Good Business is Usually Better Business

good_businessBesides Green, Good is the new Black – and not just for this season. Not only have ecological and ethical values become more important to many people throughout the globe, being green and good has become a way of life and reason behind everyday choices and actions for more and more people.

The question is, why it isn’t so for many businesses? Loads of service and product providers have already realized the benefits of going green and doing good, but some of them just in terms of marketing strategies. In these days, being superficially green or good and not transparent could be considered quite shortsighted or even risky.

As long lasting relationships and true engagement between brands and consumers are not merely built with marketing tactics and campaigns, but by offering people services and products that resonate with their needs and expectations and truly add value, it’s important to go green and good thoroughly. What people expect the companies to deliver and contribute, is more than engaging ads or huge billboards on Times Square. Keeping this in mind, it doesn’t hurt to allocate some funds for supporting more meaningful and sustainable product and service development, which in the long run will probably turn out to be more beneficial for the brand relationships and identity building. Because of education and access to information people are able and also most likely to spot questionable practices and green washing – and the most dangerous part for these companies is that people will not keep their findings to themselves.

Good or actually great news is though, that spreading the word also goes the other way around. And I’m not talking about WOM marketing or viral advertising here, but about successful ways to do business in age of increased use of social medias and influential new communities. So, why exactly being good is less risky and better for business?

1) Simply, because by not conducting or supporting any actions (in design, production, distribution etc.) that can’t bear daylight or will raise somebody’s eyebrows, there are less chances for bad publicity and alienation of consumers – and loads of chances to building strong and lasting consumer relationships and networks that are based on mutual respect.

2) Benefits of being good can also be thought on terms of gaining capital. Doing business that’s primary concern is to gain financial capital is these days more risky than building brands that also possess and attract social and cultural capital. The key thing is to increase all capitals together and understand how their interplay leads to stronger and successful brands and businesses.

-In this case social capital can be translated to consumer networks with nodes that spread the word and also attract and link more nodes aka potential consumers/users to the network. If the focus and goal of a company is to increase financial capital by increasing mainly and only social capital, which is the logic behind viral marketing, the results and networks tend to stay weak and short termed.

– The missing ingredient, for building networks that live longer and attract effectively new nodes, in this equation is the cultural capital (which is usually absent in viral marketing). For fueling the process of effective network expansion and building of stronger consumer relationships (aka social capital), it’s crucial to also posses cultural capital aka to be considered respectable, innovative, good, green etc. and once again, to really add value to people.

In a nutshell and in the context of increased use of social medias and new networks/communities, possession of valuable cultural capital (= being good, adding value) increases possibilities to gain long lasting and expanding social capital (=consumer relationships and networks), which in turn leads to growth of financial capital (=”cah-zing!”).

3) Thirdly, the benefits of goodness can be reasoned using the framework of sustainability. Sustainability has long been synonymic for green. But since complex problems like global warming do not affect just the environment but also the lives of many people and business landscapes of many companies, it’s time to look at the bigger picture. Sustainability could and should be understood more holistically: besides concentrating only on being green aka environmental sustainability companies should also think of how to promote social sustainability and financial sustainability in their actions. It’s not enough to be eco-friendly, you also need to be fair and local.

-Companies that design/innovate/produce services and products inevitably create an ecological footprint of some size, some bigger some smaller. It’s important to try to reduce it as much as possible, but also take the next step and think about the social footprint and make sure you’re not stepping on human rights or worsening some social conditions.

-And when it comes to financial sustainability, it is hard for it in this context to exist without the two other components. To be sustainable financially you need to be sustainable culturally and socially, and to be truly socially and ecologically sustainable you need to be financially sustainable.

So, as a closing note to business owners: it’s great if your company donates money for causes and charities (and remembers to mention it in marketing campaigns), but strategically wiser would be to step a bit further and act as a proactive do-gooder yourself – by not designing/innovating/producing problems, but solutions for tomorrow. This will not only make A) the world a better place, B) You feel good, but most likely this will also C) make you hear the sweet “cah-zing!” more often in the long run.

Good way to start is to get acquainted with Designers Accord, a society that is dedicated to diminishing design industry’s footprint and by reading John Thackara’s In the Bubble book as well as with Nathan Shredoff’s new piece Design is the Problem.


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New Platforms For Creative Collaboration


I must say I’m no expert when it comes to the writings of J.Habermas and  it’s been ages since I last immersed myself in his works, nevertheless he suddenly crossed my mind as I though how delighted he (and most enlightment philosophers grinning in their graves) must feel about the fact that our generation is thriving in the age of creative crowds and thanks to the Internet has access to new interactive communication and collaboration tools. While the Internet is by no means free of social or cultural barriers it has provided public spaces for communication and communities to develop fresh ideas and change the world. Like Brian Solis also put it, social media and networks are not merely formed around relationships but also ideas – as well as cultural values, lifestyles and common interests.

