A Literacy of the Imagination

a deeper look at innovation through the lenses of media, technology, venture investment and hyperculture

Hyperlocal Business: Shaping the Global Economy #brandutility #socialentrepreneurship #marketing #Good

The core tenet of capitalism, and its original intent, is to meaningfully align business and society. In the marketing world, this has been significantly challenged by the need to grab marketshare, most often through fairly rigid “top-down” approaches that bypass or overlook critical cultural elements that sustain relationships with consumers. But what if business could be socialized in such a way that brands wouldn't have to market to consumers, or consumers would need to market on the behalf of brands, rather they became a part of a bigger, holistic solution?

In the last few years, a host of companies have started to really evolve their marketing capabilities beyond talking about cultural or environmental ethos as some sort of corporate brand promise, to creating useful utilities as marketing extensions of their businesses. Social innovation is one of the many ways that brands not only create relevance around their core offerings, but invite themselves into new market opportunities that have great potential to scale. Part of this way of thinking is based on precepts tied to the socialization of products and services, and wholly emphasized in compelling insight from works like Umair Haque’s The New Capitalist Manifesto (a must read) and Michael Porter’s discourse on Rethinking Capitalism through shared value creation.

The applied use of social media to tactfully curate communications and generate awareness is one mechanism for value creation, but an even bigger driver for affinity-based values has been the transition from mere program-oriented efforts (donations, smaller educational initiatives, etc.) to fully robust platforms that actually help build infrastructure and spawn economic growth through concentrated, hyperlocal efforts.

Emerging within a new wave of social product innovations are sites like Quirky; Quirky is a great example of how retail, fashion, CPG, lifestyle brands and the like can mitigate the risks of product development and supply chain management through highly creative peoplesourcing approaches. Bed, Bath and Beyond is one retailer in Quirky’s partnership program that has piloted an initiative targeting college students, enlisting them in all stages of the product development process.

Hyperlocal Business: Shaping the Global Economy #brandutility #socialentrepreneurship #marketing #Good

An interesting dimension to this is that this particular effort builds currency around the influence of innovative ideas, and then compensates people for their influence accordingly. Both the retailer and the platform are truly making invention accessible, by aligning affinity, action and intent within a system that rewards participation, and in allowing participants to witness the positive effects of their work. Even more tactile to us as marketers is the idea that we can effectively match social currency systems with hard cash, and have full purview into the motivations behind our product affinities, as well as the proxies for purchase behavior (a holy grail scenario, in my honest opinion...).

Another impressive initiative is from the skin care brand, Dermalogica. Called FITE, this effort is focused on supporting women entrepreneurs in underdeveloped regions all over the world. The collaborative element includes support teams – led by community leaders, celebrities and local influencers – who can converge around specific, complex problem sets and even compete over local development, with the measuring sticks centered on how much is funded through microloans (via a partnership with Kiva) and how quickly those loans are used to build infrastructure. This is a emergent form of value co-creation, and while still nascent, shows that there is great hope even for the most challenged or depressed areas to take advantage of disintermediary methods for economic prosperity and a renewed sense of community .

Hyperlocal Business: Shaping the Global Economy #brandutility #socialentrepreneurship #marketing #Good

Other brands are making education portable, so as to help build longer-term economic strength through the lens of cultural development.  Terracycle’s effort with The Cloud Institute is an initiative that intends to make education truly sustainable, through practical, everyday uses of good “waste behavior”; here we see how scholastics can be used to weave information about the environment into daily routine, allowing good behavior to become the competitive set. A similar construct to the creative commons and an adjunct piece to sustainability education, the healthy commons is a means for breaking down long-standing mores around product consumption, nutritional well-being and environmental efficiency.

Hyperlocal Business: Shaping the Global Economy #brandutility #socialentrepreneurship #marketing #Good

There are numerous examples like these, and the good news is that social innovation market opportunities abound, especially as banking and government institutions struggle to find their feet again (or find themselves in a constant state of disrepair). Looming even larger is the distinct possibility that these “business extensions” will actually become the spokes of a burgeoning, viable economic model that liberates companies from having to own infrastructure, and instead, enable its many uses. Further, the global implications are enormous; hyperlocal frameworks present unlimited scale.

Changing cultural behavior and defying normative identities and actions are the cornerstones for hyperlocal impact, and as we’ve discovered through social networking dynamics, the ability for those actions to propagate as shared values and assets culminates in profound global economic impact. As disintermediary efforts, we can see a number of elements at play:

The ability to make social participation active rather than passive.
The ability to make reward truly reciprocal.
The ability to fund independently & regeneratively.
The ability to educate collaboratively.
The ability to create new forms of social currency.
The ability to create new, alternative hard currencies.
The ability to develop emerging markets.
The ability to partner large (or small) organizations with local business.
The ability to make entrepreneurship not only an option, but a core mindset.
The ability to develop new standards for supply chain management & quality assurance.
The ability to support or enable new civil systems.
The ability to strengthen communities with new, collective intelligence.
The ability to renew capitalism as a value proposition of the people.

And ultimately, the ability to show that Good, in every sense, is far more profitable than Greed.

What do you see as a need or opportunity in your local community?
What brands would you or could you enlist to support you in this vision?
Who of your friends and family can you go to right now?

Remember: We are all global citizens with opportunity to action our passions and intent at the hyperlocal level.