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R ES E A r C H S U M M A r Y V CD R ES E A r C H & d E v E LO P M E N T R O B LO N G U E T- H IG GI N S


H O W C A N B r A N d O F F E r I N G S A N d C O M M U N IC AT IO N S B EC O M E I N T EG r A L P A rT O F C O N S U M E r S P H Y SIC A L A N d dIGI TA L C O M M U N I T I ES B Y A ddI N G v A LU E , S H A PI N G A N d FA CI L I TAT I N G M O M E N TS I N T H E I r d A Y-TO -d A Y L I v ES ?



here has been a paradigm shift. Throughout history there have been many changes to communication technology, but none with the expansive and far reaching effects

of the digital revolution. Due to the accessibility of endless knowledge, the creation of value, knowledge and community has been once again been truly democratized by increasingly connected society. Consumers are no longer manipulated by what we say but rather tactfully choose what messages to receive and participate, as consumers transition into brand users. With the intent fostering deep relationships, this project explores the ways brand offerings and communications can become integrated into aspects of individual’s physical and digital communities by adding value, structuring and facilitating their day-to - day lives. The findings are formed from literary review and analysis of precedent examples illustrating social transformation via engagement, facilitation and connection within communities. Pine & Gilmore suggest we are now more inclined to drive against the accepted ways of thinking to seek our own truths (1999 ). CE The importance may now lie in brands finding a way to enter or cement their core values in a drastically altered environment. The convergence of physical and digital lives means that we navigate through our lives through connectivity to our multiple networked communities. This project explores how action-lead or transformational offerings are adopted by brand users to help navigate or facilitate moments in their lives. The Net- Generation are by their nature welcoming to new technology, change and freedoms, it is these characteristics that will be explored with consideration with their need for connectivity and belonging. It is too these new brand users that the project directs its analysis and developing thoughts for new social transformations that spawn from a brands integration within users every day lives.

Over the past decade a major shift in advertising has been caused by consumers turning away from broadcast media in search of personalised and relevant communications. The Cluetrain Manifesto pronounces that we are seeing change back from marketing to markets, describing marketing as noise or interruption and advocating that it is “anti- conversation” ( 2001). Much like traditional marketplaces, emerging markets are becoming settings where consumers met face-to -face with producers “engage in conversations based on shared interests”( Locke et al., 2001). Himpe reflects on traditional models of short-term, one-way interruption campaigns aimed to persuading as a strange way of forming relationships ( 2008 ). This he suggests highlights that the most important evolution in “today’s communication landscape is the shift from short-term campaigns to long-term, structural initiates”, such as online communities, permanent services or interactions between physical and digital realms ( Himpe, 2008 ). The Internet has empowered people to act as individuals, however there is a mounting need to form relationships and become active participants within online communities. Traditional forms of belonging and community such as the church or geo graphical sanctioned communities are in decline as we are now “searching for alternative forms of belonging and support” (Aarts & Marzano, 2003 ). As Godin declares, through the advent of social media platforms individuals are now able to arrange into communities or tribes that permit them to share and actively develop common beliefs structures and values ( Godin, 2009 ). The issue for communicators here is, in a networked society where individuals can band together to create genuine tribes and identities, where does the brand belong in society? We are no longer the sole storytellers. Through this essay I will make clear that, like an individuals’ identity, brands are not inanimate ‘things’ but thriving conversations, communities and belief systems ( Roll, 2002). Therefore only way for “Wiki brands” (as Moffit terms Net- Generation brands) to prosper in the new social sphere is to encourage and facilitate such activity by becoming a participator rather than be a sovereign leader of tribes ( Moffit, 2007). The fundamental social shift here is ability of an individual to participate multiple numbers of tribes. Sparked by new communication technologies and subsequent social structures, our digitally revolutionized society has increasingly proximate and accessible information that is has created multitude of diversely motivated individuals ( Benkler,

2006 ). We now develop our own identities or “mosaic lives” through a construction of simultaneous relationships, lifestyles and involvements within communities (Aarts & Marzano, 2003 ). This social construction means our lives are becoming vastly more complex and fast passed and suggests we will increasingly welcome ways to simplify or navigate us through aspects of our lives. As consumers constantly look for tools of convenience and empowerment, transformational offerings can help brands to survive the paradigm shift. Where economic offerings are based only for consumption, “transformations are effectual” because customers want to be guided towards a particular aim or improved state ( Pine & Gilmore, 1999 ). We are now more inclined to actively engage with products or services that facilitate moods or moments as we seek tools that enable different and specific parts our everyday lives (Aarts & Marzano, 2003 ).

