Residential Lighting: What is "cultural planning" all about?
Larry Samuel: Fortune 500 companies and their ad agencies typically do lots of quantitative and qualitative research, so I bring them a different kind of marketing research based on cultural
anthropology or ethnography—just fancy words for observing what people do and figuring out why they do it. I translate [that knowledge] into actionable marketing strategies.
RL: How does cultural planning differ from identifying consumer trends?
LS: I view trends simply as resources to read the culture, whereas most marketing people focus on the trends themselves. Trends are actually very disposable because they're always changing. But they do reveal a lot of insight about a society's values at a particular time, which is enormously useful in deciding what products and services to offer consumers and how to communicate with them.
RL: What are the main cultural trends shaping today's customer?
LS: There are 10 main trends driving American culture, and I refer to them as "The Trend Commandments." They reflect consumers' interest in passion, creativity, independence, experiences, intelligence, nature, community, life on "the edge," globalization and the past.
RL: How can lighting showrooms capitalize on these trends?
LS: Take the "spark creativity" trend, where people want to be producers of creativity rather than just consumers of it. A showroom could create an interactive room where customers can invent their own lighting environments. Another important trend is to "nurture nature." A lighting showroom could create a "green" lighting segment in the store, an area with earth-friendly, energy-efficient products. At the same time, also remember that customers are into the moment. They want retailers to "deliver experience" and help them "surf the edge." That means lighting showrooms must have faith in the customer's desire for things that can't be touched or seen. Maybe you could find someone to teach a class showing how light can be a source of positive energy and well-being. Or perhaps you could bring in a romance expert to show customers how lighting can improve their love lives.
Larry Samuel is founder and President of Culture Planning LLC, a consulting firm based
in New York and Miami. Samuel has authored seven books, including "The Next Big Thing: Turning the Future Into Marketing Opportunity," available at www.cultureplanning.com .
LARRY SAMUEL'S TREND COMMANDMENTS
1. Stir passion. Consumers want experiences steeped in passion.
2. Spark creativity. Most people seek to produce creativity, not just consume it.
3. Declare independence. As mass culture continues to erode, subcultures of all types flourish.
4. Deliver experience. A currency called "experiential wealth" is now in circulation.
5. Get smart. We want to raise our "CQ"—culture quotient.
6. Nurture nature. This secular form of spiritualism is a backlash to today's dot-com life.
7. Build community. More than ever, people yearn to feel connected.
8. Surf the edge. More of us are open to non-linear, non-rational and non-Western ideas.
9. Think global. The cultural fabric of life has shrunk, making Planet Earth rather petite.
10. Mine the past. Why? Because America is obsessed with it.