TED Conversations

Paul Kemp-Robertson

Co-Founder & Editorial Director / Contagious, Contagious Communications

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Are people starting to trust brands and corporations more than governments?

Technology has reconfigured the mechanics of the traditional business landscape, changing what we buy and how we pay for it. Peer-to-peer systems like AirBnB and TaskRabbit encourage people to swap, share and rent amongst themselves rather than buy from stores. Concurrent with the growth in collaborative consumption is the emergence of a new understanding of 'money'. The limits of traditional monetary units are being tested against a backdrop of financial uncertainty, currency volatility and technological progress. People are coming to realise that their data, everyday activities and social chatter are alternative forms of value and payment. Slowly, we're seeing new micro- and crypto-economies being forged that aren't necessarily based on a traditional understanding of cash.

Surveys such as the Edelman Trust barometer suggest that there is a global weakening of trust in institutions and governments, If people are starting to trust businesses and brands more than their civic leaders, should we be questioning whether governments need to be in sole charge of money any more? In 1860 there were 1600 varieties of currency in America. Are brands hoping that history will start repeating itself? In a digital age, are loyalty programs becoming new forms of currency? Will people start to demand commodities (products and services) from brands in exchange for access to their personal data and consumption patterns? Are mobile phone credits more useful to modern consumers than loose change from a shopkeeper?

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    Jul 28 2013: Hi Fritzie. You are right; there was a huge controversy a couple of years ago when BA changed its airmiles scheme into a new service called Avios. People who had been loyal to BA in the air and who had been diligently accruing points by purchashing goods at accredited retailers were suddenly faced with the prospect of paying hundreds of pounds in taxes and charges. See article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/sep/09/angry-flyers-airmiles-avios

    One of the points I made in my TED U talk is that the balance of power is shifting: people know that the data they hold as consumers (their purchasing habits, quantified exercise patterns, social media influence, etc) means that they don't necessarily need to receive rewards purely via purchases; in an age of targeted advertising they can now acquire goods and services in exchange for sharing their data with marketers.

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