To account for the new social structure, communicators are must find ways of creating sustained brand communications that are designed to live within what Amroano termed “The Conversation Economy”( 2007). Currently more than half the time consumers spend with media is now user- generated rather than company- generated media, therefore it’s evident our ‘peers’ play an important part in our knowledge formation ( Moffit, 2007). Individuals are now making comprises towards which messages they receive and seeking “lean-forward (participatory) media” rather than lean-back media” ( Battelle, 2006 ). Consumer review site and Twitter [Image 2] are presidents for the power of the individual to spark both negative and positive conversation. This is changing the very essence of how brand communications occur in what is now a consumer lead networked society, as Amarno highlights communicators need to ditch traditional models and become “conversation architects”( 2007). One central concept that this project addresses is Moffit’s theory of a Wiki brand. This declares that a brand must develop themselves as a media hub or community hive built around its’ core value, where content, information, value and conversations can be sought by consumers in a “clutter free environment” ( Moffit, 2007). A brands online hub cannot be static rhetoric filled brochure, which acts as a speed bump for consumer trying to find the real information, but a place where customers can seek out real information and conversation about the brand ( Locke et al., 2001). The consumer’s ability to

Image 1, Realtime results from searching Vodafone on Twitter, Both positive and negative conversations are taking place.

find the most pertinent and helpful information and collaborate has never been greater and Moffit states it is only natural that consumers bypass brochure like information for real conversation with consumers ( 2007). The hub should become a forum in which Roll says consumers can “play an active role in creating value” through co - creation and participation. Volvo’s Drive Around the World Campaign [Image 1] did just this – by living in within Facebook the campaign was only one part of the Volvo hub (their Facebook page which feature many different conversations), from there it generated conversations that spilled into all other communication realms. People are no longer naïve or about broad brand communications, “they know its strategy” and they have developed tactics and strategy to avoid it ( Cova et al. 2007). Figures from Yankelovich show that 76 percent of people don’t believe companies tell the truth in advertising and consumer trust has fallen 41 percent over the last 3 years ( Hurman, 2007). Heuer advocates that “marketing has for too long been focused on manipulation, not value creation”( 2009 ). Saying things is simply no longer believable; Hurman explains that companies must turn towards real actions or value ( 2007). Products from Apple such as the iPod, iPhone and latest iPad are less concerned with creating myth and narrative as they are with creating a product that transforms people’s social structure. The incentive here is that while ‘actions speak louder than words’, the

Image 2, Volvo Drive around the world application that demonstrated fuel efficiency of their new range. A socially intertwining conversation that challenged Facebook members to navigate the world by passing the car on to a friend, thus building a network of friends and their friends and so on.

Image 3, Example of the power of the conversation economy was The Yellow Treehouse's reach to the blog of Kanye West.

words of your customers will speak about your actions. The Yellow Tree-house shows us the differentiation between action and value of created conversation. The action quite literally is we are building a restaurant in a tree, the conversation is more complex and less planned, it featured, a blog and social media updates, but the conversation spread for free through broadcast and online media (even finding its way onto Kanye West’s blog, Image 3 ). By structuring, enhancing or shaping customer’s day-to - day lives brands can become more sought after and permanent parts of an individuals social-sphere. The strongest precedent currently available is the Nike+ initiative that is designed to empower and guide the individual through their training and running related moments [Images 4,5,] . It does so by creating deeply a personalized service from tracking and analysing your runs to online personal trainers. Pine & Gilmore speak extensively the process of taking individuals through transformations in The Experience Economy (1999 ), but emerging offerings such as Nike+ are more than just individual experiences, rather they are socially transformations. This is the deeper layers of transformation that explores how we share and communicate within our society by changing the individuals’ social landscape (Aarts & Marzano, 2003 ). Nike+ recognized the importance of interconnectivity and the website features many tools created to develop a sense of belonging and community around the product ( Himpe, 2008 ). Within the network members can create and share their running routes and goals, create competitions between ‘friends’ or communicate between each other directly. This model has also proved a success for the British army in their ‘Be the Best’ campaign, which launched a customizable and community spirited fourteen-week fitness program. From these precedents we can deduce that although consumers are content to develop deep relationships with brands, facilitating consumer- consumer communication is essential to Born from the association between their brand and the accomplishment of major life goals, Lincoln a high end American car brand created a unique social network campaign MyDreams. This campaign is an exemplar of Godin’s suggestion that there are still tribes who have a yearning, but are currently not connected - these ones were dreamers ( 2009 ). An online community / site was developed which housed 50 short films sharing the stories of 50 real people who had reached their dream. The site spawned many vibrant communities as users were then encouraged to join in the conversation by

Image 4, Nike+ online personal coaching aid is the indervidual transfomation, however other features such as 'challenges' and 'goals' create a long-term conectivity.

