STATE OF AMERICA
In Tough Times, Americans Reward Themselves By Connecting – While a weak economy caused most consumers to cut back on non-essentials it also helped them continue to spend on devices that helped them connect with others. Thanks to the recession, people were not getting a new home in April 2010 (housing values were 30 % below their April 2006 peak) or a new car (sales were down 21% from April 2008), but that did not prevent Americans from continuing to spend on technology. When the iPad was released in April of 2010, no one thought a purchase of a gadget with a base price of $500 could be justified in the middle of a recession. Yet in the past two and a half years, Apple has sold more than 34 million iPads in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, households spent less on food, entertainment, apparel, and other categories from 2007 to 2011. Meanwhile, spending on communication devices rose more than 10% during the same period. It turns out that even in the face of scarcity, innovation and connection is a powerful attractor.
BRAVE NEW CONSUMER
The Connected Protagonist –
The fusion of the social economy and the digital communications world has created an environment from which a new generation of consumer known as the Connected Protagonist has emerged. Connected Protagonists are aggressive consumers who have an arsenal of content and communications tools that give them the unprecedented ability to bend their world to their wants and needs. These consumers are always on and technology functions
as their sixth sense. Because they see themselves as the leading man/woman in their own epic narrative, they have a role of protagonist in their own lives. This attribute has been inherent in humans ever since we gained consciousness, but the fusion with hyperconnectivity has fundamentally changed the game. Their lives now have an audience, and social platforms are their stage. Their content – the activities they participate in, the knowledge they have, the connections they make and the things that entertain them – shapes their personal story arc and defines who they are and how they are perceived by the world. As a result, Connected Protagonists’ curated content is far from arbitrary. Their “story” is as well-crafted, defined and guarded as that of the brands that try to reach them with messages about what cars to buy or what detergent to use. Brands must understand that the dynamic of “brand to audience” has shifted to “brand to Connected Protagonist to audience.” The role brands play has changed from star to supporting actor, but by playing a real part in the story of people’s lives brands can provide true value.
Mercedes Turns Viewers Into Creatives In Real Time – Advertising is getting increasingly real-time as well as more interactive. A new Mercedes campaign, targeting younger consumers, took this idea a step further. Two 60-second spots airing on consecutive commercial breaks during X Factor laid out a story about a musician and his sidekick racing to get to a secret gig. Viewers were invited to suggest the outcome of the scenario by tweeting their opinions with the hashtag #YOUDRIVE. The next night, a 90-second ad aired that included footage from the first two spots, plus the ending selected by viewers. The ads also directed viewers to a YouTube channel where they could view alternate endings and create a customized version of the spot. Rather than inserting themselves into the social thread, Mercedes fueled the social conversations by putting the viewers in the driver’s seat, literally.
Betabrand Turns Customers Into Models – Betabrand, the online clothier known for cult fashion hits like Codarounds, Bike to Work Pants and Caperons, gives customers a chance to be instant models on Betabrand.com no matter how good, bad, or outrageous their photos might be. Unlike other companies with online fan photo galleries, Betabrand actually turns customer photos into the site’s principal product images. To become Model Citizens, customers simply upload their photos to the site where they instantly get a unique product-page URL that makes their photo appear to be the lead model shot on the homepage. They can share with friends, family, and anyone else they want to impress beyond belief. Friends ask, “How in the world did you end up modeling for a clothing company?” And so the social-commerce conversation begins. Each of these photos have invited an average of 20 Facebook friends to take a look and 1 in 10 Model Citizen photos generate a trackable order from a new customer. According to founder Chris Lindland , “So many people send in shots of themselves in Betabrand products, we invented a way to turn them into our site’s superstars.”
ON THE RADAR
Read This: Today’s connected consumers are better informed and harder to please, and because of social networks they also leave a more visible evidence trail of their opinions. The Connected Customer: The Changing Nature of Consumer and Business Markets is a collection of essays by thought-leaders in the field of marketing and beyond that deals with the growing importance of connectivity. This book offers refreshing ideas for businesses currently reconsidering how to connect with consumers that are increasingly seeking to play a more participative role in their relationship with brands.
Watch This: Ragu’s “A Long Day Of Childhood” campaign highlights the awkward moments of growing up and hopes to remind viewers of how much comfort their favorite brands provided all those years ago. The campaign encourages customers to submit photos of their awkward youths which Ragu then uses to create relateable YouTube videos that celebrate the anxiety-riddled moments of growing up. Check out an example of one of the videos here.
Try This Site: American Express Unstaged is a concert series that pairs artists with a well-known director. Last month The Killers performed in NYC and said they wanted “the whole world on stage” with them. Fans submitted photos of themselves holding up signs saying where they live and filmmaker Werner Herzog directed the concert live stream which displayed the photos on big screens throughout the concert. Fans from all over the world were able to contribute to the experience and feel like they were “on stage” with the band. Check out The Killers’ Face To Face site to see fan submissions and highlights from the concert.