Social media has also provided fruitful platforms for new collaborative business models based on harnessing the brainpower of crowds of experts around the world, but while the future may seem rosy, there are always spikes – like the challenges in finding, bringing together and engaging the best talent to create best ideas and concepts (or as Habermas would have put it, most rational and enduring arguments). So it seems that the logics and structures of these new collaboration models are yet to be figured to really thrive and create success stories. 

Here are few thoughts though, as I had the possibility to participate in the re-conceptualizing of PSFK’s Purple List, a new platform for collaboration, and  came up with some perspectives and practical guidelines. You are most welcome to take a glimpse and share your thoughts with me:

Purple List - Ideas & Directions

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Fashion Tuning In To Cultural Shift


I recently found a bit of proof that even if it sometimes feels so, fashion trends don’t emerge randomly or out of the blue but are very much indeed tied to current cultural shifts and contribute to the cultural dialog.

This blog post in Nymag’s fashion blog called The Cut caught my attention by hinting that I should consider a Pin-up style swimsuit this summer (OK, some early adopters were seen wearing them already last summer 😉 ) so designers are riding the cultural wave as well and digging influences from the golden years as mentioned in earlier post about the renaissance of escapistic (but at the same time ethically conscious) style of yesteryears and Va-Va-Voom vamps. No wonder why Katy Perry is so popular.

One notion though..While high street retail is trying to survive by surfing along there’s one problem: the crucial difference between the real deal – authentic vintage -and what it stands for in terms of sustainable consumption and the cheaper, less sustainably produced and certainly not timeless replicas.




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Swapping Becomes The New Shopping- And Other Tell Tale Signs Of Shift In Consumption Culture Towards The Good Old Times


Modern-era models of consumption that have been twirling around collecting and owning stuff have at latest now at the time of ecological and economical crisis started to seem irreparably unstylish and douchy in the eyes of experience seeking, creative and eco-conscious americans. 

But where to turn for new ways to consume responsibly or actually unconsume? Traveling backwards in time seems to be trendy in many ways – whether it be in entertainment, restaurant and bar scene, music or fashion (mentioned in earlier post about decadent nostalgia) – but also in a broader sense and on the level of cultural mentality. While the bunch of modern-era words like industrialization, urbanization and globalization once had a positive echo, their side-effects and end-results now seem to raise mostly negative emotions and counteracts. If it’s hard to see a better future rising out of this hangoverish moment in human history it’s better to rewind to times when buying a steak, new clothes or toys didn’t cause a sting in our hearts. These would be the times when there where only one or maybe two steps between the producer and consumer and both of them lived in the same village – aka the pre-modern and pre-industrial era.

Local scale economy, self-reliance and exchange economy have already replaced old models of consumption and will probably become more of a rule than exception in the coming years – since there’s no going back to conspicuous times in that matter. Here’s for example few phenomena that have already existed as weak signals in past years but now seem to have grown popularity and swum to mainstream:

– Joy of swapping has replaced the thrills of shopping. Swapping parties and local freecycling groups are making the world a better place by reducing landfill, lengthening product life cycle and providing useful goods for those in need. Finally a good reason for lending that neat dress from your friend or letting those old chairs go! 

-More and more people are also trying to diminish their carbon footprints by boycotting goods and foods that are produced in complex production structures causing emissions and unrecyclable byproducts (from transportation, packaging, production etc.) as well in some cases inequalities in working conditions. This background driver combined to others – like the rise of professional amateurs, increased access to tools and knowledge via the internet and the usage of social media based networking and collaboration platforms (mentioned before in earlier posts) – have contributed to the upswing of DIY-lifestyle. Why pay for someone else if you can do it yourself, save money and environment at the same time and even get a feeling of self-fulfillment for creating something with your own hands – and in many cases in collaboration with other likeminded. So why not turn to “re-using, reducing and remaking”?

And when it comes to new slow food movements (which are very much present and mushrooming here in Brooklyn) self-reliancy  is most visible in new the  buzzword self-grow, which has been added as another backbone ideal for the trend – the others obviously being locality, organic and fair trade. For example young farmers proud of their responsible agrarian movement are trying to make a statement for sustainable food production and recruit more of their generation to change from suits to rubber boots and to get them up, close and personal with nature again. Their blooming subculture will soon be taking over America when “The Greenhorns” documentary hits the big screens by the end of the year.


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From Clear-cut to Multifaceted Ecological and Social Problems


Poverty, destruction of rain forests, famine – so many problems in the world. Or just few big and multifaceted ones? 

Social and ecological problems are usually labeled and defined to certain categories to make them more comprehensible, but at the same time some related  aspects are excluded and the boundaries of definitions hinder us from seeing the multitude of the situation. 

