What on earth is a prosumer? It sounds like it might refer to someone following the latest Neanderthal diet or positive psychology programme, but it may well describe you. The term was coined by Alvin Toffer in his 1980 book The Third Wave to describe someone who is both a 'consumer' and a 'professional' or 'producer': essentially, 'consumers unusually interested in [certain] products'. Essentially, people who are evangelical about, and valuable to, their chosen brands.
It's not hard to see why the term is gaining new resonance. It has cropped up in blogs from the likes of Sparked, it is the subject of a recent American Behavioural Scientist paper, 'The Coming of Age of the Prosumer', and it has been fuelled by recent studies suggesting that social media fans not only talk more about brands, but buy more from them too. Consider Forrester's findings that Facebook fans are 79% more likely to purchase and 36% more likely to recommend brands than non-fans.
Ever tried haggling in a high street shop? If you’re British, the chances are you’d see it as being a bit beneath you – embarrassing, even. Some might have a go on holiday, in Morocco or Egypt, and enjoy the excitement of feeling they got their money’s worth by the grit of their innate bargaining powers, but it’s a novelty experience most would leave at the airport.
Not any more. RAPP, the customer experience agency, today presented the latest findings from its on-going Opportunities in Austerity research. The results show that British citizens are embracing the idea of becoming bargain hungry, discerning shoppers, and some brands are flourishing by helping them along.
Customer service has been one of the earliest and most tangible areas in which businesses have achieved social media success. This is partly because the contract between brand and customer is so clear: 'we are using this channel to answer your questions and fix your problems, not to make you love us by sharing photos of our office pets.' Best Buy, KLM, Eurail and T-Mobile USA are some pack leaders, and for a glimpse at how much effort is ploughed into this field, look at the Social Bakers' Socially Devoted website, which ranks industry leaders on their social care.
But social care takes a lot of resources, training, listening, flexibility, inter-organisational communication and employee autonomy to reap results. Many companies may actually be damaging their reputations by failing to deliver on their dedicated social presences. So has social CS become a must for any future-proof business? Or is it a marketing hybrid too far?
Last Thursday night I attended an event at advertising agency iris' London headquarters where a handful of speakers, just returned from the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, presented their 'Texas Takeaways’: what they regard as the key themes from this year's festival – billed as the "largest interactive event in the world".
As well as the margaritas and tacos on offer to the guests, there was a lot to learn from the two hour talk. Here are the four highlights that stood out to me.
Last week was a buzz of activity at Brand Learning as we partnered with Google to share the latest thinking on Re-Mastering Marketing at their 12th March 'Think Branding' conference. Our own Andy Bird took the stage in front of around 350 Marketing leaders from such companies as PepsiCo, GSK, Motorola, Ford and Axa Wealth.
I was fortunate to be able to attend the conference and loved that the content focused not just on 'what' excellence in marketing now looks like, but also on 'how' to actually make it to happen. Recent and relevant case studies and examples were drawn from organisations such as Lego, J&J, Nike, and Disney.
The needs of consumers remain the same as they have ever been but the expectations of how businesses meet those needs have changed. This was the line that Henry Tucker of The Futures Company and Steve Mader of Kantar Retail were keen to stress at this morning's launch of their new report: "The Future Shopper".
Despite all the technological change of recent years, technology should confine itself to a supporting role in shopping – it is more important to focus on consumer attitudes. In this respect, a new age for shoppers is here, brought about as people worldwide have come to accept that the economic pressures first caused by the financial crisis are likely to stay for longer than previously expected. It's made consumers concerned about their own financial prospects and suspicious and distrustful of businesses.
It's that time of year when chaos hits the streets of Austin, as South by Southwest (SXSW) gets into full swing.
But chaos can be good for business, according to a group of panellists discussing "This is Generation Flux", an article published by Fast Company last year, and written by the title's editor-in-chief, Robert Safian.
Empathy has always been the emotional G-spot of advertising. If you can make a consumer believe that you truly share their pain and their dreams, you're more likely to convince them that you'll be able to plug that lipstick/car/consultancy-shaped hole in their soul. And one of the chief appeals of social media for marketers is its ability to bridge the divide between 'us' and 'them'. "If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something," David Ogilvy said, "it seems to me you should use their language." Social media allows brands to create instant verbal and visual rapport.
As a result, boundaries between cultural castes are being dramatically traduced in this drive to relate. Think teen bloggers such as Bip Ling being given journalistic privileges in the super-elite fashion front row. Consider the spread of the #26acts hashtag, through which people across the world who have never set foot on American soil pledge to do 26 good deeds in memory of the victims of the Newtown school massacre. Or observe Richard Branson ensuring he stays 'close to the little people' – and keeps his Virgin empire feeling human – by tweeting personal tips, opinions and experiences.
The success of Beppe Grillo in the recent Italian election has got me thinking. Why does the (social) genie leave the bottle? What is it that transforms an incoherent protest movement into an almost unstoppable viral idea that spreads and multiplies? And could it happen here, or elsewhere?
For Grillo’s success is a truly viral phenomenon - a political movement with no organisation and no HQ, led by a single charismatic individual who uses his blog as a rallying point for those who can’t make it to his town square rallies, and who communes with the faithful via social media. The more I look into the ‘Grillo Effect’ (and other viral events) the more and more obvious it becomes that (strong) emotion is the key; that emotion is the force that pushes the social genie out of the bottle.
Two things caught my attention over the past few weeks in the world of Market Research.
Firstly: the UK MRS Annual Event for 2013, "Shock of the New" (http://bit.ly/VET7Pj). The Conference states its intent clearly: it wishes to embrace a world beyond the narrow confines of research: science, technology, futurology....the forces that are changing the way we see the world.
The remit of the Conference sugggests a sea-change in approach: