Last night I shared some of these thoughts with the crowd at The Late Late Breakfast Show (#LLBS), and after a fantastic response I thought I would share them here for all of you! It all started about 12 months ago, when I started renting parts of my life that previously I had been buying, owning, using and then basically discarding or leaving to collect dust.
It started with Spotify, when I switched to the premium service 12 months ago. The prospect of a near infinate music library and syncing playlists over WiFi to my iPhone for a mere £9.99 greatly outweighed the costs of my iTunes and HMV addiction, of which I have been set free. I haven't bought a CD in 12 months.
This was swiftly followed by a sign up to LoveFilm, which curbed my DVD fetish, TV series rentals through iTunes or Virgin Media became the norm, and then the biggest of all - ditching my little (beloved) Renault Clio for a Street Car subscription.
Why is this important I hear you cry? Well for as long as people have sold things, bought things, owned things - they have also showed off, paraded, adorned and accessorised things - all in an attempt to show the world the kind of human being they were, or were aspiring to become. Yet in our 21st Century, wired world where so many of these character expressing assets are becoming digital, it is becoming increasingly difficult to show off these purchases. And if we can't show them off, and if advertising is becoming increasingly background noise, how can we want these things? How will we know about them? Are we on the brink of a marketing Armageddon? (OK - a bit over the top I admit... but gravitas is hard to do in a blog!)
Well maybe not - because there is something else going on, which may be the antidote to this commercial conundrum and it comes in the form of the recommendation. Sites, tools and utilities have been busying away to build social tools into their sites, from Amazon's Facebook Connect (see Prezi below for more examples), to Levi's including "Like" buttons on their jeans selector, and people are using them in their droves. So what's going on here?
I would like to suggest that we are seeing the birth of a new kind of consumerism, with it's own currency and economy. As more and more of our purchases become digital, or are purchased through digital means, from grocery shopping online with Ocado through to ordering snacks for work through Graze, we are beginning to use socially enabled tools and sites to share our purchasing habits to replace the kudos of seeing that prices shopping bag, or displaying your complete works of Shakespeare on your living room bookshelf. Instead we are using the recommendation, that social share that says "here I am, this is what I like, this is WHO I AM".
We may well be entering into a time when we begin to identify our friends as different social beings, not through what they own, what we can see, what they display - but by what they share, like, tag, check-into and recommend. This has a massive impact for marketeers and business as a whole. If the recommendation is becoming the new currency then businesses need to get into the "recommendation economy" if they are going to fight for consumer attention.
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- Amazon integrates Facebook Connect to improve its recommendations (telegraph.co.uk)
- Social recommendations can revolutionise online advertising, says Google (telegraph.co.uk)