We are all creators. For much of the past decade, technology has created a shift in consumer behavior away from products and towards the creation of content in the form of pictures, videos, blogs, etc. Until the past decade, much of modern Western society was driven by the need or want for products, otherwise known as ‘consumerism.’
I’m not going to argue about whether the products created in the last century were useful or wasteful but what’s true is that consumerism built its home on the consumption of both. The George Carlin skit on ‘stuff’ perfectly encompasses what we’ve done for the past 100 years. However, in the past decade, the advent of social media technology and event software to tell a company’s story has created a new type of currency and a validator for a company.
In the past, we’ve been fed the notion of buying quality products based on some universal standard; so much so that the Los Angeles-based Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) decided that we are living in “the most materially rich society in global history, with light-years more possessions per average family than any preceding society.” As a result, the era of ‘Mad Men’ helped to create the idea that social value was crafted through the consumption of great products. These agencies shifted the conversation about products from categories of wants to that of needs. For example, if I ‘wanted’ a new watch, then a great marketer would have made me ‘need’ a Rolex. Those people with the best products had the best story to tell.
What’s needed now is a sense of identity that stands apart from the crowd. While we are all creating an identity that is being broadcast to friends and strangers alike, our uniqueness is a direct reflection of what we do and who we do it with more than what products we buy.
Nowadays, companies must interact with their customer in the real world and capture those interactions through social media technology. Madison Avenue is still a hub for marketing but relevance has shifted and morphed over to Hollywood and Silicon Valley because companies and consumers have started to place emphasis on ephemeral experiences to tell a story. Look at how movies are marketed today – Anchorman 2, Carrie or Lego the Movie. Products, at one time, created identity, hype and meaning but this has been replaced by short, real-world stories.
In today’s market, it’s still important to create a great branded product but you better have a great event or experience to back it up. Users are expected to showcase their experiences. Technology platforms like Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat and Eventbrite give us tools to create and memorialize our experiences with our friends and clients, our interactions with others and our views on the world.
Products are still needed but the trend towards experiences to showcase our wonderful lives is helping to drive brands forward. Social media technology has made us want to capture a great moment rather than spend time getting more stuff. More followers, likes and eyeballs are what all businesses desire nowadays. A case in point is GoPro, the leader in the ‘activity capture’ space. The fanaticism for the product has been driven by consumer social media videos that have created a following (here, here and here). It’s not surprising. It is, after all, a camera. However, the real story is the marketing made possible by great videos and loyal consumers.
A company’s social media strategy is a very real and emotional part of marketing in that there is a ‘me’ factor, where your likes and trust help to create a great product. These shareable moments are where we become part of the social media team for the product. The companies that create these products place a premium on better experiences while consumers help to make them ‘unique’ experiences.
I’ve come to understand the effort that companies put into context, marketing and technology to create the best experience for their audience: It’s a fine line between adding and destroying value but it’s a distinct way to create an experiential loyalty in a target audience. Implicit in the brand experiences is an idea of what kind of person you are and what kind of products you like to be seen with.
Overall though, the function of branded products as indicators of quality is declining. With a new world of social media information, advertisers are able to better define their target audiences and deliver more relevant messages to the right people. Events and experiences will evolve into the best common denominator to create great products and loyal fans.