Tracey Follows, Head of Planning, VCCP
The more I think about the future of money; the future of rewards; the future of social media and the future of mobile....the more i think that we're talking about just one thing, not four.
Last week I saw WIRED's editor, David Rowan, deliver his trends talk at the IPA 44, and whilst it covered a lot of trends we've all been thinking about for a while, the sheer number of examples he gave of initiatives, start-ups, services and platforms that are already live and exhibiting these trends really bought home the sheer pace and acceleration of everyday change that we are now undergoing.
He mentioned Blippy which publishes your all your purchasing behaviour in an attempt to harness the idea of social currency and leverage it to encourage others who trust in you to purchase in similar ways. Swipely geolocates your spending on your cards suggesting new places and products to followers. And Whipcar, a neighbour-to-neighbour car rental scheme where you can set your own prices dependent upon whether you need to use someone's car for hours, days or weeks. No waste. No risk. No doubt. The common theme that I took away was that we are seeing a massive transformation in the very idea of value.
Now, add onto all that, the idea that we are giving away more and more personal data to platforms such as Facebook and Google, who will soon recognise our identity via face recognition, our personal mobile number, or our unique position in a social circle. As we start to barter for the best deals on products and services, and we use our data (and those of others) to do so - whether that is our location, our connections, our social influence, our monthly subscription, our user content generation...and lots more besides - aren't we developing our own currencies with which we trade?
The idea that currency should be macro seems to me to belong to the twentieth century. In the twenty-first century, we are developing our own indivdual currencies.
For example, say I have an mobile phone on particular carrier, and i spend £45 a month, and because I use their a location based deals service at least 10 times a month, and follow them on twitter and tweet to my 1,000 follows every time i redeem their offer or promotion - I am worth something more as a customer to them than someone who has no social footprint, doesn't use services beyond calling, but still pays £45 a month on their contract. I have developed my own currency with which I should be able to trade with that carrier. I agree to tweet every redemption if they cut my bill by 10%, for example.
Similarly, anyone starting to use an NFC transactional system on their mobile might leverage their purchasing behaviour (whether number of transactions or total value of transactions), their social footprint and the number of '1's they register across the internet, to earn them a better deal when it comes to purchases they might come to make through the Google ecosystem.
It's not difficult to see that every individual will have their own 'value' and will be seen as being of a different 'value' by brands. It's a new type of exchange in which we start to use our personal data and digital behaviour as leverage for a better deal. And brands use the same personal data to keep us loyal through rewards.
So the question is will each of us develop our own currency, that is uniquely tied to our digital identity? Will I become my own currency, the value of which is based on my social footprint, the way I spend money, the things I spend it on, the amount of sustainable purchases I make, the number of positive ratings and reviews iI contribute across the web? Will 'tracey-lou's be worth more or less than pounds or pence? and how will I rank against other inPiduals' currencies. And who will monitor the exchange rate of a tracey-lou v another currency? Google? Amazon? Facebook?
A world of 7 billion currencies is a difficult thing to contemplate but the more we do, the quicker we'll get to a world in which currency is no longer about commonality, but has individuality at its heart.