Keeping Up With Culture: How to Stay Relevant
Our strategy intern, Sarah Mitty recounts her most memorable sessions at the Northside Festival.
Our culture is constantly evolving. Each day is a whirlwind of new consumer behavior trends, technological achievements and political updates. Keeping up with our world is challenging enough, how are brands supposed to ensure their output is culturally relevant? Last week, I attended the Northside Festival where some of the brightest minds in innovation discussed how to accomplish this feat.
The amount of exciting new technology discussed at the conference was mind blowing. From artificial intelligence to augmented reality platforms, a hyper-technologized future seems very close to the horizon.
Alex Chung, the CEO of GIPHY, was confident that augmented reality would be standard in four years. This means it will likely be integrated into all parts of life from music (a hologram Justin Bieber performing a concert in your bedroom) to sports (player statistics popping up in front of your eyes) and beyond. This leaves the question: What is the cultural value that AR technology will provide? The panelists, Alex Chung (GIPHY), Sofia Dominguez (Svrf), Raj Advani (Viro), Bill Marino (Uru), and Matt Hartman (Betaworks) debated the ideals of communication versus entertainment. Should research and marketing aim to make long distance communication more immersive? Or should the focus be gaming and user excitement? I believe the AR industry needs to narrow down its niche in society before biting off more than they can chew.
Jesse Redniss and David Beck of TNT/TBS are already excited about their idea of how to put AR/VR technology to use: personalization and immersion in television programming. Previously, creating a personalized experience through TV was nearly impossible as the purpose of TV programming is to appeal to large audiences. However, with the development of AR/VR technology, there are endless opportunities for after-show immersive experiences. Perhaps programs will create AR experiences bringing viewers into the story where they can interact with the environment and characters. This will allow diehard fans a personal experience to become more involved with programming, while not isolating viewers who cannot afford or don’t have interest in AR/VR equipment.
Short and long-from documentaries were discussed as an effective form of communication increasingly on the rise. Documentaries have developed from art for art’s sake into agents of education and change. VICE, a long-form documentary platform (amongst many other things) has added a feature where after watching a segment, viewers are directed to a space where they can enact real change regarding the issue in the documentary – this may be a petition they can sign or a place to donate money. In whichever capacity they choose to act, viewers feel like they are making a change, which gives them greater purpose and keeps them coming back to VICE.
The newly heightened political atmosphere has also left certain groups needing to speak out now more than ever. In a panel entitled ‘Shutting Down Sexism: Women in Media Get Loud,’ prominent female journalists including Liz Plank (Vox), Lauren Duca (Teen Vogue), Rebecca Carol (WNYC), and Jessica Bennet (author and writer, The New York Times) discussed how to combat sexism and racism in today’s society and how using social media could enact serious political change. Whether it is engaging with more diverse women or creating and participating in a social media movement (e.g. the “#notmylockerroom” campaign), the tools of our modern society can be used to rally mass voices and promote equality.
As different forms of media and technology continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, it is encouraging to see it also compel people to act, engage and participate in conversations and issues in positive ways.
Consumer preferences and expectations are changing at a rapid speed. What may have been all the rage last year may now be outdated, even for large-scale ideologies.
In a fireside chat, Fortune and Ian Schrager, creator of the “boutique hotel” concept, discussed how culture changes and as such, definitions of ideologies change alongside it; for example, such as what luxury means today (and to what groups of people). In witnessing the continued rise of the more economical Airbnb platform, Schrager has started reevaluating the role of hotels in society. He foresees an evolution of hotels as places for community and face-to-face interaction. Schrager mentioned the idea of country-club style hotels in the future, made to promote networking and social interaction. Perhaps he had in mind his recently opened “luxury for all” hotel PUBLIC in New York when discussing this subject.
As culture continues to progress, there are so many more ideas and tools for us to juggle. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of technology, current events, and consumer preferences. What I took away from the conference is this: It is crucial to make sure new products and experiences stay up-to-date with the changing times. Staying culturally relevant can bring any new development to the foreground of contemporary society, where it can make the most impact.
Photo courtesy of Northside Festival