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August 11, 2003

Flash mobs - spontaneity, spirit and what brands can learn 

I've been watching the flash mob phenomenon for a few weeks and now it has struck London.

Although some dismiss this as a craze, every time I hear about it I just want to laugh. It's the same kind of laughter I get when I see great Improv. My friend Robert Poynton of On Your Feet put it this way... people laugh at Improv not because the lines are good (often if you look at what's said it's not that good) but because what is happening before them is deeply, humanly satisfying.

When flash mobs meet, they're just having fun in the moment. There isn't much sense of control. Instead there's a weird kind of collective bonding.

And no-one's standing by with a calculator assessing the profitability of the exercise. They don't need to, cos this kind of fun doesn't cost anything.

How different is this from many of the contrived efforts of brands to say "buy this and have fun"?

Thinking of Jack's post about spirituality... many people think of spirituality as being all incense, mantras and big saffron robes. In fact, being spirited is something humans crave... and this is a huge pool of energy which organisations can either ignore.. or work with.

Brands of the future will need to be more comfortable with spontaneity and aware that control has its uses but can be taken too far. Southwest Airlines understands this... flying with them isn't quite as exciting as being in a flash mob, but their staff exude humour and an ability to bend rules in order to create some human connection in the cabin... a world away from the standard faux servility of many airlines.
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