Maybe it would be time to change perspective, since it seems that in most cases instead of many individual problems and challenges we are facing one big crisis that binds the social, ecological, cultural and economic factors all together. Change in definitions might also lead to a change in ways of finding solutions to tackle the problem and even prevent new problems from emerging, like in these cases:

-Sometimes one carefully planned, holistic and culturally considerate solution – like this amazing project by Willie Smits – is all it takes to change things for the better for people, wildlife and climate!

-Or maybe Girl Effect is all we need to set the snowball rolling.

Well, one thing is for sure, even if local problems can be seen as part of global scale crisis there are no simple or universal recipes for knocking them down. Instead of applying similar solutions for similar looking problems the use of measures and tools needs to be culture specific. To find the best measures and solutions we need to involve the local people to be part of planning and innovation processes!

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Nostalgia For The Era Of Prohibition And Great Depression – Chops And Tassels Are Back!


The forms of entertainment familiar to 1930’s are in full swing again and vaudeville and burlesque clubs as well as sophisticated cocktail societies are mushrooming in Big Apple. As these forms of escapism have experienced a new renaissance so has the style of the times of prohibition. Chops and bespoke suits have resurrected once again and judging from the campaigns of make up companies and fashion designers collections, so have the vintage looks of Va-Va-Voom vamps.

All though this phenomena has been evident already from the beginning of 2008, maybe foreseeing the economical hardship and turmoils of the end of the year, it seems to be accelerating more and more while the glooming economy pumps fuel in to the machine. But why back to the 1930’s style and lifestyle then, why not to the 70’s or 90’s? And what’s the deal with “mixology” made cocktails and tassel twirling?

One explanation for the nostalgic upheaval of the era of the beginning of the 20th century might lay in the prevalent consumer trends and changes in values. Love for handmade, tailored quality products and authentic, local stories (and brands) feels like a fresh breath after era of of global mass production and conspicuous consumption.  Newly appreciated, locally and sustainably produced long lasting goods, food and clothes will have long lasting effects both on environment as well as on consciousness. The trend is also more than evident  in the restaurant scene with menus filed with dishes like “house-grounded heritage pork” and “winter vegetable slaw” . Going back in time won’t of course save the economy or environment, but now when US and western countries seem to be stepping in to the new Obama -era of responsibility, there might be some lessons to be learned  from the consumption habits of the hard times.

When it comes to the drivers behind the new upheaval of Burlesque and Vaudeville, one of the reasons is presumably the art-forms more accepting and emancipating conception of female body. Burlesque offers a counter cultural safe haven and new ideals for women of all sizes and ages. So we might add something new to New York’s former mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s words ” Burlesque is entertainment for morons and perverts”, like maybe few words about talented beauties and innovative performers.


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DIY Goes Beyond Mere Crafting – To Creative Commons


DIY is also not just about making things; it’s about breaking established models of thinking and questioning traditional approaches to living. DIY is also not making stuff by yourself but with like-minded groups and social networks who share knowledge, techniques, tools and  give regognition.

There are many factors and social changes that have contributed to the rise of DIY. The main drivers behind this trend or movement, which is shared in many subcultures, are:

1. The change of meanings of the concepts of work and labor. Most Americans don’t work with tools like saws or hammers anymore, but with computers and social media. The environment they work in has also changed from real physical places to virtual spaces. A lot of free time is spent on-line and the line between free time and work time has blurred. The appreciation of free time and the projects done on your own time have become more evident. This structural change in work and lifestyles has gotten people to long for physical, real world experiences and to appreciate hands-on work (aka DIY).

2. The rise of professional amateurs. These passionate hobbyists can even surpass experts and usually want to contribute and share their expertise with other like-minded as well as with companies they appreciate. People’s knowledge and capabilities have increased and they have access to highly developed but also affordable designing and manufacturing tools, this means that they can professionally produce things by them selves.

3. Open source everything. The ideals of open source have gained momentum also in other fields than software and the value of crowd sourcing and sharing of knowledge and techniques has become a key to success in big companies as well as in smaller communities. The ideals of open source are also one key element of DIY.

4. Social media and networking services provide platforms for sociability and become thriving hubs for collaboration. DIY is about making things together and the communities around it are based on sharing (open source), providing, acknowledging, creating and learning. Even if the members of different subcultures and communities share the DIY ideals of hands-on making and physical doing, a big part of their interaction and strengthening of their community happens in virtual worlds.

5. From consuming masses to thinking and producing individuals. Consumers are turning away from faceless mass production and big retail to look for authenticity, individuality and stories and people behind the products. This movement is also linked to the rise of ethical values and to the concern for equal treatment of workers in Asia and developing countries, where most of good are produced.

6. Sustainable and economical consumption replace conspicuous consumption. In times of economic and ecological crisis people tend to decrease their consumption and buy long lasting, quality products that don’t carry un-ecological burden. DIY is driven also by ecological values and is all about re-making, re-using and reducing.

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