The most vital currency in today’s age is expression. I found the term “expressive capital” when reading Hugh MacLeods’ book, “Evil Plans”. It represents an attribute that some companies make use of on their products. Basically, the more personality and expressiveness the product has, which resonates with you — the consumer — the more valuable that asset is. Therefore expressive capital is a relevant metric.
But let’s look at the previous types of capital:
- Human capital — since time immemorial, the workforce that one person outputted was pretty much equal to what a different one could output. Human capital was insightful in terms of “how many farmers work this land”, “how many soldiers there are in this army”, etc. and one could estimate the output of that workforce.
- Physical capital — not only people and their ability to work and produce were valuable assets, but land, factories, cattle etc. were resources, most of which could be traded in the market at profit (or loss). But this type of capital removes the time constraint that it takes for one person to do work. And it makes it easier and faster for people to reap the rewards of their labour.
- Financial capital — i.e. Currency. It removes the physical constraint of physical capital.
- Intellectual capital — Some ideas — intellectual property — are more useful than others (in certain cases, anyway). Information is power. Some ideas properly articulated and pitched are valuable to certain parties. This new level of capital removes the constraint of scarcity from financial capital. Because ideas are endless. Of course, we do need human capital and time, but some ideas are great while others suck, so there is diversity there and more importantly leverage. Things get complicated on this level, but it is also the level where we can get creative with our resources and create some valuable intellectual capital. Capital which becomes an asset and can also be sold.
- Emotional capital — this one builds on top of the other quite strongly because people get attached to ideas, symbols, values and plans (which are part of intellectual capital). The more affectionate people are towards a cause or a product, the more they will support it, promote it, recommend it and use it. Why? Because they love it. Or at least they like it. Examples are: PC vs. Mac, Marvel vs. DC, casual attire vs. professional attire vs. sports attire, etc. It is correlated more to marketing than anything else. If intellectual capital means ideas, then emotional capital is delivery of those ideas.
These capital types have developed throughout the ages, as humanity developed and society became more complex. As markets developed and had to find ways to improve and take the edge, while delivering more and better to their consumers and being more profitable for their owners.
It is worthy to note that these types of capital not only build on themselves from the bottom upwards, but also feed the chain from the top downwards:
emotional attachment — > ideas — > currency –> physical objects — > happy people 🙂
The most recent addition to all these is the Expressive Capital.
The plethora of social media activity and social campaigns causes an overflow of people that stand for causes. Many even being against each other.
But they don’t represent each and every one. Not everybody is ready to get behind just any product/brand/company just because they are bringing about a new social campaign in the midst of many others. The decisive factor is not “who is taking action?” anymore. The decisive action is “who is taking action and represents me best?”. Especially now when people are more diverse than ever in terms of the products they use.
The important thing is to recognize expressive capital as the new metric which answers the question “what % of the people will back me up on this?” and, more importantly, “what % of people resonate with my idea?”.
Gone are the days when proximity and price was the first and last factor to influence your decision making.
Gone are the days when information was scarce and well-documented opinions rare.
Now we are rapidly entering an age of transparency where honesty is not only the best policy, but the only option.
Traditionally, successful products were either ground-breakingly cheap, (like digital photography replaced physical film-based photography, or social media slowly replacing traditional phone calls) or innovative.
And creating a cheap product is not a viable plan in the market of today. Because competitors can always lower price even more, to the point where it’s not profitable anymore.
No! The solution is to bring fresh, new ideas which represent a group of people.
If your product becomes a voice for customers and can symbolize ideas that they are passionate about, then they will back up your product. They will buy it and interact with it.
It’s not something new.
People have bought merchandise and have closely followed activity of musical artists or TV shows that they felt a connection towards. Either because they find themselves in the ideas that those products represent and push to the public, or because they felt inspired by it and aspire to those ideas.
It’s also, what culture is based on. Works of art and media that connects to its audience and make an impact.
So, there is a bit of an artistic nature to expressive capital. In our age, where technology has advanced enough to provide for most necessities, the only necessity that can still be catered to is the necessity of self-expression and self-development.
Previously published at https://medium.com/@iusting20/expressive-capital-822897fb40f9