Tag Archives: Consumers

Social Peacocks: Social Media Display and Brand Affiliation in 2011

Back in 1959, Erving Goffman published a book entitled ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’, which, amongst other things, explored the theme that we ‘perform’ different roles dependent on specific ‘stages’ and situations we find ourselves in.

Although Goffman’s lauded name has become synonymous with this sociological concept, this is a theme that has run throughout history. Plato spoke of the ‘stage of human life’, whilst Shakespeare penned the pertinent phrase “all the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players”.

It’s now 2011 and with the advent of social media, the concept of displaying ourselves on a stage has become more pertinent than ever before. We live in a world that is permanently switched-on; ever-connected. Sharing all aspects of our lives, from big news such as engagements and pregnancies to banal trivia such as what we are watching on TV, sharing on the social stage has become very much de rigeur.

With over 600,000,000 active users, Facebook has rapidly risen in less than a decade to become arguably one of the biggest ‘stages’ in modern life. Our social circles are no longer limited to close friends we see regularly; instead we can now ‘perform’ to old school ‘friends’ (I use the term loosely), casual acquaintances and old work colleagues as part of an ever-increasing audience viewing multiple ‘stages’.

But over the past two years, social media marketing has also made significant strides, with brands and businesses seeping osmotically into our online lives. The updates we receive from friends and family are now intertwined with communications from retailers, car companies, food brands, charities and local restaurants – in short, anyone that we actively choose to ‘like’.

Whilst recent research shows that many users are motivated to ‘like’ brands and businesses for the chance to win prizes and receive exclusive discounts, research has also started to highlight the growing trend in ‘liking’ brands in order to visibly display association with that brand to a peer network on social media channels.

This form of ‘display to convey’ is nothing new: take coffee tables adorned with meticulously arranged ‘high-brow’ literature / magazines; t-shirts adorned with branded logos; carrier bags displaying which shops we have just frequented. All around us, we display our consumer preferences through related collateral, be this actual or aspirational.

And this age-long trend has continue into the social sphere. Whether it’s using geo-locations to ‘check-in’ at a trendy bar or ‘liking’ a fashionable brand on Facebook (Apple, Aston Martin, Tag Heur et al), we are now sharing more and more of our consumer choices with a much wider audience. Why?

I conducted some research in various LinkedIn groups, asking the question, “Why do you click ‘like’ on a brand’s Facebook page?”, which threw up (amongst others) the two following responses:

“I already feel a big connection with the brand and want to let people know I like it.”

“The reason I did [like a page] was much more related to the identification I have with the brand rather than a special feeling […] they are a reference for me.”

Even from these two ad hoc quotes, we can glean that social media users (which in 2011, comprises the vast majority of us) are building, constructing and displaying their chosen ‘identities’ on one of the world’s biggest stages. Humans have always desired to display a side to themselves, be it status, wealth or sexuality – however the advent of display in social media has given rise to what I call, the social peacock.

I’m not for one moment claiming that this is the sole reason for consumers to ‘like’ a brand’s page. As previously stated, material incentives such as prizes and discounts are huge ‘like-drivers’. Social channels have opened up another level to customer service, with dedicated teams on Twitter, Facebook and Skype becoming standard practice for companies in the Utilities sector.

But for many social media users, ‘liking’ brands has become a way to collect badges and trophies that speak about them as a person; it allows them to project a desired image of themselves and their life choices. Like it or not, we live in a global economy driven by capitalism, and much of our perceived identity is intrinsically linked to the brands (as opposed to products) that we consume.

Who knows what the future may hold, especially since one of the rising trends in social media is the focus on local communities and niche ‘pockets’ of users sharing niche interests. But for now, clicking ‘like’ on a brand’s Facebook page remains very much a way of conveying choice, status and image – and marketers would do well to ensure that ‘social peacocks’ are one of the key groups they focus on.

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Gillette: Making Social Media the Call To Action

Aside from being, well, rather damn funny, Gillette’s latest advert tells us a lot about the validity of social media:

What is the call to action of this advert?

Visit the Facebook page.

More and more brands are using social media as valid platforms on which to generate buzz and build consumer engagement.

Traditional advertising continues to create ‘noise’, making various ‘announcements’.

Social media however, breeds ENGAGEMENT.

And THAT’S marketing Mecca.

Digital Democracy: Traditional Marketing & the new Public Sphere?

Back in the 1400s, Constantine battled vainly to cling onto a crumbling, outdated empire that had finally lost its way in a modern and evolving world.  Like Constantine, many marketers also remain in the past, burying their heads in the sand and trying desperately to cling onto past glories.  Are they all doomed?  Or does the traditional marketing empire simply need to refresh its politics?

Although a tad dramatic, the analogy does illustrate the futility of remaining rooted firmly in the past.  I’m not for one moment claiming that traditional methods of marketing are now redundant – not only would such a claim be foolish, but also very, very wrong.  However, the advent of Social Media has undoubtedly ushered in a new era of ‘digital democracy’ and as marketers, we have to listen to the masses – on their terms.

The days of residing in ivory towers and waiting on messengers to bring us news of focus groups, consumer opinions and insights has been surpassed by a fundamental shift in access between the rulers and the ruled.  Social Media is the catalyst of this revolution, enabling the masses to scale the city walls and breach marketing strongholds – in 2010, they literally walk among us.

So how should we, as marketers, react to this?  Yes, things are fundamentally changing, but this is not necessarily for the worst.  Rather than issuing one-way messages dictatorially, we now have the opportunity to lead organic, ground-up discussions that appeal to, and involve, the very people that matter most.  We have permission to walk amongst our customers’ playgrounds – Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, BeBo, LinkedIn, Blogs – and speak directly to the consumer on a one-to-one basis.

So you see, in reality, traditional marketing is far from over.  Social Media may well be a prevalent beast roaming the marketing landscape – but it continues to have its leash held firmly by marketing reason, strategy, channels and tradition.  We are entering – nay, are already IN – a brave new world.  ‘Digital Democracy’ has arrived.  Social Media marketing may not be the ‘right’ channel for your marketing campaigns – but its power as a public sphere in which to listen to your citizens simply cannot be ignored.

Viva la revolution.