The Art of Owning Nothing – Part 2

Everything I’ll ever really need, can fit inside a backpack.


That was my ‘aha moment’ when I was packing to travel across Europe and Africa three years ago. I realized that I don’t need that much to be happy in life. And that I didn’t need to come home to any of the “stuff” I was leaving behind. After all, home isn’t “stuff”; it is people, and the feeling we associate with them.


Marie Kondo – whose last name has become a verb – has a philosophy that summarizes just that: keep only items that ‘bring joy’. This way of living takes its roots from a broader decluttering trend which aims to help us overcome our engrained cognitive biases, such as the sunk cost effect (“I’ve paid for that, so I should keep it because it still has a value”), the status quo bias (“I should keep that stuff, that’s what I always did”), and the endowment effect (“I know I won’t use it anymore, but it cost me a lot so I can’t throw it away).


Fortunately, we live in a new era where we’ll be able to live an even richer life with fewer possessions. What does it mean for our organizations and brands? How can we grasp this new mindset and use it to thrive in the marketplace?  



Put Experience on a Pedestal

Having a great product is important. But in order to get traction in the market, you must focus on how it could be linked to a broader experience. Let’s take Rapha, the luxury British cycling brand. Their bikes are well made, no doubt about it. But that’s only a means to an end. What makes the brand stand out is all the effort the company has put into build exceptional clubhouses – ‘third places’ where road cyclists and fans can meet for organized rides, participate in workshops, take part in exclusive events, or simply sip a finely brewed coffee while chatting about inner tubes.


Think OOO  

With the advancement of technology, people can obviously now work from literally anywhere. While travelling, I’ve met so many people who were running their business remotely – managing employees and clients in flip flops between two surf sessions. No office space needed, or even a home. These digital nomads – who continue to blur the line between work and travel – have very specific needs they expect your organization to fill. That’s where companies such as WeWork (and now WeLive, it’s dorm-style micro apartment complexes) and Equinox Fitness are leading the pack with membership-style hospitality services that enable guests to move freely from one property to another. Turns out that it’s not only our smartphones that are mobile.


Create a Community – that gathers in person

All these technological advancements have a downside, though. Even if these platforms enable us to stay connected with our communities 24/7, we’ve never felt as isolated. That’s why we now feel a huge craving for IRL (in real life) connections. A latent need that hasn’t fallen on deaf ears when it comes to brands like Bumble (with the Hive) and Glossier (with fried chicken pop-ups) creating events where their members can actually meet face to face. The result is a set of communities that keep growing thanks to the passion of brand advocates who are avidly spreading the word.   


As the 21st century continues to turn our beliefs on their heads, our approach to consumption seems to be evolving from possessions to minimalism to something else. No matter our age, we’ve come to figure out that even the most important possessions we could have in life – such as a house – will not protect us from all the arbitrary circumstances that could happen in the future (hello, 2008 financial crisis). So instead we’ve decided to focus on the most stable assets we will ever have: our relationships.


Philippe Gagnon

Part 1, by Wahn Yoon >>