Why We Celebrate? From The Wicked Witch is Dead to Mankinis

Why did some people want to celebrate Mrs Thatcher’s death?  In many parts of the UK there were street parties and the Wizard of Oz song ‘Ding Dong: The Wicked Witch is Dead’ was a chart hit. Putting aside your political views about Margaret Thatcher. The world today celebrates everything. It’s called ‘Everyday Exceptional’ – the consumers desire for occasion, to seek more reasons to endorse moments of fun and legitimise indulgent experiences.  Basically we like to celebrate. As we are living longer there will be more birthdays, wedding anniversaries and wakes. There are more students than ever and thus more graduation ceremonies. On the whole, consumers seem welcome to this idea of infusing more life and joy into their days, from the sensible to the silly, the ironic and emotional. Humans intrinsically seek celebration.  More than a novelty, celebration makes the air lighter, people feel happier because celebration allows the weight and stress of their world to be momentarily lifted.

The consumer definition of luxury falls under continuous cultural redefinition and this helps to lengthen the list of socially acceptable party pretexts. As a consequence, it was Hester Brown who said:

Always keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of champagne in the fridge. 

Champagne sales in the UK have increased by 40% over the last 10 years. According to a recent Wine Intelligence Survey, the number one reason outlets stock champagne is for special occasion sales \- and these reasons for occasion seem to be growing. Even dinner parties or small gatherings with friends can now solicit reason to bring on the bubbly.

It was Borat that brought us the Mankini to the Hertz Rugby Sevens.   Though not typical of  male party clothing it was a symbol of hedonism. Parties, which are not necessarily for the sport fanatic, but rather, for the party-lover… the game, race, match become secondary to the social gathering it spurs. There seems to be a natural increase in the number of occasions human beings choose to celebrate. At one time, steak dinners and party hats were the odd treat, reserved for certain special and perhaps extraordinary moments. But now, not only does each new season bring cause to celebrate but one can find an excuse every month, week or day to buy that new outfit, make merry and indulge in new ways. Under the modern forces of globalisation, there are now a number of national and religious holidays we can choose to celebrate. Ours is a constantly imbricating culture, in which there are simply ever more prompts to treat the day differently.  The result has been the transformation of the everyday into the exceptional.

 

In 2012, supermarket chain Kroger announced that branches in Southeast America would sell Girlfriends Wine  -  a range designed to suit different tastes and personalities and cover every occasion. Each of the options  -  which comprise “Party Girl”, “Wild Girl”, “Romantic Girl“, “Classy Girl” and “Good Girl”  -  carries a description of the occasion it is suitable to accompany. Classy Girl, for example, offers : “a sophisticated, stylish Chardonnay with hints of vanilla that transitions seamlessly from daytime to night-time for pleasure-seeking consumers”.

 

And those offers with a strong and obvious connection to social display have adjusted everywhere. Celebrating occasions with appropriate flair is becoming easier as luxury goods and services  -  which were once available to an elite demographic  -   are now accessible through temporary ownerships. Virtually anyone can acquire the right human bunting, fun visual champagne these days. For example Ma Bonne Amie is a French rental retail website, allowing consumers to rent dresses and accessories for a number of occasions, from parties to weddings, including appropriate wear for attending  -  and being part of  -  a civil ceremony.

The Future Foundation is suggesting is that there is now reasons to convene a party, taste special foods, drink nice wine, pat someone on the back, make a fuss of a friend, recognise an achievement, make a break in the established routine, give a day a special name, mark an event etc.

As societies grow wealthier, certain overlapping motives release special energy; the need for organised fun, the search for reasons to interact (in) formally with others and the pursuit of  endorsed cultural identity. As a consequence, this turns sporting events into a reasons for celebration not for sporting fans but party lovers. Hence the reason the Hertz Wellington Sevens has got nothing to do with rugby just like the Kentucky Derby is a fashion show not a horse race or Wimbledon is all about Pimm’s rather than Tennis and so on. So, the future looks bright for parties and celebration.

