We have recently seen a dramatic shift in the definition and responsibilities of friendship. According to Time Out Chicago, we are more likely to call people our friends without really defining them as real friends. Some sites like Facebook and Twitter have made friendship equivalent to replying to a status update. And even Dentyne is telling us to how to treat our friends:
But, in an era where online social networking is the norm, how do we find the set of people who’s opinions we trust the most? And how does this effect what we buy?
Well, there is a fair amount of research on the subject of online word of mouth referrals amongst friends and it all centers around two things: 1.) A referral by a past customer is one of the most trusted pieces of online communication and 2.) The Dunbar Number. According to this concept, a human being can sustain relationships and communicate with about 150 people. Ironically, this is the average number of friends users have on Facebook. These 150 people make up a person’s referral circle, the people we receive information from (commercial or otherwise). Yet only 26% of these 150 will actually be called ‘real friends’ according to the aforementioned article in Time Out.
So, do we only trust these 39 people who we call our ‘real friends’? Well, a local artist/teacher, Maria Scapelli, might be able to shed some light on that with a project called Peoplescape 365. Essentially, Scapelli set out on a mission to make one new friend a day for a year either online or offline. Her topline conclusions: 1.) she only kept about 10% as ‘real friends’ 2.) almost all of these people she met in person. So, based on these loose numbers, we might be able to say a person is only able to maintain about 30-40 real friendships and that these relationships are mainly forged by face-to-face contact.
Does that mean we don’t trust the remaining 110 people in our social circle when they say a Samsung TV is a great purchase or buy a book recommend by Legend457 online? No, of course not. But when it comes to making a brand something we love to a point of passionate irrationality (see Lovemarks), one might assume we have to talk to these 30-40 people (among other things). If we don’t, we are simply just providing purchasing descisions not life long loves.
3.16.09 :: At Moniker, we’ve always believed being different is good and being amazing is great. The difference between the two is often about timing. Point in case:
This Pepsi ad breaks one of the immutable laws of food advertising– appetite appeal. Or does it? In a saturated industry where slapstick humor and lifestyle photography are the norm, is it so weird to have a lime relieving itself into your product? The answer is no. It garners attention and opens the doors to a new playing field that Pepsi’s audience was ready for.
With that being said, designer, Chip Kidd still warns us, “An idea, no matter how good, ahead of it’s time, is a bad idea.” (Just think about doing Dove’s 2007 real beauty campaign in the 50’s.) We operate in a complex marketplace of thoughts and the question of difference always has to do with timing– finding the swell before the wave. The best clients know this. We strive to jump atop it.
So, when can you achieve critical mass for amazingly different?
1. When boredom sets in
If your business is not stimulating you and/or your customers, there’s a reason, and it usually has to do with ‘business as usual’. Remember– work is not boring.
2. When there is a major untapped consumer generated trend
Think Hush Puppies or Facebook, both of whom saw a trend and then surfed it.
3. When everyone else is distracted
I.e. during a financial crisis. While everyone is worried about what they do and how they spend, by taking a little risk you can stand out and maintain a healthy business.
2.09.09:: Times are tough. Unemployment’s up, politicians are struggling for an economic IV and, worse still, consumer confidence continues to dip. So, how do you sell yourself to a group of fenced in, regretfully cautious people? Stay positive. Get people to revel in the innocence of fun, make them feel good about what they have or simply celebrate charity.
Take a look at this Carnival Cruise Lines spot:
This ‘all for fun’ message creates camaraderie and reminds people there are still fun things we can all enjoy (be it a beach ball OR a cruise).
Getting people to join a simple, common altruistic purpose also works. For example, Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital’s ‘do good.’ campaign. Using bright graphics and headlines like,”Do something good today.” along with compassionate support points, this hospital encouraged people to join the organization’s (and their community’s) cause: good health.
Even packaged goods can align themselves with a better purpose. A la Frosted Flakes:
What’s great about this is that Tony the Tiger not only supports building more sport fields but encourages consumers to nominate projects online (frostedflakes.com).
So, do positive commercial messages create a better economy and/or brand situation? I think positivity is a point of difference in a negative landscape. These messages get people to pay attention and act to a greater good. However, in order to really save the economy, we would need to have a consumers buy into this feel good thoughts with actual dollars on a massive scale. (Take a look at Finland’s plan for this).
So, I would argue a brand is doing nothing bad by doing good right now. But, as for the economy, we all just might have to just limit how much MSNBC we watch.