Labour party woes


No one could have escaped the battle for power that has been playing out by our Prime Minister and her Foreign Minister. Putting aside the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of how our Prime Minister assumed her role, there is much we can learn from the toxic battle. As we have been observing for a while now, this power struggle was bound to be destructive.

There has been a huge cultural shift from ‘me’ culture (back) to ‘we’ culture; that is, the way we are talking to ourselves about who and what we are – the consumer culture around us – is telling us that we are a (functioning) group - a crowd, a team, a choir, a book club, a community, a dance troupe and in this context, a party and a government of the larger group - and we are co-creators of all of these.

Contrast this new ‘we-ness’ with the more individualistic, competitive, ‘me against them’, “it’s all about me” culture of the 80s and 90s (think about Madonna’s video for ‘Material Girl’ or Brett Easton-Ellis’s book ‘American Psycho’ as great cultural examples of “me-ness” and of course, some could say, old style politicians), with significant events of recent times (most noticeable, the GFC) that have played a part in triggering this shift away from “me-ness” cultural values.

At the end of the day, we all need to pull together to survive.

One of the key themes that is shaping the current consumer culture is a strong desire for survival. Most of us recognise that survival is predicated on a large degree of reciprocal altruism where the desire of the individual is less relevant than the benefit for the collective. In response to this, we have shifted again to the three Cs: conversation, collaboration and collective creation.

Leadership battles are not inline with the cultural norms of today. One wonders, how our politicians (regardless of political alliance) can get it so wrong?

Everyone is going pro!

Last Monday night I went to a presentation of the new 2012 range of Fender guitars and amplifiers. I sat in an amphitheatre along with 600 other people and watched a stunning range of gleaming ‘Axes’ and amps put through their paces ... it then occurred to me that not everyone in the audience was a professional musician. In fact, most of the people were probably ‘enthusiasts’. I then remembered my recent visit to a well-heeled middle aged professionals home and seeing a stunning electric Fender guitar on display. Clearly a weekend rocker ... and yet 20 years ago the only people that owned Fender guitars were professional musicians. WHAT'S GOING ON???
Just look at the scores of Pinarello mounted, lycra clad weekend cyclists who might look like part of the Tour De France, but are clearly not paid cyclists!

What's becoming clear is that pro gear is now more accessible to the masses than ever before thanks to the internet and social media. It's easy for anyone to get up to speed on who has the best gear, how much it is and where to get it.

It's not a new strategy - Nike has been doing it for years, that is treating all of it's customers like they are athletes/pros. By doing this, Nike has amassed millions of people of all ages as consumers that can identify with their brand/products that are championed by athletes that perform at highest levels.



But what is new is the higher end, big ticket item categories are now using the same strategy - treating everyone as a pro. In fact, it seems the survival of high value niche products in our contemporary global marketplace is predicated by a brand positioning that is both elite and yet accessible to all with cash or a decent line of credit.

So move over David Bailey, I’ve got myself a new Nikon DSLR

Old spice & memes

I've been thinking for a few months about the cause behind the amazing success of the 'Old Spice' viral and response campaign.


See the truly epic numbers below.
Source: www.culture-buzz.com

But how can we explain this astonishing success?

Susan Stancombe (founder and MD here at Stancombe Research and Planning) recently brought up the topic of 'memes'. Without going into too much depth, a 'meme' is a virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea (source: http://netforbeginners.about.com). Note: For a more in-depth explanation go to wikipedia here

From my understanding, what makes memes so interesting is that they behave exactly like genes and viruses. Meaning memes can:
  • Be passed on virally through the media or from person to person, e.g. viral marketing
  • Replicate themselves by effecting people's behaviour which in turn effects how others behave, e.g. notice how there is always 'a new black' everyone starts copying
  • Evolve to suit environmental pressures/factors to survive, e.g. we see this happen in the music world a lot
Memes are a difficult concept to understand since they only exist only in our minds. Unlike DNA and viruses, we can't actually see a meme! However, it could be argued that the pandemic spread of ideas like the 'Old Spice' campaign not only proves the existence of memes, but they've most likely existed since the birth of the human race (i.e. think about the spread of religion)

The concept of a meme as a living breathing 'idea' that can spread is a challenging one, but offers a different perspective on how to view cultural trends and phenomena, i.e. which ideas will adapt and thrive over time (e.g. religion) and which ideas will spread quickly and eventually be snuffed out (e.g. boy bands)

Collaborative consumption - is it more about the people rather than the stuff?

This post comes with a cultural caveat...all examples are from the US which is in a very different place economically and emotionally right now compared to Australia.

Thanks to one of my favourite blogs influx insights, I came across this interesting post from an equally interesting blog www.brainpickings.org (well worth a look)

Click here to see the post 7 ways to have more by owning less.

To break it down, there is a emerging trend in the US around the idea of 'collaborative consumption' (also known as reciprocal alturism at Stancombe). It is another branch of the de-clutter your life / less is more movement being driven by urban hipsters, life coaches and other social commentators. (see the very hipster video below from www.giftflow.com)


Be as cynical as you like, but it appears this movement is gathering some traction in the US, see examples below from www.brainpickings.org:
  1. http://neighborgoods.net/
  2. http://snapgoods.com/
  3. http://www.landshare.net/
  4. http://www.swap.com/
  5. http://www.giftflow.org/
  6. http://www.zipcar.com/
  7. http://www.sharesomesugar.com/
If we step back and think about it, conspicuous consumption is inherently about broadcasting your status. Where as swapping and sharing goods/services (assuming you can afford to buy new stuff) is more about the relationships developed as a result of altruistic transactions. It could be argued that the altruistic transactions that help build the relationships between people are more important than the goods/services being shared, swapped and gifted.

