Consumer Culture / between aesthetics, social distinction and ecological activism

Consumer Culture

March 5th, 2010NezařazenéComments Off

Consumer Culture: between aesthetics, social distinction and ecological activism

October 7-9, 2010

Art Centre of Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic the theory of consumer culture has not been discussed adequately and systematically on the academic level. Consumer culture has been researched mainly in the commercial sector which has focused on problems related to the successful sale of products or services. The aim of this international conference is to examine and outline the main problems and topics concerning the complex and controversial phenomenon of consumer culture. The thematic framework of the conference will include not only inquiry into the symbolic dimension of consumer culture, its aesthetic aspects and its impact on individual lifestyles, but also the broader social context of production and reception of consumer culture and its social, economic and environmental consequences.

The conference will be an open meeting of Europe’s leading experts with diverse disciplinary background (sociology, philosophy, psychology, cultural anthropology, ecology, economics, cultural studies, media studies, art history, aesthetics, communication studies, etc.) and representatives from the business world who are involved in production, innovation or research of consumer culture, as well as students and others who are interested in these issues and want to share their thoughts and insights. The conference intends to initiate a dialogue and to facilitate the transfer of current knowledge between the academic (social sciences and humanities) and the application sphere. The additional intention of the conference is to support the concept of science as an open critical discourse, as well as the creation of a counterbalance to the so called shadow science (i.e. the privatization of knowledge of consumer culture and society within the commercial sector).

Posted via web from Jaroslav Cír


Viral Video Chart: ChatRoulette pianist, parents on Facebook, and slo-mo dogs | Media | guardian.co.uk


John Kearon in Prague


It is a great pleasure to welcome John Kearon (back) to London in Prague.

John is the Founder, CEO & Chief Juicer of BrainJuicer Europe's leading online research agency. John was Ernst & Young's 'Entrepreneur of the Year 2005' and the company's innovative approach to research has garnered a number of awards including 'The Most Innovative Use of IT' and 'Service Business of the Year'.

Most important of all, John is passionate about innovation - innovation of marketing and market research techniques.

The workshop with John will take place on 10th of November at Long Tale Café, Osadní 35, Praha 7. We will start at 10am and we aim to finish at 3pm.

This is the agenda:

  • The future of online research, moving beyond "fast and cheap" (10-11am)
  • Finding and engaging the creative consumers (co-creation and crowdsourcing) (11-12.00pm)
  • Building communities of interest (12.00-1pm)
  • Lunch 1.00-1.30pm
  • Moving from "me" to "we" research - mass ethnography (1.30-2.00pm)
  • Group excersise: creating real case in Czech Republic where we put to practice the principles of co-creation, crowdsourcing and "we research". We will select 1 or 2 cases at the end and we will put make them happen!

Looking forward to see you in Long Tale Café on the 10th of November!

Here is a link for registration: http://www.londynvpraze.cz/registrace/lip/

If you want to know more or would like to register please write to us on [email protected] or call us at +420 773 552 225.


Selling the crowd's excess creativity

Selling energy back

That is very close to what we would like to do as Perfect Crowd: help the crowd to simplify selling its excess creativity.


The power of divergence


Some of the large market research departments on the client side have gone through yet another round of soul-searching and introspection recently. Some have emerged with a new vision for the function, a vision that points out the necessity of a return to rigorous measurements and discipline and a return to traditional market research methodologies.


It seems that we have been misled in recent years by left-wing radicals who infiltrated the research departments and led us astray to extremes such as researchers sitting down in a circle with consumers, holding hands and chanting while under the influence of drugs and hypnosis; and even worse – they taught us to rely on our gut feel and intuition. Now, in the time of economic turmoil, we must come back to reason, numbers and indices.


The right-wing approach which calls for rigorous measurements would have been completely justified if events in the world moved in linear fashion. But it is not so. We can rigorously apply BASES volumetrics and feel good about the predicted 1,356 thousand tons of soap that we will sell in market X next year but we already know that this will not happen because of earthquakes, competitors, swine flu and people being what they are, (namely, irrational creatures) to name a few amongst thousands of variables.


Nonetheless, the desire to converge on one number that would offer an answer to complex questions is stronger than common sense. 