Dr Ian Yeoman

Victoria University of Wellington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Does Google Know More About You Than the CIA? Understanding the Dimensions of Customers and Service in the Era of Big Data

Service today is seamless to the point of automation and big data. Every time we make a purchase, information is gathered about us. We tell our friends where we are and what we are doing via location services and social media. As retailers know our preference, Amazon makes recommendations as if they are reading our minds. So, what does this mean? The answer probably resides with Google, as Sutton notes writing for CNN:

“Google knows the things you wouldn’t ask your friends. It knows things you can’t ask your spouse. It knows the things you haven’t asked your doctor yet. It knows things that you can’t ask anyone else and that might not have been asked at all before Google existed,” he writes. “Google’s servers are a repository of the developed world’s darkest and most heartbreaking secrets, a vast closet lined with millions of digital skeletons that, should they escape, would spare nobody.” The search engine does anonymize data over time. “We strike a reasonable balance between the competing pressures we face, such as the privacy of our users, the security of our systems and the need for innovation. We believe anonymizing IP addresses after 9 months and cookies in our search engine logs after 18 months strikes the right balance,” Google says on an FAQ page about privacy.

The willingness for consumers to share information and there inner most thoughts has changed service traits as a consequence. Consumers have power and the internet has made purchasing more transparent. Using price comparison search engines, the prices of airline tickets, handbags, books and everything else can be compared. Google may know more about you than the CIA, but consumers have also changed concepts of service. The Future Foundation, a London based consumer think tank captures this through a number of observations about service.

The End of Inefficiency is the rapid evolution of intelligent, data-mining systems and algorithms which can make informed, accurate and optimized choices for the consumer. By analysing personal information in ways that no individual could or would want to replicate, services are appearing that can relay advice on the best moment to purchase a deal, the most competitive or value-laden brand or offer in any given marketplace, the perfect evening meal to suit our new personal training regime. In China, Lehe Interactive launched an app which claims to provide personalised recommendations for places to eat  -  with those who are out and about and find themselves hungry being invited to “shake” their phone in order to receive directions to a nearby venue. At time of writing, the app’s name was yet to have an accepted English translation although had been unofficially called “Shaking for Delicacy” and “Shakey Shakey Food God”

 

Today, consumers maximise their behaviour. Once upon a time, It was once the case that large numbers of consumers were what we might term satisficers  -  those who were happy to select a product or service which, while not perfect, met their needs and was, as it were, good enough. But stimulated by the economic crisis of the late 2000’s  -  and galvanised by its still rumbling aftershocks  -  the attitudes of so many millions of shoppers have been transformed. Consumers have become maximisers, ultra price-sensitive and retail-savvy consumers who are willing to expend considerable time and energy tracking down the most competitive offer.  Other factors, meanwhile, have swelled together to energise this mindset still further, including a) the proliferation of comparison and review sites which promise to offer assistance in navigating those marketplaces where choice can seem almost limitless b) the explosion of mobile phone capabilities and the ease with which we can use handsets to locate price reductions c) the social capital which can be accrued by finding  -  and then sharing  -  competitive deals and d) deep-rooted suspicions that companies are not to be trusted and that we must seek, in a sense, to beat the retailer.   In September 2012, UK transport minister Norman Baker outlined a future vision of the country’s train ticketing system which would see paper tickets being phased out in favour of smartcard alternatives that, among other benefits, promise to find rail customers the cheapest fare at the time of travel.  According to the minister, new technology will simplify the fares system, which is often attacked for being unclear and overly complex for consumers in search of a good deal. He told a UK newspaper :  “Smart technology is one way of making it easier for passengers. I want to get a better deal to make sure people aren’t ripped off… Why should it be that someone travelling at 6am pays a peak-hour fare the same as someone at 7.45am? Why do we still have season tickets that assume that you are going to work nine to five Monday to Friday? If someone wants to work at home on Friday why should they be penalised? With smart technology we can change these things”.

 

The Demanding Consumer has been driven by a number of factors. A long (pre-recession) period of rising incomes led many to feel entitled to be more selective, try new alternatives and to generally expect more from their brand and service providers. Together with the growth of consumer review sites, price comparison tools and e- and m-commerce options, it has become ever easier to investigate purchases thoroughly and select the very best option. Further, the recession of the late 00s invited millions to re-evaluate their default consumption behaviours and brought sharpened price and value sensitivity across all demographics  -  something we argue will have lasting effects even once disposable incomes recover. With so many having become maximisers (as above)  -  looking for the very best deal for the most attractive price  -  the demanding consumer is here to stay.   Netotiate is a site positioned for the “typical American consumer [who] likes deals, but doesn’t like the discomfort of haggling”. Consumers are invited to decide how much they are willing to pay for various items being offered by partnering retailers and then “make a binding, anonymous offer to the merchant” (with a price bar giving them an estimate of how likely the retailer is to accept a price in that range). Subsequently, the brand in question has a 48-hour time-window in which to negotiate over the offer, with Netotiate hoping to limit the “ping-pong” nature of haggling by restricting the retailer to a maximum of three counter-offers (which might revolve solely around price but which can also include the provision of attractive delivery options or additional items being added to the deal at no extra cost). Consumers are, however, only allowed to “netotiate once for any product with any given merchant”.

