written by
Tom Schwarz
Tom Schwarz
Food for Thoughts
2019-06-21

It’s a jungle out there

It’s a jungle out there

For a long time, naked survival was our central focus. In the face of plague, famines and wars, humanity was engaged in a daily struggle to ensure its own survival. Fortunately this has changed over time. In most parts of the world at least. This has led us to shift in our perspective: from having to being, from surviving to experiencing. Agriculture used to be the measure of all things. The focus of which was survival. Today, the smartphone, or what we experience on it, is the symbol of society's progressive individualisation.

This has dramatic consequences for brands and for every one of us: we are available everywhere and at any time. Our circle of friends is growing at a massive rate. In the past we used to get a postcard from time to time, but today we are confronted almost hourly with the achievements of over 500 friends or followers. This leads to an increase in personal pressure to succeed. Paradoxically, however, this social pressure also leads to an increased need for the "we feeling" and the search for identification. Like-minded people outside the family are becoming more important, with nationality and language receding into the background and common values coming to the fore. This is also applying increasingly to brands. Strong brand values mean that we can identify with brands instead of just with products.

In any case, each of us on social media is a brand and produces content. And the likes (and associated attention) are the status symbol of our time. Attention has become a parallel currency and exchange processes take place between both currencies. Advertising and marketing is nothing more than an attempt to buy attention with money in the hope that it will monetarise again and be more than before. And this creates an infinite amount of content.

Content which is no longer exclusively available on TV, but is unrestrictedly available on all marketing channels, everywhere and at any time. The digital giants are transforming into media and entertainment companies. Amazon and Netflix flood us with an avalanche of content. They spend more than €10 billion each year on premium content. And at Amazon this is nothing more than a customer loyalty program. Not only is content in abundance, but also advertising. What was once the healthy price for freely available content has taken on inflationary proportions. Up to 13,000 advertising messages pelt down on us per day (in the 80s it was 500). In fact the number of advertising messages is greater than our capacity to receive them. Instagram and YouTube have produced a whole armada of advertising soldiers. These influencers share content in a split second, peppered with placements. Everyone is their own advertising agency.

Not without consequence. With false truths (an insane phrase) you reach the consumer increasingly less. You want good stories that are authentic, from brands that can also tell them. We long for transparency and honesty. This explains the trend towards macro and micro influencers and authentic testimonials.

We have created an on-demand culture that is tailored to our personal needs. Apparently, everything the heart desires is just a click away and almost real time at home. Whether viewer, subscriber or buyer, the consumer is the protagonist of the hour. For marketing, this society of individuals means a world full of unique specimens, created for the size of the target group. The advantage is that with so much "I" the price loses importance.

Admittedly it used to be easier. We, the marketing people, treated the consumers like trained dogs: sit, stay, purchase (one-way street communication) worked perfectly. Today the customer behaves more like a cat. A cat that engages with us, but only when she wants to. The consumer has come of age. Everything is geared towards dialogue. But we have less and less time for this: the human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish. Which also explains bumper ads on YouTube videos. An infinite number of problems? No: Infinite possibilities.

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