Flash Mobs: Killing Ennui for PR & Pleasure

Last year I told you that flash mobs- for good or bad- would be big, after the success of the 2009 T-Mobile flashdance in Liverpool Station (How many views does it have on youtube? Guess! 100,000? 1,000,000? 10,000,000? Nope; it’s at 36,000,000 and counting!)

The Bad: Flash Mob thefts saw a surge. I expect FlashMob thefts will level off; they’re more about the thrill than the ‘free booty’. Typically some of the mob’s own participants film the event, leaving a permanent digital record. Can you say ‘instant prosecution’? Being filmed at the scene robbing a store is decent enough evidence for any judge or jury.

The Good: The positive versions of Flash Mobs are growing fast in variety, geography, sponsors. Almost a quarter million youtube hits for a music-loving couple’s Copenhagen wedding. They received a unique and memorable wedding gift- a flash mob Les Mis recital

Perhaps you haven’t seen innocent flash events, now involve a wide variety of events such as…. doing nothing, You might not understand they have the power to burn an experience into memory. And go viral. Sure, they’re not really ‘flash’ at all -except in execution. Months of behind-the-scenes prep are needed for a Flash Event. But the idea is to LOOK like it’s impromptu ie not give the audience cues that what’s going on is anything but spontaneous. Flash productions are like Flash Stores- didn’t expect to find it there, but voila- surprise.

Life contains many negative surprises- surprise tax bills, cancer, terrorist IED’s, freak storms. Folks need more upside-spontaneity. Corporations certainly see the potential of flash events to fill a void (and benefit by doing so). There are now many reasons to sponsor a flash event (legal suits notwithstanding- eg I’m shocked this video was OK’d by corporate lawyers for fear an onlooker might intervene or have a heart attack).

Given the popularity of PopUp Stores, Flash Events, Adventure Travel, etc, one might ponder the modern world’s state of ennui. Is life now simply too boring? Folks who volunteer for Greenpeace vessels, or protest new settlements in the Occupied Territories, etc have a do-good motivation but they probably also are plain bored with what a modern (nonmilitary) life offers.

There’s a boom in video games GTA, COD or Assassin’s Creed- ie ‘virtual’ adventure. There’s a boom in (thoroughly safe) Adventure Travel, Adventure Tours, Adventure Experiences, battle re-enactments, para-military training, Krav, MMA, etc. Participants hanker for a life less ordinary- perhaps some risk, or the appearance of risk [I'm probably safer on my ziplines adventures than I am when driving or biking in the city, but that's not how it feels when I'm gliding at 50 mph, some 500 feet above canyon rocks.]

Other implications? One is certainly salty -the Ocean- a new frontier to ‘discover’, covering 3/4 of our planet, yet we know it less well than we do the moon. Arthur C Clarke was an advocate of learning more about the ocean- its geology, terrain, ec0sytems, undiscovered beauty. Also: the threats in it, and to it. The ocean promises future generations new learning, new adventure, fame. And risk.

Some part of the human soul seems increasingly unfulfilled in our safe, repetitive, predictable, mundane existence. It’s inevitable that humankind (and commercial markets!) will find ways to satisfy that need. In fact, many different ways of satisfying this need.

THAT’s my recommendation of the day, to you Entrepreneurs. What can you do to make customers lives more interesting or even adventurous? To put their ennui on the back burner, if even for a few memorable minutes?

Steven Litt