I am one of those rare creatures that actually was born and raised in New York City, in Manhattan to be more exact. While I certainly do not miss or bemoan the crack alleys and crime of the late 1970s or 1980s, I do miss the creative energy that was intrinsically a part of the city, from artists selling their wares and performing in the streets to edgier and more diverse subcultures being everywhere around me.
The novelist Zadie Smith noted in her brilliant essay, Find Your Beach, "you have to be ruthless. Manhattan is for the hard-bodied, the hard-minded, the multitasker, the alpha mamas and papas. A perfect place for self-empowerment—as long as you’re pretty empowered to begin with. As long as you’re one of these people who simply do not allow anything—not even reality—to impinge upon that clear field of blue. There is a kind of individualism so stark that it seems to dovetail with an existentialist creed: Manhattan is right at that crossroads."
Observe Change. Be the Change.
As we've noted in our past trend spotting TRENZ® WALKs, to catch macro trends in their infancy before they are trends, you have to plug into the periphery of society, the edges, the avant-garde. "Innovation culturally starts from within but it also begins from outside by keeping your eye and ears low to the ground, monitoring the young and digging into subcultures, for business-relevant socio-economic change that you can toward predictive tools and stay ahead of the innovation curve."
I bring this up because recently I've seen a couple of pieces lamenting the loss of distinctiveness, creativity, singularity or soul that is often a result of catering to the masses. I dislike when sites ask me to offer my location so that they can "tailor" content for me, most of the time, I don't want tailored content. I have a extended, dynamic expanse of interests and like to keep a global, macro perspective on the world around me. It keeps me informed, well informed.
Real Relationships Between Makers and Buyers
Grace Doubash noted in her HuffPo piece, about how Etsy Alienated Its Crafters and Lost Its Soul, that "a bigger market isn't necessarily a better market, that Etsy basically has homogenized Indie Craft" as we knew it. And, I've seen this theme over and over again, as social media flattens and democratizes the world and digital divides shrink and create paradigm shifts at the global scale, everywhere around me. She cautions "Etsy needs crafters more than crafters need Etsy."
Case in Point: Pinterest
I've written about Pinterest before, Pinterest: A Dream-catcher for Creatives & CEOs, last year as I planned my wedding I was directed to the platform as a solution to help me make my decisions. It was with dismay that I met my florists' reaction to one floral arrangement I showed her, she said "you're the tenth person who has shown me this." I really didn't want the same concept everyone else had.
Blogging for Dollars
Racked recently took on the Monogrammed, Monetized World of New York City's Preppy Bloggers, observing their success of shilling sponsored "pearls and polished Ferragamo flats" to their large audiences and racking in the dollars from big and small brands alike. As advertising dies a slow death and being more authentic, transparent and consumer-focused becomes the new rally cry, there's an irony in this success as well as the normcore and preppy fashion trends rampantly taking over the city that was once the consummate symbol of individualism, artistry and creativity.
I think we've all pondered how do you attain success without selling out. How do you expand your market, innovate, and grow without losing your soul? Can you innovate without losing your brand promise?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Formerly a senior copy editor at Thomson Reuters, a research editor at AOL, and a senior web publicist at Hachette Book Group, Valerie M. Russo Evans is editor at large of The Front End of Innovation Blog, The Market Research Event Blog, The World Future Trends Tumblr, the Digital Impact Blog, and also blogs at Literanista.net. She is the innovation lead and senior social media strategist for the Marketing and Business Strategy Division of the Institute for International Research, an Informa LLC., and her poetry was published in Regrets Only on sale at the MOMA Gift Shop. Her background is in Anthropology and English Literature. You can reach her at email@example.com or @Literanista.