We seem to have a need to create encoded in our DNA. One of the things that separates us from the higher order primates is that we create things that create other things. Birds make nests and the great apes may make tools of sorts, but humans make things that transform the world around us. Robotics, AI and the exponential growth of digital technologies will accelerate the pace at which the things we make start to make other things.
Our hereditary imperative to make will evolve from creating things to recreating ourselves. The wise man, Homo sapiens, is also “Man the Maker” – Homo faber. We will continue to make things, places, and experiences, and turn those creations toward ourselves to make us faster, smarter, stronger, healthier and older, emerging as “Homo Cumulates,” or “Augmented Man.”
While we have changed in many ways over the centuries, the drive to seek opportunities to make, and find joy in it, has not abated. Our palettes have changed and canvases transformed, but the intention to say something with our creations has not changed.
The energy wielded by the hand in making is our life force. It is an extension of our inner-world and as we create, our metaphysical minds become physical. Our brains and the environment are continually in a dialogue, exchanging information and energy to help craft experience in our minds. Nobel Prize winning scientist Eric Kandel said the “brain is a creativity machine, which obtains incomplete information from the outside world and completes it.” In making, things and places come to life, and as we shape the world around us, we are, in turn, shaped. This is the basis for a fascinating area of study called “Ontological Design.”
By creating the products we buy and participating in the crafting of brand experiences, we invest ourselves in the process and those products become more intimately tied to who we are. There is more than just a sense of ownership in the products that customers make themselves. As we make things, a little bit of ourselves is transferred to our creations. When people say “put yourself into it,” you literally do. You expend energy when you make, transferring it to the objects coming to life from your hands. Making is empowering because during the act of creating, we control and mold our world to reflect our dreams. In making, we express the truest sense of who we are
Today, a generation of tech-savvy consumers engages in the process of making by way of an endless linking of ones and zeros. Digital life-streams are made and shared throughout the world. A continuously updated stream of data archives one’s needs and wants, values, habits and aspirations, creating the story of one’s life. Media creation is becoming a lexicon that emerging customers are increasingly using to express themselves as well as being a vehicle for relationship with a brand.
The creating of experience, not just observing the unfolding of it, will be a game-changer for both the consumer of brand experiences and those that provide them. Digitally driven customers have an ever-increasing facility with crafting their everyday life experiences. Capturing the world around them as digital content to be edited and posted to social network sites is making each of them savvy, media manipulators and producers of their lives as digital docudramas. Their self-perception can be both created and reinforced by how they repeatedly see themselves in relation to the real and digital world.
As handheld devices with high-resolution image capability become ubiquitous, sharing our life stories in pictures is becoming embedded in our culture because it feels empowering. Making image-based content for rebroadcast is also going to have a dramatic impact on the design of customer experience places. The facility with crafting digital content for telling the stories of our lives will transcend the handheld device and extend our sense of empowerment to our expectations about how we interact with brands and the places where we connect to them. Moving from manipulating content on my digital device to using personal technologies to morph the physical conditions of an environment is not as farfetched as you would think.
Imagine a shopping place where each customer creates part, or maybe all, of the shopping experience. While this is only happening today in small ways with the creation of customized products, it may well be that in the future, customers will be able to modulate the entire shopping environment. Allowing customers to have a say in how the environment unfolds along the shopping trip may also be a way for them to offset the feeling of being overwhelmed by an ever-increasing number of product choices and places to buy.
Customers love being empowered and having a say in what they are doing. “Trying and buying” makes the experience more fun and more meaningful. If retailers and brands change customer experiences so they’re based on more than product depth and price, they will engage the customer in making the experience on his or her own terms. When people get involved in this sort of interaction, it is intrinsically more relevant, validating and empowering.
An emerging guest sees the world of experience through the screen of their mobile device, now more frequently than ever. As they capture, edit and rebroadcast images of their customer experiences, they directly participate in the telling of the brand story; they become an integral part in the making of it. Creating for these emerging guests, albeit digitally enabled, is a natural evolution of who are. Those brands who embrace our need to make will shift experience from simple consumption to collaboratively making brand experience moments that matter.