Need to Know
26 : 07 : 21

A new landscape for London’s Oxford Street, Airbnb’s Olympic programme bolsters digital fandom and British youth block people based on politics.

An artificial hill enticing shoppers back to Oxford Street

Marble Arch Mound by MVRDV, London Marble Arch Mound by MVRDV, London
Marble Arch Mound by MVRDV, London Marble Arch Mound by MVRDV, London
Marble Arch Mound by MVRDV, London Marble Arch Mound by MVRDV, London

Rotterdam and London – As London’s famous retail strip, Oxford Street, seeks to rebuild interest amid easing pandemic restrictions, Westminster City Council has unveiled a viewpoint and visitor attraction in the adjacent area of Marble Arch. Taking the form of a 25-metre tall artificial hill, The Marble Arch Mound is a ticketed experience for people to experience 360-degree views of the city and enjoy a café, shop and exhibition space.

The temporary installation created by architects MVRDV provides a new tourism destination while injecting greenery and space to rest into the area. In an age when bricks-and-mortar retailers are finding it challenging to attract footfall, this activation reflects the ways in which brands are commodifying outdoor space to foster play, exploration and community.

Looking beyond its positive implications for retailers in the area, this project also echoes the ideas we explore in Equilibrium Cities, in which urban centres are transforming into blended cultural realms to give citizens a reason to go back into cities.

Strategic opportunity

Future city planners have an opportunity to work with retailers on branded or sponsored third spaces that attract audiences beyond traditional shopfronts and tourist sites.

Ning streetwear appeals to China’s patriotic youth

Ning, China. Photography by Lou Escobar Ning, China. Photography by Lou Escobar
Ning, China. Photography by Lou Escobar Ning, China. Photography by Lou Escobar

China – In response to a growing interest in cultural identity among young people in China, Ning is a luxury streetwear brand celebrating ancient tradition through a youthful lens. Its debut collection of silk separates, quilted outerwear and tracksuits features prints inspired by the Forbidden City Palace, alongside traditional Chinese iconography. It also employs ancient design techniques: its silk is grown, spun and assembled in China as part of a partnership with prestigious silk producer Huang Jin.

For a new generation of Chinese consumers, Ning celebrates patriotism and craftsmanship while also connecting with the nation's global diaspora. A statement on the brand’s website explains that Ning is ‘inspired by both the imperial history and pop-cultural expressions of Chinese communities all over the world…’ In this way, the brand aligns with the growing appeal of Hanfu – traditional Chinese dress – which we examine in our research into China’s youth.

As the Chinese luxury market moves beyond its reliance on Western brands, a growing number of independent designers are reclaiming traditional practices and systems from the region’s rich cultural history.

Strategic opportunity

Fashion brands looking to enter the Chinese market – and particularly those targeting young people – should avoid reliance on Western heritage and consider collaborating with local artisans to create culturally nuanced designs.

Airbnb’s athlete educators boost Olympic hype

Tokyo – Bolstering the buzz around the Tokyo Olympic Games in lieu of conventional audience participation, home rental platform Airbnb is offering a range of immersive Olympics experiences online.

Together with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), its Tokyo Together programme features educational and entertaining virtual sessions hosted by athletes and behind-the-scenes event staff.

With audiences limited owing to ongoing pandemic restrictions, Tokyo Together also highlight's Airbnb's role as a purveyor of experience. ‘In light of the current circumstances, we wanted to create a unique alternative to bring together athletes and fans while keeping the same sense of discovery and exclusivity,’ says Kirsty Coventry, chair of the IOC Athletes Commission.

Through this initiative, Airbnb tunes into the concept of digital fandom, highlighting the ways that live fan experiences are evolving to unite people – even remotely. And with the events sector forecast to take on a hybrid future, such concepts could outlast their pandemic convenience.

Tokyo Together hosted by Airbnb Tokyo Together hosted by Airbnb

Strategic opportunity

Whether sporting events or live experiences, in the future immersive, technology-driven elements can help organisations to elevate digital experiences, making them as appealing and nuanced as live events.

Stat: Political cancel culture common among British youth

Deutsche Telekom in collaboration with Saatchi & Saatchi and Billie Eillish, Germany Deutsche Telekom in collaboration with Saatchi & Saatchi and Billie Eillish, Germany

In Britain, cancel culture is increasing among young people where differences in political opinions and standpoints are concerned. The social media phenomenon of cancel culture – blocking or unfollowing someone – is leading to concerns about freedom to express controversial views, according to a study by American pollster Frank Luntz, with young people especially driving this behaviour.

When asked if people had stopped talking to someone in person or online because of something political they said, over half (53%) of 18–29-year-olds said yes, compared with 33% of 30–49-year-olds and 18% of 50–64-year-olds. Meanwhile, more than one third of those surveyed said they were more afraid today about expressing an unpopular view than they were a few years ago.

To counteract such bold statements, media brands can facilitate healthy debate among audiences with opposing opinions. For more, explore Perversity Media within our Resilience Culture macrotrend.

Strategic opportunity

While social media algorithms tend to create echo chambers for users, try to actively support the exchange of opposing ideas through dedicated campaigns and online spaces.

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