Inside the Mix

If predictions hold true, consumers in future will need to tap into creativity over privacy

If predictions hold true, consumers in future will need to tap into creativity over privacy

Creativity isn't just a fuzzy concept; it's a tangible driver of the British economy, according to the UK's chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown. In the most recent UK budget this past spring, Brown stated that the creative industries were now bringing in 8% of all national income and employing one in 20 of the nation's work force. Since 1997-1998, output in the creative industries has been growing by up to 20% a year, compared with under 6% for the economy as a whole.

These figures form the premise of a newly released study commissioned by boutique PR firm The Fish Can Sing and written by a number of leading authorities on consumer trend prediction, called CreativeWorld. With this kind of growth, it reasons, it's important to ask what life will be like when economic growth is driven not by, say, agriculture or manufacturing, but by creativity.

In order for regions like the US to compete economically with markets like China (manufacturing muscle), India (IT-savvy workers at cheap rates), and Eastern Europe (recent EU membership allowing it to make, and export, cheap products), they must focus on "the value of thoughts, rather than things."

What the report boils down to, however, is the movement toward a totally customizable life. And creativity is a fundamental requirement to exist in a society where marketers have found so many ways of projecting a brand that it's up to consumers to decide how they're going to experience it. The lines between commercial and personal will be more blurred than ever, and "uncreative" people won't enjoy their products as much as those who think differently.

And this is the crux of most marketers' projections about future consumer behavior: It demands a change in the societal mindset that is hard to imagine. For example, the report predicts that old ideas of privacy will be broken down, and people will experience brand messages from many more sources than they do currently. At the same time, there is an assumption that people will opt in for brand experiences to a level not yet seen. The creative future, according to a number of thinkers and not just the writers of this report, is reliant upon a large number of people actively seeking to engage with new technologies and methodologies that deliver not only brand messages, but content also.

Though many things in the report seem far-fetched - and it's forgivable to have images of people driving around with their jet packs while zapping their cell phones at billboards to order the advertised products - they could occur over a generation. Just as our parents likely wouldn't have been able to imagine a future in which people were connected to their workplace 24/7 through BlackBerries, remote servers, and wi-fi, it may be hard now to imagine people putting LCD screens outside their front doors showcasing personal videos, routinely naming their kids after the brand names that sponsor them, or customizing their own beer in a bar, only to have the glass tell them they've drunk too much.

The technology is comparatively easy to imagine. What's harder will be getting people to surrender their "old ideas of privacy" and see creativity as something they need to tap into as an inner resource in order to use the technology - rather than the technology, and the brands that adopt it, using them.

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