Markets in the Imagination Era

by | Aug 29, 2001 | Archives

Here are four markets that are thriving as the Imagination Era unfolds.


One great market that has opened is the market for adventure. Recently theWall Street Journal featured a front page article about the Replica ofCaptain Cook's ship “Endeavor”. The article told how people are paying bigbucks to board the ship and live in circumstances so harsh that in days ofold, sailors sometimes had to be press ganged (kidnapped) to serve. Yet menand women now sign up (and pay) to sleep in coed swaying hammocks hung soclosely together they slam into each other like meat hanging in a locker.Some of the events include climbing up 120 feet on rope ladders in heavingseas and having sea sickness (the converted barge has little beam sowallows heavily in turbulent seas). The paying guests are overworked, getlittle sleep, are continually drenched in icy seas, are usually cold and attimes actually at physical risk.

Yet this adventure tour is sold out because as the Captain points out, “Wegive the guests controlled excitement and risk.” It has also been pointedout that a best selling maritime adventure writer who has written severalromantic books on the high seas has caused huge numbers of consumers toimagine that this is a romantic story.

Adventure markets range from professional sports to hot air ballooning tomountain climbing to diving off bridges and radio towers. The marketextends far beyond these actual acts. The story is what taps theimagination of the consumer! Note that the first successful around theworld balloon journey was sponsored by the watch manufacturer 'Breitling'.This firm knows that many watch buyers are buying adventure when they buytheir watch.

When people buy Nike shoes endorsed by an exciting athlete, they aren'tbuying canvas, plastic and rubber. They are buying a story of adventure.Sports offer the essence of adventure intense competition, the ecstasy ofsuccess, the pain of defeat, the high stakes that separate the winners fromthe also-rans.

Even sports stars are becoming story brands (Michael Jordan, etc.) morethan ever before. One can expect to see Michael Jordan shoes, clothes, etc.Henry Ford understood the adventure market's impact on the car businesswhen he said, “We race on Sunday and sell on Monday”. Today the CamelTrophy Cup is an adventure, an enormously grueling race which sellscigarettes, and much more (watches, shoes, bags and clothes).

Consumers do not even have to take risks to gain these adventures.Increasingly consumers will gravitate to sanitized (without risk)adventure. Cruise lines are becoming overbuilt and will become morecompetitive. The winners may become the lines which create theme boatswhere the guests live an era or event. There may be “Roaring ThirtiesCruises”, “French Connection Boats” and “Western Pioneer Cruises”. Theremay be “Titanic” and “Lusitania Cruises”, etc. I would not be surprised tosee a liner converted into battleships that act out battles. The guestswill dress, act and live the adventure while on board.

As the Imagination Era advances, it is possible that computers will becomeincreasingly powerful automating our emotions as they bring us sanitizedadventure. We can already see this trend developing by observing some ofthe best selling computer games simulate Big Game 16Hunting. With this game, virtual hunters can take trips all over the worldand hunt many types of game. These games allow the enjoyment of adventure,the out of doors and the rush that has been instilled in our genes bythousands of generations of hunter-gatherer ancestors. We can hunt, trackand kill. Yet we never have to step in the woods. We don't have to get intoshape. We don't have to haul the heavy game out of the woods, figure outwhat to do with all the meat nor face the blood. We don't have to put upwith the rain, the cold, the leaky tent, the fatigue and theinconveniences. These also allow conservation and ecological advancestaking place here. Whenever we want, wherever, night or day we can let theadventure begin!

Listen how the advertising copy reads in Cabella's catalogue for thecomputer CD Rom game “Big Game Hunter”.

“From the dense forests of the Alaska Highlands to lush Georgia woodlands,this game takes the virtual hunter where they have never gone before.” BigHunter II offers an African safari and its expansion pack the high, ruggedterrain of Colorado, Alberta and the all new Kentucky region.Imagine. If you have $19.99 and a computer the adventure can begin, justabout anywhere in the world! Such is human nature, to strive and havebalance in our lives. Genetically we have been programmed for 100,000 yearsfor high risk living. The more civilization eliminates risk, the greaterour desire will be to take or imagine it through adventure.


Another key motivator in the Imagination Era is emotional fulfillment. Manywealthy consumers have learned that just acquiring stuff is not enough.More and more things don't satisfy much or for long. At some point ourmaterial excesses turn into junk, worthless burdens that cost us to store,clean and insure. Successful sixth wave companies will learn to attachsymbols of love and togetherness to their products and services. There willbe a growing business in ties that bond people together.Coffee houses and similar places of gathering will continue to boom. Clubswill grow. Restaurants which offer a place for people to be together willthrive.

