The last session on day two of Spikes Asia 2013 witnessed Rei Inamoto, chief creative officer and vice-president, AKQA, presenting a case for the ‘failures’. He said that in the past eight years, more people have been interested in failure than success – as is visible from the Google Trends, he reasoned.
Inamoto stressed that in the 21st century brands not only compete against other brands, but also with companies outside of their immediate industry. Similarly, agencies have to compete not only against other agencies, but also against companies that make products and services, he said.
He made the point that 80 per cent of today’s businesses will fail and won’t be around in 15 years, reasoning that 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies of 1955 do not exist in 2013. He shared the examples of Newsweek, which was founded in 1933 and went out of print in 2012; Kodak that was established in 1889 but went bankrupt; Blockbuster – the video-renting service that had $62 billion market cap in 2002 but shrivelled to $3.05 million in 2013. Online video provider Netflix stood at $288 million in 2002, and its market cap currently stands at $9.69 billion.
“Blockbuster became complacent to innovate and relied too heavily on the profits earned because of delayed returning of the rented videos,” explained Inamoto. He further said,”The reality is that business ideas from the least expected players and angles would disrupt your brand faster than advertising can save it.”
Referring to the article ‘Marketing Myopia’ by Theodore Levitt that appeared in Harvard Business Review in 1960, he urged businesses to define the answer to a simple question: what business they are really in. “If you think advertising is about brands, building awareness – the way we have been doing it is through media disruption,” he pointed out.
He drew the relationship between a horse’s back and space shuttle. And as the audience thought of the possible connection between the two, he explained, “The horse’s back led to deciding the size of the wagon it had to pull it. The wagon led to the science of railway tracks and that that led to the size of tunnels for railways had to pass through. The tunnels further decided the size of the space shuttle because shuttle had to be ferried through the railway tracks. In the same way, the media disruption model has been adopted from the Bible since it believes in storytelling. We have not expanded beyond railway tracks in advertising,” he surmised.
Thus, success in the future would mean focusing on connections more than integration, people stories rather than brand stories, and business invention instead of media disruption, deduced Inamoto. To compete, businesses will have to think beyond the path laid before them, he said, articulating that as the purpose of every business is to create new customers, media disruption would have to move towards business disruption.
This could happen in few different ways in the next three to five years, said the AKQA creative head. He cited examples of businesses doing it successfully through communities: Crowdsourced Airbnb site, which offers cheap and unlikely stay-in options, and is now filling more nights than Hilton; and ZipCar car rental service, which gives the option to car owners to rent out their cars when not in use.
He added, "Secondly, humans are being replaced with machines. There is a car radio service - OnStar - that can learn the driving behaviour of the driver and sends tweets out on its own based on drivers' location and possible stopovers. Going forward, according to Vinod Khosla, 80 per cent of doctors will be replaced by machines."
He underlined the power of digital by giving the example of Matterport - a scanning service that scans physical buildings or structures in 3D. He also took the example of Chinese planners who visited a heritage Austrian town and took pictures. Based on the pictures, they replicated the entire town in China.
How does one make all this relevant to their businesses? "There is obviously no single formula but as Apple designer Jonatha Ive said, 'We can try and develop products that somehow seem inevitable'. Question we should be asking is can you think of one thing that someone else could create that would destroy your business? If you can, just go ahead and do it yourself," said Inamoto.
Revealing a ‘failure’ story from AKQA, Inamoto elaborated upon a crowdsourced video attempt with Youtube and Coldplay, involving over 200 musicians and artistes. The agency spent close to six months working on it, and 10 days before it was to go live, the band's manager trashed it. "What we need to learn from the episode is that optimism is fundamental in human beings. After failure, optimism is what keeps us going." he concluded.