explaining their interesting dreams ( Himpe, 2008 ). The 50 original people then became ‘dream experts’ and actively fed back into the community to maintain its life and help users reach their dreams. This community gave individuals something to aspire to while building a network around users who through common ground could find identification with Lincolns’ brand essence. As people become more concerned with personal growth, belonging and transformation, we are looking to new services and technologies to facilitate and help us navigate moments of our everyday life. A moment may be something from how you fill up your car to how you send a letter or more complexly intertwined with how we communicate with each other in the digital and physical world. Aarts and Marzano say that this is the birth of “deep customization” where people want the ability to fully control their participation in the physical and online world (Aarts & Marzano, 2003 ). New Balance’s thought was to create a 20sec graphically engaging movie for 365 days that would be delivered as an iPhone alarm to engage users daily. The insight here is that individuals are happy to give a brand 20 seconds a day if it empowers or entertains them. However, its’ irrelevance of the connection between the concept and brand rendered it unsuccessful. The A xe ‘Wake Up Service’ however was successfully created in Japan, where the service combined the idea of waking up with applying deodorant to

Image 5, Nike+ Map It feature allowing inderviduals to share routes all across the world shows how Nike+ is a brand that has created a social transformation.

take on the day. Alternatively we can consider brand users as partners whose sustained momentary experiences and interconnectivity can become the product itself ( Cova et al., 2007). The “WeQuit” application shows a more socially developed moment, it used the social space of Facebook to guide participants through a transformation (quitting smoking ). This is successful because it builds a community around a lonely and hard personal moment.

The Net Generation ( N - Geners) have helped the new paradigm take shape as their motivations, attitudes and behaviours depart from previous generations. They are statistically considered to be demographically 14 -29 years old, however they are better characterized as those who adopt new medias such as online and increasingly mobile media. They are also great multi-taskers, able to consume 20 hours of media in a 7-hour period ( Moffit, 2007). Most importantly, analysis from New Paradigm 2007 shows that over 68% of N - Geners are “happy to collaborate or even to evangelize about companies that make the effort to establish a meaningful two -way relationship” ( Moffit, 2007). The N - Geners according to Benkler live in a more transparent and malleable culture production system where culture is more democratic, self-reflexive and participatory ( 2006 ). Their expectations of products and services are that they will offer freedom, customi-

sation and entertainment and the something special beyond the first three ( Horowitz, 2006 ). N - Geners create their sensation of home or belonging (on and offline) through a construct of history, identity, relationships and online spaces to. According to Aarts and Marzano the following the most important of Maslow’s human needs to N - Geners are; (1) represent one’s roots, place or heritage. ( 2) Create belonging through personal interconnectivity. ( 3 ) Demonstrate one’s identity and achievement ( 2003 ). N - Geners identity can be considered a construction of thousands of overlapping social ties and relationships both with other individuals and brands which are managed to fill the emo tional importance of community ( Benkler, 2006, p. 16 ). Networking through multiple platforms allows the individual to increase their collection and diversity of loose social ties while the ability to strengthen our strong close and proximate relationships, such as good friends and family ( Ellison, 2007). Wacquant defines social capital as the sum of resources, actual or virtual that accumulates to an individual who possesses a network of close and loose relationships and acquaintances (1992). This change in social capital structure is at the core of social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, as relationships are formed for their perceived present and potential future value. LinkedIn is an ideal president for proving the importance of placing ones-self in a safe place and creating belonging while building potential ties for the future. The platform becomes an individuals’ professional online self where members build online CV’s with educational and vocational histories and professional connections. This may be used to permit the individual to find new employment or access a particular loose tie for short lived specific purposes rather than requiring longterm relationships ( Benkler, 2006 ).

The Cluetrain Manifesto rightly proclaims that “the Net is a real place”( 2001), a place where real people interact in real time about real issues and conversation. But unlike the physical space the Networked society is an infinitely expansive entity. Rheingold explains that we all hold networked capital through the different networks that we switch between fluidly depending on their communication value for each moment ( 2002). New Zealand Post is my starting point for researching the potential of a brand to unite people by giving them a centralized or home space in the vastness of the Net. I will consider

Image 6, Readeo, Online communication tool for parents and young children, a combination of old and new communication tools aimed at maintaining deep relationships.