Expert influence is a human face in a virtually robotic world. Consumer outlets are staffed by experts as assistants, advisors, demonstrators and even “teachers” equipped with the skills to pass knowledge to customers will form a new élite army of retail professionals. This means knowledge is passed on through fresh fashion advice, in-store repair workshops, inspiration for meal plans, creative stimulus, one-to-one financial budgeting and lifestyle courses. Whole Food Markets teaches families about healthy and organic foods and lifestyle online and instores, whereas Nike at Boxpark London houses a physio room, in-house running consultant and free running club.


Concierge living
means more than expert influence, but a concierge-style perks, services and  amenities i.e., exclusive customer lounges where shoppers can relax and make use of free WiFi or iPads. Increasingly, consumers are being treated as a VIP, every person is entitled to a sense of exclusivity. Selfridges offers a “Personal Shopping Salon”  -  an in-store 5000 sq. foot space containing a central relaxation area, seven themed “character” rooms as well a s two VIP suites. The “character” rooms inside the Salon are dedicated to a range of stylish women, including Grace Jones and fashion designer Jeanne-Marie Lanvin, and are furnished/decorated accordingly. The space also includes a bar area and a library, with the intention being to provide a more enjoyable and leisure-based shopping experience.

Bonus brands means extending a level of premium service as a standard feature, therefore the level and quality of service enhancements will gradually increase for more premium customers accordingly. A great array of “bonuses” or “extras” will form a major part of brand customer service. As well as small extras such as free apps, interesting content and entertainment events open to all, loyal and existing customers will be rewarded with extra, exclusive privileges. Indeed, service enhancements that provide a sheen of luxury or privilege appealed greatly to the aspirational urban middle classes of China, Brazil and India in the early 10s. Whether it is Puma bring Caribbean culture to the London Olympics or IKEA relaxation pop up lounges at Charles De Gaulle airport

Concluding thoughts

Google may know more about than the CIA, but it’s not all big brother. A re-alignment of power between the consumer and business has occurred. We will see stricter regulation but if you want a consumer’s data what is the consumer getting from you. This blog demonstrates that the consumer has capital, they are using the power of transparency too control their relationship with business and brands. They are more dynamic with their behaviour and have access to search and prediction via smart phone. But we mustn’t forget consumers are human, don’t want to have a relationship with a machine or robot. Technology should support service not replace it as the demanding consumer doesn’t want time wasting, but efficiency and choice. This is the world of a culture of immediacy.

 

Can New Zealand be a true green destination that goes beyond tourist perceptions of 100% Pure?

Eco Paradise Scenario

New Zealand is a paradise of resources driving a land-based, export economy. In 2050, as the world suffers from scarcity of resources, eco-paradise is the new luxury and the New Zealand tourism industry benefits. However, society has taken the decision to conserve the future for the collective good, as resources and the land are important features of the Kiwi psyche. As a consequence, society and government know everything about you, what you do and when you do it. Individualism and freedom have been sacrificed. New Zealand is a high taxation economy with a high standard of living. It is an innovation economy, with a sustainable living ethos, moral conservatism, and controlled tourism demand and supply model which balances the economy with resources.

People will always travel and that wouldn’t disappear. But what are important is behaviour and the form of tourism in New Zealand in 2050. The Eco Paradise scenario is about responsibility – a world of eco-conscious, eco-friendly hotels and a world where Prime Minister John Key is greener than Shrek or Kermit the Frog (metaphorically). New Zealand would have social capital, pure authenticity and sustainable solutions to the impacts of climate change.  It’s a place where government would develop feasible policy options that positions tourism as New Zealand’s first and everlasting tourism industry. A place that is a first choice career, a first in the terms of quality, first in the terms of the environment, the first industry of New Zealand from a work and play perspective. Combined, these principles of being first make New Zealand’s tourism industry an everlasting proposition in which we protect the land, resources and experiences for future generations.

