Following the success of IN:WA’s first live event of 2022, Dan Bradley, Director of AlphaLab at Principals, explains how place, product, price and promotion are aligning to provide Western Australians the career opportunity of a lifetime without having to leave their homes.
Not long ago, there was a clear rite of passage for talented Western Australians. To gain world-class experience working with big brands on big projects – which didn’t require a high-vis vest – you had to hop on a plane overseas, or, at least, head east.
But now that’s no longer the case. Today, we work here and deliver there.
This has been my reality for the past year. Just before Covid hit, I moved my family from Perth to Melbourne to launch Alphalab at strategic design and brand agency Principals. After enduring months of lockdown, 18 months later, we moved back. And we haven’t looked back.
Work from home has evolved into work from anywhere – which offers a huge opportunity for talent in WA. What may seem on the surface like a fad is the convergence of three or four smaller shifts, each of which has been accelerating.
To help understand these shifts, it’s worth noting that they align neatly with the classic four Ps of the marketing mix.
Consider the first of the four Ps: Place, both in the sense of planet and home. In the 2020s, we are dealing with two key crises that have converged to shift how we feel about place: Covid and climate change. There’s the growing realisation that we must design a better way forward, to create a future that doesn’t rely on costly commuting, unsustainable car use, building on flood plains or in bushfire-prone areas.
When you can work from home, it shatters the accepted paradigms of what home could be. See the rise of van life, permanent Airbnb-ers and permalancer house sitters. The flight from cities to the regions has fuelled a significant remote housing boom.
After all, who wants to pick up their laptop, commute then sit down and open it back up to jump on Teams or Zoom? The frame has shifted, and hours spent travelling into densely packed cities feels less exciting when the idea of close contact becomes a negative rather than a positive.
Even clients don’t want to be in their offices unless it’s worthwhile. I’ve seen this firsthand as we’re working to design new services and experiences for brands with many clients launching projects to reimagine the role of their workplace because enticing a new generation of talent into the office has become much harder.
This feeds into our second P: Product, which is now more properly termed ‘Service’. Because almost all knowledge work today can be done anywhere there’s Wi-Fi and electricity. When you combine that kind of work with cheapening technology, subscription software, and collaboration platforms, talent has realised it can become free-range and there’s no way to fence it in.
So now brands that have focussed on transforming their digital infrastructure need to attract and retain talent to drive their business forward. Anyone that has found it hard to recruit recently might want to consider a more strategic approach starting with redefining the employee value proposition, then reimagining culture to align with that. It’s one way to ensure you are truly differentiating the whole experience to build lasting relationships – no easy task when most experiences are delivered through a screen.
Attracting any new talent means inspiring people with new ways of working, helping foster a growth mindset, shaping new cadences, forming new team structures along with designing adaptive spaces.
Our third P: Price is simple – it comes down to value. This is one key shift that I see accelerating, driven by independent consultancies and the rise of collectives, teams of talent that have realised together they can outpace traditional business models.
These teams will become the giant slayers of tomorrow because they run leaner and don’t have huge overheads. Now, independents can build partnerships that reach around the world to create work that matters. They can work with smart, like-minded people to deliver for passionate clients, without worrying about that infamously large network margin.
There’s another key driver for Price. Selling intelligence interstate creates a more level field. The hidden costs of the past such as pollution and waste are going to become very costly for enterprises causing them.
Working to elevate sustainability and the circular economy is crucial for brands wanting to transition and survive and talent deciding if they want to work with you or for you. It’s no longer uncommon to hear stories of people turning down work because of the environmental impact a business has.
By now you might be thinking about the final P: Promotion. This is perhaps the most easily visible dynamic. Sites from Behance to GitHub (ignoring Fiverr for obvious reasons) allows permalancers to collaborate on projects, for side hustles to become self-sustaining, for talent to decide what time zone they want to work in, the days of the week they’re available, which side-hustle they are focusing on in their downtime. The project teams we build (based on trust) will ultimately inform the kinds of work we do well.
So, the meaning of Place has shifted, the Product has evolved, the Price has increased while Promotion got cheaper which means the balance of power is shifting, for the first time in a long time. Social mobility has been falling, but we may see that turn around too.
Working on eastern (or US time) from here in WA, means we can start work at 7 or 8am before picking the kids up from school or going to the beach at 3pm. Perhaps even grab a Friday afternoon beer in Leederville, before the 9-5’ers turn out.
We’re building a new rite of passage and all I can say is cheers WA, it’s great to be back.
Dan Bradley is Director of AlphaLab at Principals, building brands through service design and experience innovation.