the implications of the ‘NZ Post MyPost Account’ project undertaken by myself in 2009 towards a sense of belonging, place and interconnectivity. The exploration of this project highlights how brand belief structures can transpire into deep relationships that guide individuals through either a moment in their life or the networked society itself. Our relationships now flow across multiple channels, as some times we may connect with our closest family and friends face-to -face but otherwise we may connect with people by any number of means through the networked communication sphere. Readeo [Image 6 ] integrates bedtime stories with webcam communication, allowing adults and children to share stories while seeing and interacting with each other. Particular research through design will be channelled towards understanding the possibilities and ways we communicate via new and old mediums, in Readeo’s case the bedtime story is considered the old and the web cam new medium. Roll describes three key aspects of a brand community which are of strong relevance to creating any such belonging, community or brand facilitated communication; One, there must be an intrinsic connection that members feel between each other, this refers to a sense of belonging in an imagined community where “community members feel that they sort of know each other” ( Roll, 2002). Two, Rituals and beliefs define the culture, character and conduct, which usually spur from the usage, consumption or associations drawn from the brand. Three build a sense of duty towards the community and its individual members ( Roll, 2002). This should result in creating sustained quality experiences / engagements at every point of brand contact that will foster complete and close relationship that the individual would miss if it were taken away (Aarts & Marzano, 2003 ).

The importance of transformational offerings is their ability to develop long-term, integrated initiatives, services or communities and direct channels that will enhance both the brands understanding of its users and the vice versa. They show a formation of deep relationships comes through day-by- day instalments where meaning is created by sustained communitarian sentiments ( Cova et al., 2007). As Himpe suggests done right, this will create a “self-perpetuating relationship” where the consumers have a reason to return and re-engage which should be the ultimate goal of any brand ( 2008 ).

One thing brands have always done well is to give consumers the means to purchase into that brand in order to express or create their identity. In a networked society that has moved from an attention economy to a conversation economy, the difference may be that the purchasing is less important than the participating. It has become clear that our daily lives are now constructed of thousands of connections, relationships and moments. Individuals use different social platforms to order and navigate their lives and the relevance of a brand here is its ability to provide platforms or navigations. As a conclusion, I may suggest that brands are living entities that are well poised to become helpful hubs that can facilitate our moments and conversations, where the defining factor is how integral connectivity is to the community.


REFERENCE LIST Aarts, E. H. L., & Marzano, S. ( 2003 ). The New Everyday. 010 Publishers. Armano, D. ( 2007, April 9 ). It’s the Conversation Economy, Stupid. BusinessWeek Insight. Retrieved March 11, 2010, from http:/ / /innovate / content /apr2007/id20070409_ 372598.htm Battelle, J. ( 2006 ). Conversational Marketing: PGM v. CM, Part 3. John Battelle’s Search-

blog. Retrieved February 15, 2010, from http:/ / /archives / 2007/ 03 / conversational_marketing_pgm_v_cm_part_ 3 Benkler, Y. ( 2006 ). The wealth of networks. Yale University Press. Cova, B., Kozinets, R., & Shankar, A. ( 2007). Consumer tribes. Elsevier. Ellison, N. ( 2007). The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites. USA: Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media Michigan State University. Retrieved from http:/ /jcmc. /vol12/issue4 /ellison.html Godin, S. ( 2009, May). Why tribes, not money or factories, will change the world: TED2009. Retrieved from http:/ / /index.php /talks /seth_godin_on_the_ tribes_we_lead.html Heuer, C. ( 2009, September 29 ). The End of Marketing, The Return to Markets. Chri Heuer’s Insytes. Retrieved March 29, 2010, from http:/ /www.chrisheuer. com / 2009 /10 / 05 /the- end- of-marketing-the-return-to -markets / Himpe, T. ( 2008 ). Advertising Next. Chronicle Books. Horowitz, B. ( 2006, February 16 ). Creators, Synthesizers, and Consumers. Retrieved from http:/ / / 2006 / 02/creators-synthesizers-and- consumers.html Hurman, J. ( 2007). Blah, Blah, Blah. Idealog, November, 60 - 65. Hurman, J. ( 2009 ). The Conversation Economy ( Vol. 2009 ). Presented at the 2009 Clemenger Digital Summit, Auckland: Idealog. Retrieved from http:/ /www.slideshare. net /jameshurman /the- conversation-economy-1371201 Locke, C., Levine, R., Searls, D., & Weinberger, D. ( 2001). The Cluetrain Manifesto. New York: Perseus Books. Moffit, S. ( 2007). Wiki Brands: Reinventing the Brand in a ConsumerControlled Marketplace. NGEN Big Idea. New Paradigm. Retrieved from Pine, B. J., & Gilmore, J. H. (1999 ). The Experience Economy. Harvard Business Press. Rheingold, H. ( 2002). Smart Mobs, The Next Social Revolution. Cambridge: Perseus Books Group. Roll, M. ( 2002). Brand Community - Creating differentiation through consumption. VentureRepublic. Brand consulting, . Retrieved February 20, 2010, from http:/ / /resources / Brand_community_brand_differentiation_leadership.asp

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