Why is such a proposition important?

Society has changed; all parts of the travel sector have re-evaluated their policies towards the environment. For example, the Dutch airline KLM has been experimenting with bio-kerosene since 2009 and started using it for its flights between Amsterdam and Paris in the summer of 2011 when it became legal to use the fuel for commercial flights. Air New Zealand has done the same. A fleet of electric buses developed by Hyundai and Hankuk Fibre, named the e-Primus, is operating on the streets of Seoul. Meanwhile, Eurostar won the 2012 PEA Award for “greenest transport” for its many environmental efforts.  Alpine Pearls is a series of environmentally friendly holidays in 24 regions in the Alps. They target the same market as travel agency Kuoni, which launched Ananea  -  a “collection of socially and environmentally responsible holidays”, including a variety of eco-options. Eco-ethical travelling does not merely refer to choosing the right hotel or airline. Respecting the environment also means selecting those travel options which offer a unique experience while valuing the authenticity of the destination and its inhabitants. For example, staying in a hotel built in the traditional style of the area, rather than in a generic skyscraper  –  or getting to meet the natives instead of bothering them with excessive noise and pollution. Camouflage Tree Hotel is a four metre-squared structure made from lightweight aluminium and clad in mirrored glass. For example, located in the forests of Sweden, the structure is designed to create feeling of being at one with nature and heat is generated using an eco-friendly source. This approach like others adds value, focuses on high yielding tourists and sustainable.

Imagine this happening in New Zealand

In the 2025 election the issue was New Zealand’s green future. Across the political spectrum the only debate was about the degree of resources and commitment. The elected government’s first piece of legislation was the passing of the 100% Pure New Zealand Act which establishes New Zealand’s low carbon economy based upon a controlled pathway motivated by resource maintenance and economic stability. The Act was necessary given the world’s problems of climate change refugees, wars over food supply, and the post peak oil economy. The Act formulates a number of policy levers and instruments that incentivise a Green Economy for business and consumers, educates for change, accelerates investment in Green technologies, facilitates adoption, and penalises “ungreen” behaviour. New Zealand’s real priority is to protect and develop its resources and land economies which are viewed by most of the world as the new gold. In spite of some dissenting voices, New Zealand has come to realise its only future is this Green pathway to the extent that people talk more about the environment than they do about rugby these days. Green is the kiwi psyche.

But we can go further; tourism has to be everyone’s business. Think of the future of hotels as your home. At one level, it’s about small bed and breakfast establishments providing local knowledge and authentic experiences. In 2011, Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson launched a new tourist initiative which encouraged residents to open their homes for tourists. The President asked people to welcome visitors into their homes and tell them about the Icelandic “experience”. So, we should be doing the same.  Shouldn’t our leaders set the same example? It’s tea with Jerry Mateparae or dinner with Tuheitia Paki.

New products

The Department of Conversation has a fantastic network of back country huts, with a bit more  investment they could easily be more accessible, innovative and elegant allowing a tourist experience of glamping.

Glamping allows for a truly eco-friendly holiday but without all the potentially unpleasant aspects possibly associated with such an idea. Then there are podpads and yurts. At another level, tourists will have emotional satisfaction in self-consciously limiting the damage they might cause by holidaying; some of them will also try to actually add value by going on a trip. In early 2012, the travelling website TripAvisor asked 700 travellers from the USA about their travelling behaviour. 24% of them claim to have considered a volun-tourism trip while 3% say they have already taken one. Only 16% were unfamiliar with the concept.  Volun-tourism refers to a type of travelling which includes volunteering for a good cause. Depending on the individual’s endurance, volun-tourism can vary from low-skill work (eg cleaning wildlife areas) to more intensive tasks, such as providing medical aid. Yet basically, what all volun-tourism trips have in common is the traveller’s incentive to help or improve someone or something, while getting to know new places and people. While the concept is still a niche market, it seems like volun-tourism holds appeal for many.  New Zealand can be that volunteer destination of the world. In a future world, if volunteer tourists  could be exempt from any taxes if they put something back into the community. Tourists offer so much potential, it’s just a matter of harnessing that capital.

Corporate accountability

On the corporate front, tourism providers internationally take a responsible approach. Since 2011, hotel chain Travelodge has been giving its customers the option to make small digital donations each time they book a room. Guests are invited to round up the total cost of their booking to the nearest pound, with the extra money being shared between a number of good causes supported by the hotel chain.