The “Dream Society” suggests that Cafes Philos, (there are about 50 inFrance now) clubs or cafes where a philosopher raises a question to createa discussion for all present to join, will boom around the world. Thismarket is not just about being together, but is about being united by acommon story. The root of this market is the 100,000 years of selectiveprocessing of human genetics which have favored those who belonged to packsor tribes.


The market for friendship has to grow because technology has made societyso much more mobile. I for example have lost nearly every single reallygood friend from school. I haven't seen or talked to Larry, Art, Tommy orJerry for thirty years. I imagine they still live in Portland, Oregon, butmaybe not. They might all have become travelers like myself. Out of a sixpack of school buddies, Steve is the only one with whom I keep in touch.A couple of weeks ago I visited the local car mechanic (Jay Dee's his name)with my next door neighbor Jim to have some work done on my beat up 1986Suzuki Samari Jeep. This is the perfect farm car but often needs work (Ihad actually mended the problem up with a tin can but finally it had to goto the shop). Jay Dee's garage is in a barn by his house and local peoplesort of collect around that barn to shoot the breeze, spit a little tobaccoand talk over old times. “Remember Johnny Blevins and that time he threwyou in the creek, Jay Dee,” Jim might say. “Well darn that must a beenfifty years ago.” I love being with these wonderful mountain people andtheir easy going, friendly ways. They have such deep roots and ties so theyare comfortable and at ease with their friends. They know who they are,where they are and who their friends are because they have been with themtheir entire lives. These people aren't hanging around Jay Dee just to gettheir cars fixed. They are enjoying a ritual of friendship that has unitedthem since they were kids. I love this! My friendships are scattered andfar flung all over the world. I sometimes don't get to see my friends foryears!

A huge segment (much of the wealthiest) of the population no longer liveswhere they were brought up and have lost touch with their roots. The moretechnology removes us from our origins, the more the market fortogetherness and friendship grows.

Friendship is an extension of togetherness and can develop around manythemes. For the mountain folk of North Carolina or anyone who remainsrooted in their birthplace the theme is mostly “down home”. Thesefriendships are tight and if you have ever heard the phrase “You ain't fromaround here are ya, boy,” you have experienced the reverse side of thistype of friendship. The implication is that with these long term, locallybased friendships, the only way to be a friend is to have been there for years.Part of the years I lived in Gloucestershire, England were spent in a tinyvillage named Chalford. I regularly visited a local pub there, “TheMechanics Arms”. Though I was a newcomer to the area I was accepted as anold timer because of family ties. One man in his sixties, who visited thepub every night however wasn't quite part of the crowd. Many of the localstalked about him as the new man in town. I was surprised later to learn hehad lived in Chalford for nearly thirty years! The locals would always viewhim as less trustworthy because he had not been born and raised there.Childhood experiences were the basis of their deepest friendships.

Many of us will never have this type of long term familiarity friendship.We have moved around too much. This creates markets for many types of newfriendships. Networking is a form of business friendship. The theme of thefriendship is scratch my back and perhaps I can scratch yours or we willboth be better off scratching each others' backs. Such friendships can belocal, state or country wide or as mine span the globe. They can be veryinformal or very formal.

The market for formal friendships has already exploded. Incredible growthof support groups such as AA are a sign of the momentum in the friendshipmarket. Such groups offer a format for formal friendships and range fromdisease support groups to abused support groups. Each offers an organizedway to have friends. The growth of these groups is not because there aremore problems than thirty years ago. The growth is because of theincreasing market for friendships.

We can see this trend spreading everywhere. For example one telephonecompany has recognized this growing trend and has successfully built itsbusiness around the idea of calling “family and friends”.


Love is an even deeper extension of togetherness and friendship. Though weoften link love with romance, it is something far deeper. Love is themoving force of humanity, the world, the universe and possibly all ofexistence. The 14th century Sufi poet, Rumi, describes love as the sparkthat gives grass the animal enthusiasm.

The market for love affects multitudes of markets, jewelry, perfume,movies, music, (most songs are about love) weddings, funerals and the home.Living in the mountains of North Carolina and Ecuador this last year hasgiven me insights about how the funeral market is changing. I have had achance to attend funerals in a modern US city and in both mountains. When aneighbor's mother passed away in North Carolina, I saw that the traditionis to dig the loved one's grave personally and bury them in the familyplot. The minister and the congregation have known the beloved their wholelives long.

In Ecuador the whole village comes out and carries their friend to thecemetery. What a reflection on how wonderfully different this is from theslick (expensive) funerals so often choreographed in our busy, modern era.Time savers such as drive through viewings, non individualized services andother efficiencies get one group out and another in as fast as possible.The car procession behind the hearse is gone. Waiting for the body to belaid to rest is eliminated. Time for the service is limited by the timeuntil the next customer can come in. Sympathy is for sale but the serviceis set by market conditions not love nor the loved one's grief.Yet this is the way the world has been going and though we may not likethis, change will remain for some time to come.

