Prattle & Jaw

Two blogs about a whole lot of nothing

I Shop Online, Therefore I Am

This post is a copy of an article I wrote for The Danish Communications Association (Dansk Kommunikationsforening) this month. I'll be doing two a month over the next year and thought I would also share them here. The original link follows the post.

This article is based on my MA thesis (Digimodernism; the Future is Now!), and takes a quick look at the new paradigm of digimodermism, and what this means to communications. Hopefully it makes some sense. 

I shop, therefore I am I shop online, therefore I am

Postmodernism is dead. At least in the traditional sense. Society has been pushed into a new paradigm, a paradigm that author Alan Kirby calls digimodernism. Of course, as with modernism, postmodernism will never truly will be dead but it is impossible to deny the fact that society has undergone revolutionary changes, changes which can be attributed almost wholly to the internet. The world has changed, and theory must change with it.

One of my all-time favourite faux-pas is that of Clifford Stoll in a Newsweek article from 1995, entitled, ‘The Internet? Bah!’ In it, Clifford discusses how the internet is nothing but ‘techno-burble’, and how his local mall does more business in one afternoon than the entire internet does in a month. Needless to say, Clifford was wrong, but the he could be forgiven for his thought – the internet of 1995 was hardly the internet we know and love today. Yet in the same year postmodernism was in its heyday. This is the paradigm that ‘produced’ consumerism, which in turn, produced ‘us’; the postmodern consumer – restless, fragmented and fickle. Postmodernity is consumerism, and consumerism is postmodernity – do remember, though, that this was all before existed. Before email, before Facebook, before Twitter, before any kind of social media existed. If we were the postmodern consumer in 1995 before all of this, can we really be the same postmodern consumer today?

Society today still resembles postmodern society of 1995 in many ways, but what has changed, monumentally so, is technology – specifically, the internet and our use of it. It has infiltrated our lives, democratising information and paving the way for social media, which in turn have thrown open the doors to instant, global communication fundamentally changing the way we live.

Consumers have never had so much authority. The balance of power between brand and consumer has been levelled to a point where it can quite easily be argued that the consumer is an integral part of the marketing mix. In postmodernism you read, watched and listened. Now, we click, surf, and download. We are active, demanding, experience seeking, and channel-hopping. Media have become so entwined with life, physically interacting with it (think of QR codes, SMS X-Factor voting etc) it’s hard to see where we end and our media begin. We are no longer a society of the spectacle – we participate. Constantly.

This changes marketing and communication immeasurably. Consumers demand to be, and need to be, engaged. Examples of interactive communication abound – the ‘Hunter shoots a bear’ YouTube video, or the ‘Choose a different ending’ anti-knife crime video from the Met Police. Closer to home there was the Swedish ‘Hero’ television license campaign, and the controversial ‘Hit the bitch’ campaign. Each example is incomplete until the view interacts with it. We produce the communication. QR codes are another excellent example; they provide the means through which we can access further information but only as a consequence of direct action on our behalf.

While this kind of communication can be entertaining and while we might pass it on to our friends, they aren’t always optimal. One thing is providing an entertaining viral video, another thing is making the consumer work for a marketing message (a message which might very well be lost in the ‘fun’ of the video or advert). QR codes ultimately require work from the consumer, work which all too often only ends with a marketing message of some kind.

What must be remembered is that in this digimodern market, intangibles such as trust, loyalty, and relationships are being catapulted into the spotlight. Marketing must shift from a ‘market to’ philosophy, to a ‘market with’ philosophy, making the consumer and whole supply chain collaborators in the production and marketing processes. It’s probably the biggest shift yet in the history of business.

‘Marketing with’ doesn’t simply mean creating interactive, incomplete videos or adverts, it means being on the same level as consumers. Meeting them on their turf and finding out what they want. Social media presents the greatest opportunity yet for this to happen, so why the reluctance? The recently published report by Social Semantics, The Social Media Factbook, showed that use of social media in Danish businesses is finally at a tipping point. More and more businesses appear eager to acknowledge the fact that society – Danish society – has changed, and that if they want to keep their fans, their customers, and their clients, it has to in ways that create intangible value, through channels and times they ultimately can’t decide.

While postmoderism created the rebelling consumer, wise to the antics of advertising and unwilling to entertain, a digimodern consumer is one who is wise, but eager to talk, to listen, to share, and to collaborate. The digimodern consumer is ready and waiting, there has never been a better time to reach out. 

Original aritle - I shop online, therefore I am

Copyright © 2014, Lara Mulady. All rights reserved.