Good enough

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the difference between convergence and divergence tests for measuring individual success. According to Gladwell, intelligence matters but only to a point – in terms of future success it doesn't really matter if my IQ score is 125 or 135 – at some point it simply becomes ‘good enough’. 


"If intelligence matters only up to a point, then past that point, other things – things that have nothing to do with intelligence – must start to matter more." [Outliers, p. 86]


‘The other thing’ is creativity. And so far the best possible measure for creativity are divergence tests which measure the ability to produce new ideas by seeing new associations between existing and seemingly unconnected concepts. Some innovators in the field of market research, such as John Kearon, are already using divergence techniques to identify creative consumers who are then invited into a process of co-creation.


This ability to uncover associations and connection is close to a definition of creativity. And it is a desperately needed ability in market research if it wants to play serious role in delivering innovation: in term of product and communication for its client and also in terms of new research techniques and tools. 


Convergence is useful up to a point but its importance in research is clearly overrated. Insight, new ideas and innovations are delivered through divergence: through interdisciplinary approaches that illuminate a variety of possibilities and solutions. 

(written for the September issue of the Research World)


Unilever goes crowdsourcing

via www.guardian.co.uk

"We believe Peperami is a brand that deserves radical creative solutions and are confident taking our brief out to thousands rather than a small team of creatives will provide us with the best possible idea and take our advertising to the next level," said the Peperami marketing manager, Noam Buchalter (from an article in the Guardian).

I think that Noam is right. I used to think that the crowd can only give you a direction for creative development but, after a first-hand experience with crowdsourcing, I believe that the creative could come from the crowd, given that the crowd is big and diverse enough.

Does it mean that the world has become our creative department and the big ad agencies can be closed down? I think it does, except for the planning department, that should stay open - the planners will connect the crowd with the brand.


How tarots help in marketing

Tarot cards have a long history of mysticism and prophecies. First of all lets look at tarot cards what they are. For the marketing sake we're fine with the basic card deck of 22. I am aware that I will talk about tarots in a rather simpler way - so all tarot experts have to excuse this as this is an extremely brief introduction of an alternative approach.

Tarot cards maybe understood as a somehow typical lifecycle from the very beginning (the card  of Fool) to the very end - the absolute enlightment and wisdom (the card of World). This lifecycle covers both good and bad things in life and holisticaly is dual and incorporates in different cards various life crossroads.

In simplicity the cards point to situations in life which if handeled, you are pushed into a different  stage, you observe your lifecycle on a different card. The rich symbolism and colours create the entire setting and it may serve as an inspiration to draw parallels,to get inspired on how to solve situations or simply get new ideas to think about. There isn't a good or bad card, there are cards and all of them are dual in there essence - that gives you the power to interpret.

Marketing is absolutely the same, your campaign, your brand copies a certain lifecycle and we need to understand it. We need to get inspired and see the symbols connecting back to our target groups.

Why not use tarot cards if they have proven symbolic value and a tie-back to people and it follows narrativity. Yes tarot cards can even help you build up an archetypal story - the narrativity - so much needed to connect with consumers. Not to just give them the flashy "5% off next month", but to establish an emotive connection with your ad, campaign or brand.

I find a small, but a useful helper in tarots. I use them dominantly for inspiration, but sometimes
when I want to build up a story I mess around with the deck and just visualize in a different angles the story - where it's going and what it's doing. Sometimes I try to look at the various roles in the campaign - or what have you - through this tarot prism. Some times it's a waste, but sometimes I come up with interesting stuff. Well maybe if you're right now in an inspirational blind spot, this might help you.


Boredom at the Long Tail

In this scene from Tootsie (the first minute of it) Dustin Hoffman makes a mistake - he believes that people (women in this case) really want what they ask for:

The Long Tail allows us to ask for what we think we really want - my iPod is full of stuff that (I think) really interests me - the podcasts and the music. What is missing in my iPod is a surprise. A bit of a different tune coming from nowhere, a bit of pure otherness, oddness, difference and randomness needed for inspiration. In terms of music, last.fm seems to be the half-way answer: it can surprise with a song that you haven't heard...but it cannot really, really surprise since it is still taking you on a guided tour within the confines of your taste (culture?, class?).

