Real yyy’ (too trite), and What’s Next (already owned by our corporate brand). So, we employed the Ronseal (‘does what it says on the tin’) approach to branding, to reflect that this blog comprises a cut each week of the things that we in the Futures team at C&W think matter. Having taken your feedback earlier in the year, the substance, themes, style and content of the blog remain otherwise unchanged. However, I’m pleased to say that as of now you have another way to read this in the form of our new digital space: the Futures /Hub. Here, under /Intel you can search all past editions by keyword and find links to other supplementary articles that we found interesting, or ones that didn’t quite make – The Cut. Over the coming months, we’ll also be building in further ways to interact with Futures, so check back for more. Thanks for your continuing readership!
Rooftop Sun – This week, the Met Office released their latest UK Climate Projections report. Under their highest emissions scenario, they project that our summers will be 5.4C warmer by 2070. Bad news for the environment, but good news for open air venues. A rise in average temperature from ~15% to over 20% would put the UK on a similar standing to a country such as Italy. The area at the top of our buildings is in theory its most expensive element. However, our rooftops tend to be poorly used and often turned over to plant. My colleagues in our EMEA Leisure & Restaurants team consider the opportunities around this in their recently released ‘Rooftops of EMEA’ report. The report discusses how rooftop settings have become the venue of choice for a ‘younger, swipe-savvy’ consumer base. They split rooftop venues into three distinct groups, ‘The Restaurant’, ‘The Events Venue’ and ‘The Playground’ with each conferring different benefits. The common factor is the ability to define a building’s brand and sense of place through a relatively small percentage of its floor area. Successful call outs include high-end restaurants on long leases such as SUSHISAMBA at 110 Bishopsgate, and emerging operators serving meanwhile uses such as Frank’s Bar in Peckham. Operating hours, access / signage, the ratio of indoor to outdoor space and the potential for Instagrammable moments are all considered to be important. Read the report or contact my colleague Thomas Rose.
City states – A report by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings shines a light on the increasingly differential fortunes of those who live and work in the world’s biggest cities, and everyone else. The largest 300 cities in the world only account for 22% of global population growth, whereas they account for 36% of employment growth, showing perhaps unsurprisingly that one’s employment prospects are greater in these large metropolises. The starker figure is that the same cities account for 67% of global GDP growth; an indication of the leverage that these cities bestow on their labour. Even within this cohort there exists tiers of success, with China / APAC cities leading on per capita GDP growth, and Middle East / African cities leading on employment growth. For reasons of sovereignty, law, trade and culture, we define our world geography by countries. That hasn’t always been the case; for instance, Renaissance Italy was dominated by city states such as Venice and Florence. As mega-cities come to increasingly dominate their national economies, global definitions might more helpfully focus on them, rather than increasingly homogenised national differences.
Near me – One of the big advantages of e-commerce platforms is their scale. With that comes the ability to invest in infrastructure (the cost of which can be defrayed over the wide range of products sold) and a large enough hub to act as a magnet for search results. Apart from mega malls, most disparately-held town centre shopping environments cannot do the same and so smaller retailers are put at a disadvantage. NearSt was set up in response to this problem. Local retailers can plug their legacy point of sale system into the NearSt platform and instantly list their stock online, allowing consumers to purchase items from stores that are within close proximity to them or choose delivery within an hour. Having identified that one third of all mobile searches are related to location, e.g. ‘coffee shops near me’, NearSt and Google have now announced a partnership. ‘Near me’ search results will now inform potential customers of the distance to a store that stocks their desired product and provide a live inventory system to display the price of these products. There is an interesting point here that locational proximity is still in the minds of those searching the web for products. NearSt serves as an example of how web-based technology can also serve to help local, independent retailers, rather than merely act as a threat.
Indexed – Humans love putting things into lists and ranks. Psychologists have identified what they call a ‘top-10 effect’; an elite grouping where in one’s mind the jump from 9th to 10th is slight, but the jump from 10th to 11th is a chasm. Our interest in such rankings has led to the creation of many interesting (but perhaps unscientific) scorings, including various quality of life indices. Richard Florida’s assessment in 2002 that bohemian attitudes were correlated with human capital and tech-industry concentrations led for instance to the formation of the Boho Index. This typically positioned LA and New York at the top of the rankings. A modern incarnation, promoted this year by MoveHub, is ‘The Hipster Index’. The index is created around 5 data points: the number of vegan eateries, coffee shops, tattoo studios, vintage boutiques and record stores per 100,000 city residents. Beating the likes of Seattle, Portland, and Miami to the top of the global list of places you definitely don’t want to go if this sounds like a modern version of plaid-clad Purgatory, is our very own Brighton and Hove. Regardless of one’s social perspective, the ‘Flat White Economy’ has unarguably been responsible for the regeneration of swathes of our big cities, albeit not always to the benefit of their former residents. If it proves possible to identify the cultural markers of the next tribe of affluent youth, then these might serve as powerful lead indicators for future regeneration.
Annus horribilis – It’s increasingly easy to look at our modern era and despair for the future. However, this is precisely what every generation has done over the course of history. Geoffrey Pearson’s excellent book: Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears, charts moral panics back to the pre-industrial age, showing that even in the eighteenth century, the older generation were concerned about the hairstyles and loud music of the younger one. Hence, if you are becoming disaffected with social media takeover, despairing about hubristic politicians, and frustrated by housing crises, it’s worth remembering, in the words of Harold Macmillan that most Britons ‘have never had it so good’. We are living longer, we are travelling further and our buying power increases almost every year. And so, whilst like the Queen in 1992 any one of us might have an ‘annus horribilis’, as a human race, 2018 isn’t that year. In fact, researchers at Harvard have pinpointed the precise year that was the worst – 536 AD. In this year, the Earth was plunged into darkness by a thick cloud of volcanic ash that lasted 18 months, which caused temperatures to drop severely, precipitated the mass failure of crops and led to global starvation. Not long after, the bubonic ‘Plague of Justinian’ hit the Roman port of Pelusium in Egypt, wiping out half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire, and leading to global economic collapse. Something to bear in mind, next time your mouse doesn’t work properly.