Hipsters, hippies, beatniks, bohemians, romantics… counterculture or ‘fringe’ groups have been identified and well documented for centuries. However as technology advances more and more rapidly, giving people access to greater and greater amounts of information, a seeming non-stop flood of “new” cultural groups are emerging. In light of these shifts some are claiming the relationship between fringe and mainstream culture is now dramatically different.

On Tuesday January 17th three speakers with different points of view joined APG Canada’s new Event Committee Chair, Matt Foulk and over 60 attendees to explore the validity of these claims for the first APG event of 2017.

Up first was Michael Barry Jr., a former professional cyclist and owner of Mariposa Bicycles, a high-end, Canadian bespoke bicycle manufacturer. Hearing Michael speak passionately about his family’s niche business, their values and beliefs, and their unwavering commitment to quality over profit, highlighted to the audience one of the key factors that helps bring a fringe group to the attention of the mainstream – conviction.

Our second speaker Matthew Lawrence discussed The Sound’s approach to understanding fringe groups, or as they provocatively like to call them, ‘the people that strategy forgets’. Matthew claimed that talking to people with so-called “fringe” interests can often be more insightful than the mainstream because “they have more skin in the game… so they’re doing it with a different level of focus [that can ultimately] help shape our strategies.” He also encouraged the audience to challenge typical or ‘predictable’ research approaches when needing to understand a target, and recruiting laterally.

Adam Green, Creative Agency Lead at Google Canada was our last speaker. He suggested that terms like “mainstream” and “fringe” are misleading, that in fact these are labels assigned by curators, tastemakers and media companies, but aren’t truly reflective of what is most popular with people. He used a variety of YouTube examples from PewDiePie through Ellen in an attempt to stress to the audience the dangerous communications trap of “designing for average – which means designing for no one”.

After a lively panel discussion with great questions from the floor, Matt closed the event by reminding the audience of our collective duty as Planners and strategists to always challenge preconceptions and stereotypes – whatever the label, and ultimately to stay curious.

We’d love to hear from you about the event and the event topic.

Drop your feedback in the comments section below or tweet us your thoughts @APGCan

About Matt Foulk

Matt Foulk has written 4 post in this blog.