The current big thing in marketing seems to be targetting people with messages that they have asked for (gave permission to receive) - because of their interest, hobbies etc. Sounds good but I feel that there is some inherent paradox in this - advertising needs to surprise, needs to be unexpected and often needs to annoy in order to provoke a reaction. If you give me just what I want, I might not spill a champaign in your face but I will definitely get bored and start to ignore you.


Carousel of nostalgia


The famouse scene from Mad Men - click here. 

The self-pitying poetry of an Adman:

It’s delicate, but potent…
Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound.
It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.
This device… isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine.
It goes backwards, forwards.
It takes us to a place where we ache to go again.
It’s not called the Wheel.
It’s called the Carousel.
It lets us travel the way a child travels.
Around and around and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.
"Mad Men" Season 1, Episode 13, "The Wheel"

The sweet, decaying taste of nostalgia like 2 days old sacher cake behind a glass in Vienna. In the 18th century nostalgia was classified as a disease.  Today it is only a slightly sickening, paralysing desire to go back to the (not only Persil) soft mum and possibly to the hard, right-winged dad who will clean this place from immigrants who steal our jobs.  


The death of an idea

Berlin wall  

Lenin, Stalin and Brezhnev are taking a trip by train. Suddenly, the train stops in the middle of nowhere. The three leaders start debating what to do in order to get moving. “Lets explain to the engine-driver that it is in the interest of the proletariat to immediately fix the problem!” says Lenin. “Lets shoot the son of a bitch!” shouts Stalin. “No,” says Brezhnev, “lets just hop up and down on our seats and pretend that the train is still running.”

 This is one of the old jokes that delighted Eastern Europeans during the time of communism. The main point of the joke is that in the 1970’s and 1980’ the virus of communism was dead.  On the surface, there was still a ideological war going on; it seemed that the Marxist-Leninist meme was full of life, threatening to flow over the Berlin war and compete with the ideology of capitalism – but the folk wisdom knew better: communism was dead and we were hopping up and down, pretending that it was still alive.

 Interestingly, if you had sneaked across the iron curtain at the time and conducted a tracking study with the Eastern Europeans, exploring the image of the communist party you would have probably learned that the communist meme was sound and well – scoring high on attributes such as dynamic, vital or innovative. You would have learned this because people would have lied to the interviewers – protecting themselves from troubles, splitting their personas into a public and a private one.

 The meme of communism seems dead today. The victor is the ideology of capitalism and its great insignias – the global brands. The global brands that have laddered up far, far up from functional benefits to the heights of human truths. The brands that have, from their heights, pointed a way for their consumers – to success, happiness…and greed and neuroses.

 The Western (and Eastern) European consumers are still dutifully answering in tracking studies, assigning attributes such as “dynamic” or “fun” to global brands of lemonades. They don’t lie but they answer mechanically – most of the tracking studies are designed to support such mechanical attribution of statements to brands. Idealogical memes are like stars: we see their reflections long time after they are cold and dead. 

 The “brand ideals” and ideology, full of optimism and endless possibilities begin to really contrast with the real lives of their consumers who are worried about their jobs and the roofs over their heads.

 What smart brands might want to do now is to join their consumers on the way down the snakes - from the heights of Maslow pyramid and an obsession with self-expression, to the basics and back to home. And, as many observers have pointed out already, it might be a healthy home coming that will let people rediscover forgotten values of togetherness and simple pleasures. Brands could help down there by adding real  value and by being humble, helpful, incremental and entertaining without preaching. Lego is a great example of this, its sales are up double digits in the UK- as if consumers have suddenly remembered an old friend - real, solid, simple and also genuine and creative. I think that brands can also learn from the retail giants that have tried (mainly succesfully) to hide their real size behind humble facade: Tesco's  "little help" is a great promise in a time of recession. An then there are the entertainers, the "Fred Astairs" of this depression which are warming us up without preaching - the "Dancing Eyebrows" created by Fallon for Cadbury is a shining example of this trend. 

  It will be tough home coming for some other brands - the larger than life balloons of hot air with missions aimed at changing the world. Brands are ideas and ideas (and ideology in the sense of a system of representation) die when the gap between them and reality become too wide, too wide for even the dummiest consumer, brand manager or a party member to believe in them.

(written for the April issue of the Research World, Esomar)