It’s been a couple of decades now since the philosopher Zygmunt Bauman popularized the term “liquid” with his book Liquid Modernity (and later Liquid Love, Liquid Life, Liquid Fear and Liquid Times). In his books Bauman describes how the change from solid to liquid modernity has created a new and unprecedented setting for individuals, organisations and society with a series of challenges never experienced before. In order to thrive in liquid times, one must flow freely, abandon old shapes and adapt readily.
We recently sat virtually over Zoom with Juan Ciapessoni, Co-founder and Head of Innovation of The Electric Factory, and “liquid” was exactly the word he employed to describe the company he founded alongside Avedis Boudakian back in 2002.
Strategy, creativity and technology are at the core of The Electric Factory, but all else is quite malleable. And that just might be one key component of their successful trajectory. Read below our conversation with Juan in its entirety.
Q: Juan, The Electric Factory is a very successful company that has adapted quite a lot over the years. This shapeshift – if you will – has always been the plan or has it come about out of necessity?
A: The Electric Factory, aka THEF, has been innovative since its birth. Founded during the early years of interactivity and digital. I still remember that time where we should explain to people what a hosting or a website was, specially in the advertising and marketing world where we started first to develop disruptive solutions. This took us to be creators of the future of others in terms of interactive experiences and user experiences. Little by little technology started to spread into other non traditional fields and we were ready with experience to share our knowledge and produce amazing work in many different fields. This organically pushed us into new capabilities and a continuous adaptation. Over all these last 20 years we have been combining Technology, Strategy and Creativity in many different shapes and forms.
Q: What are these forms the company has taken over the years and why does it work so well for you?
A: We started with the simplest outputs like websites, banners and Installations during the early 2000’s, then little bit little Post Production and Film capabilities were needed too as the internet connection and processors were getting better year after year. Those were years where the Interactive Experiences were an amazing Multimedia Experience for users and Brands were betting on the Return over the Interaction rather over the Investment. After that the social media came and we decided to be part of that shift and we decided to incorporate also Social Media content and media capabilities, this works for many years. Almost at the same time Data became the king and we developed our own tool for Social Listening and Business Intelligence which has been very successful in all the region since then. Then the IOT ( Internet of Things ) arrived and we set up an amazing team and place where we could developed some of the most disruptive projects in the Product Design and Technology field. All of these combined under a same roof growing based on the disruptive challenges we are facing all day for clients took us to a hybrid model that goes from IOT and DATA to Interactive Installations and Mixed Reality Capabilities. After all of these years I’m convinced that this model worked because our credibility and delivery standards. When we commit to something we deliver. And when we dream, we dream big cause we know anything is possible.
Q: Despite the prestige and financial accomplishments, The Electric Factory remains independent. Why?
A: We have been unpredictable and curious for many years. This took us easily to work absolutely for almost any kind of client from any industry. In order to do this you need to adapt fast and find quickly the best way to do it. Being independent gave us this way of doing things, our way of doing things, and built this expertise and reputation. After 20 years of history we are now focusing more in the structure and leaving behind this Indie way of doing things, but getting amazing results with our work and finance.
P: In your opinion, what’s the key for a company to remain highly adaptable?
A: After 20 years of playing with the future, we are now implementing stuff that we did 8-9 years ago in worse condition than now. Living 5 years ahead and thinking that way give us the advantage of having a lot of experience and credibility to convinced brands and clients to do it this way that the other one. We know what we are talking about and we have been doing this for more than 20 years already.
Q: The Electric Factory has won many awards in various fields. What are your thoughts on those awards?
A: I remember when we started to submit our own work, as for many years we were white label for most of our clients. We had this dream to prove that our delivery and solutions can be awarded in many other festivals than the Advertising ones and we started little by little to be recognized in other fields like SXSW two times, Fast Company World Changing Idea, MTV VMA , Cannes, AICP NEXT , One Show, New York Festivals among others including Patents and IP’s. For me this proves that our capabilities and talent can definitely change the world in many different angles, and that we are ready to help with any problem from any industry.
Q: You have used the word “liquid” to describe The Electric Factory, and in the beginning of this article we mentioned Zygmunt Bauman and his “liquid” book series. But there’s also a quote from Bruce Lee (“be water, my friend”) that ties into you company’s concept. Between Bauman and Lee, who do you think expresses better the spirit of The Electric Factory?
A: I’m a Bruce Lee fan, and we believe that we can and should take any form in order to deliver and accomplish our goals. We are The Electric Factory and we will take the needed form to solve your problems. The output’s shape and path might be different but our essence and delivery will be the same.