Watching what we like and don't like is one secret in investing success.Changes bring new cultures but also counter cultures. Big banks areefficient and reduce banking costs, but also create markets for smallcommunity banks where you can still talk to your banker.

Impersonal funerals may lead to a counter market where thecommercialization is taken out of this rite of death. I for example predictthat books on how to bury your loved one personally will do quite well.Land in the country for family burial plots and simpler cremations followedby a country like service out of the city are the types of counter servicesthat are likely to rise.

Smart investors spot both the trends and counter trends and can make moneyin both ways. So watch for ways to make money in old fashioned funerals.But watch for the modern trends to continue too.

If the world becomes a more mobile, busier, crowded place, the trend ofmore efficient, time saving funerals will also rise. There could be massfunerals where a group of people are buried in one service. This is not asfar fetched as it may seem. This type of funeral would reduce costs andcould fill needs for love and togetherness. Family members, especiallythose who are not from an the area could assure a well attended funeral andbe together with others suffering in similar sad circumstances whilereducing costs at the same time.

I use the word if because the market for love could push society in a quitedifferent direction from the commercial trends we have seen over the past100 years. I will review the potential of this totally different trend in amoment. First, I want to stress that the key here is we all need love. Nosong ever stated a truth better than the song “What the World Needs Now isLove Sweet Love, That's the Only Thing That There's Just too Little of”. Nomatter what technology brings, no matter how fast the world turns, onething we can be sure of is that everyone will be seeking in one way oranother to receive and express love.

Investors and businesses should never forget this truth! On one hand we cansee that, as with the friendship market, the love market is skewing in thedirection of organized love.

Our fast paced lives make it increasingly difficult to be together andexpress our love in traditional ways. As we have less time to spend in ourhouse we will spend more making the house a symbol of family togetherness.Houses will become more than status symbols they will become love symbols(matching accessories, communal living rooms, etc.) Look at who isadvertising in many, many publications and you will see ads for new moderndesigned, super comfort beds. This is partly created by a growing marketcaused by sleeplessness in an increasingly hectic, unknown and worrisomeworld, but is also due in part to the love market. The bed is a symbol oflove, the place where couples spend time together.

Perfume and chocolate shops abound in airports so that overworkedexecutives, forced away from home for longer than desired can easily returnwith these tokens of love. Expect jewelry shops to grow in airports as well.Love is the key market for the Disney corporation, its theme parks andmovies offering organized ways that parents can express love for their kids.Film manufacturers that succeed also know that love is more important thanthe quality of film. People take pictures at love events (family reunions,holidays, vacations, birthdays, etc.) and want these pictures back quicklyso they can affirm again and again their love.

Carry this thought along the avenues of modern technology and you canunderstand the phenomenon of family home pages. Millions have been postedon the web. Why would someone go to the trouble of putting their familytales and pictures into a computer? This is a modern way of saying, “Seehow much love we have”.

In the future psychologists may look back and talk about the movie “YouHave Mail” as a harbinger of what was to come. We have moved from mailorder brides to email relationships.

But make no mistake about it, these love markets are supported by thedesire to meet and fall in love. Just as in “You Have Mail” the users ofelectronic getting together services eventually want (at some level) thevirtual experience to become physical.

This also explains the explosive growth of false love, such as telephonesex and Internet and movie porn. These relationships may remain virtualporn but are still supported by the need for love. Eporn by the way isquite different than some aspects of live porn. Strip joints, etc. areoften a place where buddies (men or women) get together. In this instancestrip joints are a theme for togetherness. The computer on the other handis currently a solitary instrument and the user of this type of porn isexpressing a deeper need than the groups that visit the strips.

Perhaps we should examine how large a market will develop for a differenttype of group computer use where the group is together at one keyboard andscreen rather than being at opposite ends of a computer. We can see theunderlying desire for making the computer a more social instrument with thegrowth of computer cafes where the solitary nature of computer use isjuxtaposed with the need for togetherness.

There is another far pleasanter aspect in the development of the lovemarket which is the revival of spirituality. Humanity's affluence hasallowed us to see that logic, science and affluence don't have all theanswers we are allowed to live more in our imagination. Consumers in thesixth era will place more value on intuition and beliefs that seem to defysocially accepted norms or scientific standards. They will respect theirfeelings more and their thought processes less. They will understand betterhow little their brain can really compute compared to what their entirebeing can know. Consumers will become more holistic and do more based onwhat they feel. Values will become much more important than things andprocesses more valuable than products.

All of these are signs that there will be a fall in the demand for stuffwhile the demand for services in these many markets grow. We'll want tosurround ourselves in memories instead of things!

To use this knowledge look in your heart. What do you love? What do youknow? This is where the answers that can lead you to profits in theseareas of great potential lay.

Until next message, good global investing and business!