Whether you personally like it or not, and whether or not your business is well prepared for it, the convergence of digital media with you and your interests has already begun. More significantly, the narrowing digital divide will soon even surprise the most wired digital adopters of all.
“In the future, successful businesses will be ‘Customer Companies’—companies that connect with their customers, partners, employees, and products in entirely new ways.” – Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO, salesforce.com, speaking about Brian Solis’ latest book –
This week an old friend of mine, Brian Solis, headed to Paris and London for a series of meetings ostensibly intended for promoting his latest book, “What’s the Future of Business”. This volume is the continuation of “The End of Business As Usual, only #WTF (yes, it was intended) really offers answers to the questions posed by the former. Without getting into a full book review here, Solis lays out rather ingeniously a survive-ability bible for any business you can name. And in the case of Paris the other day, WTF converges on the hospitality business. Before I go on to discuss other “thinkers and doers” like hotelier Philippe Vaurs, and marketing guru Martin Soler, among others, allow me to pave your “WTF” highway a bit better.
WTF? – Yes, Indeed
Along about 1930 Chicago’s WGN (see reference at bottom) radio began airing a radio broadcast called Painted Dreams. What’s significant here is that this is that the daily broadcast is considered by most to be the very first so-called “Soap Opera” ever. A little later on the housewives of all of America were targeted by the NBC Blue Network with the show Clara, Lu, and Em. Now imagine that. Can you just hear all the people who did not yet own radios, the disbelievers naysaying not the technology, but the progression of their own adaptation?
Fast forward to 1946 and the first broadcast television soap opera, Faraway Hill. Now those naysaying soap buyers and sellers can SEE the engagement. Then came game shows, reruns, and situation comedies, all designed to sell soap suds and cigarettes, Where this intersects with Brian Solis is reflected in the words of H. Wesley Kenney, who was the producer of General Hospital, he told the New York Times prophetically:
“I think people like stories that continue so they can relate to these people. They become like a family, and the viewer becomes emotionally involved. There seem to be two attitudes by viewers. One that the stories are similar to what happened to them in real life, or two, thank goodness that isn’t me.”
And there you have it. “Relationships, emotional involvement, family, friends, the whole concept and construct of society (social) has been radically transformed, just as Solis and others predicted. And not just by the social conversation, but by the very devices all of us adopt to communicate. The client “experience” Solis speaks of in this book – this will be the key to your business’ survival soon – period. Examine Solis’ “Four Moments of Truth” above then ask; “How well are we convergent?”
From individuals to the corporate business decision makers, Solis and other thinkers are fashioning a “plan” for tomorrow. As more and more individuals gain access to information and communication technologies (ICT), the cultural and social capital those individuals gain will FORCE business and government into a paradigm shift. Brian aptly terms these individuals Generation C in his book, but for those who have yet to read, Generation C is made up of Gen X, Y, and Z people who have adopted such technologies as “smartphones” into their daily lives.
Shaped and Shared Experiences
Here’s where a visionary like Philippe Vaurs (above with Solis) comes into the picture. Vaurs, you see, has been creating an emotional experience for Paris hotel guests for some years. About the time Brian Solis was evangelizing the beginning of Web 2.0, Vaurs began creating a Paris hospitality concept tailor made for a new generation of guests. Visitors who expect and demand the “experiential” wonder Brian Solis talks of in WTF, learned to expect the same experience at any of Vaurs’s boutique Paris hotels. Vaurs is really symbolic of a businessman who is simultaneously an artist, a Renaissance entrepreneur in every sense.
Hotel Seven, Five, One by the Five, the Hidden, Notre Dame, Dauphin, the Crayon, the coming Felicien, and more, Philippe Vaurs (pictured with Solis above) pioneered the temporal trend of Paris hotel stays, while at the same time showing the love and the vision technologically – let’s just say my friend evangelized progressive hotel business and marketing too. But It’s not enough to have a vision like Brian Solis’ or Philippe Vaurs’, you see? The “convergence” Solis speaks of is actually activated over a course and a series of innovative moves.
What we have seen from visionaries like Vaurs has been just the sort of “proactive” guest experience Solis talks about, then there is the feedback loop Brian professes is the other catalyst. To illustrate this a bit better, I just Skyped with another friend in travel, Gilles Granger, CEO of Vinivi, the innovators of verified travel reviews. I asked Gilles about how hotels should “prioritize” listening to guests:
“At Vinivi, we start by listening to our community’s (hotels) conversations. We then innovate to address those priorities. So far it has been the best way of surviving in the travel UGC jungle, by providing for instance only Verified Reviews.”
Convergence – Knowledge, Beauty, and Value
So you see, what Brian Solis, Philippe Vaurs, fashion designer Olivier Lapidus, Gilles Granger (Vinivi above), Delphine Remy-Boutang (The Social Bureau), and the aforementioned Martin Soler (of WIHP, top image with Solis) have in common is the future – bringing it into being, as it were. Take the wonderful Olivier Lapidus, whom I have written about before. Lapidus invented so-called “smart fabrics” decades before the concept was en-vogue or even thought possible. The famous son of the famous fashion icon (Ted Lapidus), Olivier is at this moment head down designing the interiors (experience) for Vaurs’ Felicien. Martin Soler? WIHP Hotels’ marketing head is a global operator who puts the metal where the digital (ICT) communicative wear meets hotelier selling needs. Delphine, and the others? There are multiplicities of communicative players who see the vision clearly.
Visionaries, communicators, software creators, financiers, marketing gurus, and traditional and social media people met up in Paris to understand and form up on what they knew was coming, Brian Solis’ Generation C. While a casual reader of What’s the Future of Business may scoff at the notion of hotel guests (or any client) wanting and getting a “dream experience”, but the reality is connectivity and transparency have reversed the economics of travel. What I mean is, the trend to “cheaper is better” has bottomed out. The Generation C consumer demands what Solis identifies as a “proactive” approach from business. You’ll have to read my friend’s book to glean more, but take it from someone who has been in the trenches here for over a decade, you’re looking at something akin to a Jules Verne predicate to an eventuality.
The Future of Business is the reality of stasis where the socio-techno world (Solis), new age business (Vaurs), and ethereal artistry and beauty (Lapidus) meet marketing dynamos (Solis and WIHP). As for the Accor and other big hotel brands in Europe and the world are concerned? Ensuring their business conforms to the dream, this will be key. I leave you with a quote from Martin Soler he just texted me from his train from London to Paris:
“Hotels are starting to connect with Gen-C but they still have a long way to go. It’s hard as a hotelier to receive bad reviews, as innkeepers only work to please guests and serve them. They don’t sell commodities, so too often when bad reviews are posted about a hotel, the owners try to ignore them. It’s sort of a hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil thing for many. They do not understand the far reaching effects, and those effects are difficult to show metrics for.
However, there’s a great opportunity to convert the unhappy guest into a repeat client. If an event makes a client unhappy and upset today, those reviews generally indicate repeat customers upset enough to complain. Those who don’t like a hotel to begin with, or who don’t have very high expectations (a la Solis), those don’t care and don’t complain. So helping the unhappy guest easily converts them into often even more loyal clients.”
Lastly, WGN (mentioned at top) became the Tribune Company, which announced earlier this month that the purchase of another 19 stations owned by Local TV, LLC for some $2.75 billion would further extend one of the world’s largest media empires. The future of business from back in the 1930’s sure did pay off.
And as more people become part of Generation C, the more connected we become…
Additional photo credits: La suite DreamCatcher – Legend Hotel (Paris, France) by Elegancia Hotels. Brian Solis’ Four Moments of Truth – courtesy the author of What’s the Future of Business.