My holiday in 2050
I remember my Granddad saying, travel once-upon-a-time was virtually free and accessible to all. Granddad would think nothing of a cheap weekend in Paris flying with a low cost carrier. Those were the days. Mr and Mrs Kapil Kumar’s time has come. Their permit has been granted based upon four years of personal carbon credit travel allowances and a daily ecotourism luxury tax. Because long haul flights cost so much and people have to save hard for the flight, the flight itself is treated as a special occasion. Mr Kumar is wearing his best suit. Mrs Kumar went to a beauty therapist to have her makeup done the morning before the flight. Their extended family even went to Delhi airport to wave them goodbye for their long flight to New Zealand. The couple would have normally holidayed in Asia because of the excellent public transport system connecting the major cities of the continent. The Kumar’s desire to visit New Zealand has been based upon a personal fulfilment, infatuation with wellbeing, and high sensitivity to environmental and social issues. To the Kumar’s New Zealand is a rich and worthwhile experience which is explicitly ethical. During their month long stay they are keen to experience a Maori cultural show. In order to minimise the impact of the holiday on the environment, the couple decide to hire a luxury self‐propelled airship with all the mod cons. The airship allows the couple to visit many places across the country deemed inaccessible by road. The airship’s shuttlecraft transports them to Fiordland, to places like George Sound, Breaksea Sound, Resolution Island and Puysegur Point. Local guides provide the Kumar’s with compelling stories of the glaciers and fauna. The couple even stayed in the award winning Milford Sound Subaqua Hotel for two nights exploring the fiord’s sea bed and looking for blue cod, one of the regions endangered fish.

Air New Zealand allows you to carbon offset your airline trip.  Online travel insurance company WorldNomads.com founded The Footprints Network, as they believed “there is a moral obligation to give a little back to the communities in which we travel”. When someone purchases a policy with WorldNomads, they are asked to choose a project from a list to add a small donation.  The Ritz-Carlton introduced the Give Back Getaways  -  a variety of holiday options that allow visitors to join the hotel’s employees in half-day volun-tourism projects which make a difference for the local community. The Give Back Getaways offer was launched in 2008 but has expanded significantly over the years.

Positive thinking

Let’s think about tourism from a positive aspect, rather talking it down. Some say, ‘we can’t travel to New Zealand because of the distance and impact on the environment’. Well, Gregory Norris, who lectures at the Harvard School of Public Health, has created the carbon handprint. Rather than telling us what we are doing wrong, our carbon handprint tells us the sum of all the things we are doing right. The idea is that, if people realise how much difference they can make by adapting their behaviour only slightly, they might be encouraged to take some extra steps towards a greener life. Norris has a website, handprinter.org, which allows us to calculate our handprint and to pledge or confirm the ways in which we plan to enlarge it  -  all of which can be shared on Facebook. The implications for how we all travel in search of fun in the future are very obvious. It’s about a positive outlook rather talking down tourism.

It seems likely that a strengthened eco-ethical conscience is here to stay. It might only be a matter of time before all transport providers, travel agencies and hotels will have made a strong environmental policy part of their standard package. An eco-claim will be a threshold value: universal throughout the industry. In the past, it might have seemed like a lot of extra effort to care about the environment while on holiday – a time which should be relaxing and carefree, when we can legitimately be a bit less responsible than we are during the rest of the year. But there can be little doubt that the long term impact of so much political agitation about the planet’s health – the Kyoto Dynamic -   will be to a) pressurise tourists into being practically aware of whatever eco costs they are incurring and b) trigger every greater regulation in favour of cleaner services from the travel sector.

Ending inefficiency

What the government needs to do is too end the inefficiency of not being green. This needs penalties for those not conforming to eco-friendly practises. For innovators, it means being green is cheaper tan not being green. In a futures world, where oil becomes scare– its means efficiency gains, sustainable architecture and green credentials.

The eco-mind is what school children are being educated about. Too them it is as natural as social media or the mobile phone. In the future, know one will brag about guzzling resources or wasting energy, so be warned. On a concluding not, being green is not a trend anymore, it’s something that is mainstream which goes beyond 100% Pure New Zealand. Its means a green qualmark scheme that is compulsory as a driver of change.

 

For further details of the Eco Paradise scenario visit www.tourism2050.com

Dr. Ian Yeoman

Victoria Business School

Email: ian.yeoman@vuw.ac.nz