I don't believe that we will see a shift away from conspicuous consumption (a nice pair of shoes and a good watch always does wonders for your confidence in a room full of strangers), but I do believe that swapping, sharing and gifting things like lawn mowers, never been used baby toys and food processors will tap into our fundamental human need for community, i.e. we are pack animals.

This raises an interesting business question - are you an industry where people would rather swap your goods/services rather than buy new in the future? And is this an opportunity or a threat?









The real thing

A recent talk by Tom LaForge (Coca-cola's Director of Knowledge & Insights) at PSFK hypotheses a shift in the way brands will contribute to society over the next 10 years.

See Tom's slide below:
The premise of brands shifting towards a 'societal construction' role stands on the idea of an emerging 'new consumer': a citizen, environmentalist and community member.

So how does a brand shift towards a societal construction role? According to Tom LaForge here are a few ways:
  • Storytelling and meaning making
  • Planet stewardship
  • Cultural leadership
  • Aesthetic Design
Read the whole article here

Underground dining is becoming more sophisticated...digitally

Underground dining is nothing new (yet not exactly mainstream), but what is interesting is how these small organisations have become so proficient at marketing themselves digitally (and most likely on the cheap).

The people who form part of this greater community seem to have that hipster knack of bringing to life the serendipity, sense of community and home cooked meal avantgarde'ness of underground dining. Check out the cool stop gap video below (note: they also give the music they used a plug by showing their myspace address...it's all about community)

End of metrosexuals is a win for real equality


Unless you were lucky enough to be of nightclubbing age in the 1970s it has never been cool to wear white leather shoes. Despite being akin to wearing a large sign that says “I’m a tool”, this hideous footwear has had something of a resurgence in trendy nightclubs thanks to metrosexuality.

But after a decade at the cutting edge of cool, metrosexuals have been given one clear signal they may have to go back to being ordinary blokes. Nightclub promoter Scott Mellor has chalked a line in the pavement outside a new club event in Melbourne that debuts on Friday. Beyond it, metrosexuals shall not pass.

Anthropologists might be tempted to attribute this to a socio-collectivist and culturo-genetic realisation that men are not capable of understanding manicures and shopping to the extent required to live a truly metrosexual life. But most would say metrosexuality was like platform shoes for blokes – a stupid idea in the first place – and besides, since David Beckham first dyed his tips blonde women have been clamouring that they prefer real men.

The event details from the club’s website are worth quoting at some length:

No snakeskin shoes, No Ed f***ing Hardy, No numbered polos, no axl rose bandanas. Spread the word and bring the party. Upstairs at Ding Dong. Check your life pre entry.
NO METROSEXUAL ATTIRE
NO AGGRESSION
NO ASSHOLES
(No tragic pout photos)

Now the general law in most Australian states is that it’s discriminate against someone on grounds of sex, pregnancy, age, race, sexuality, religion or disability. Mellor is exploiting a neat loophole: there’s nothing to stop discrimination against someone on the grounds that they’re an up-themself poser douchebag.

This is one loophole that doesn’t need to be closed. In a sign that this might be part of a trend, one of Australia’s best new restaurants has a not dissimilar set of house rules. Before you get to the food in the menus at Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar & Grill in Sydney you’re warned against getting snotty and demanding with the staff. “Check your attitude with your coat at the door,” it says.

Metrosexuality was only starting to gain a real foothold when it was lampooned in the 2001 movie Zoolander. Arguably Ben Stiller’s finest movie, it showed men who paid too much attention to their image were a rich source of ridicule.

My own opinion of metrosexuality through the years has been massively inconsistent. Despite scoffing at the awful pretentiousness of the whole phenomenon and ridiculing my friends I did have my hair dyed blonde in Thailand in 2002 and have occasionally worn polos with big numbers on them. These days I spend $45 on my haircut which I suspect is the annual barber budget of many Australian men whose loaves look just fine.

Most tellingly, last Christmas the secret Santa in work got me a metrosexual styling kit which I accepted with much mirth only to slink home and to have a look at how good the tweezers were. (Let me make it clear I’ve never had a manscape, gotten a fake tan or worn my collar up.)

The trouble for metrosexuals now is that what began, like most fashion trends, as an original, slightly ironic and fringe lifestyle choice went mainstream. While the original metros would put in a short appearance at a club before retiring by 10pm (can’t miss the beauty sleep), trendy bars are overrun with great-smelling, manicured and buff straight dudes whose conversation moves seamlessly between interior design and Collingwood’s chances next season.

If this is the beginning of the end for metrosexuality it’s a win for the all-consuming passion of Australians for real equality, the same passion that loathes idle hands and anyone with more money than sense. Because to be a true metrosexual you need a specific combination of two things most men in middle Australia don’t have much of: time and cash to burn.

Declaring that people with too much money and time on their hands are unwelcome at a club is a classic expression of the Australian society’s unrelenting pursuit of equality. It’s a way of saying the boundaries have been pushed too far. You’ve had your fun, metros. Time to put away the moisturiser.

Or maybe it’s just a really clever way of getting women looking for a real man in the door of a club.

by Paul Colgan (www.smh.com.au)

Young adults slash spending and time online

Australia’s young adults are increasingly shunning the internet and extravagant consumer spending to embrace more ‘authentic’ pastimes, according to a new study.

Lifelounge’s annual Urban Market Research, which analyses the habits of 18 to 30-year-
olds in Australia, found that the demographic’s overall consumer spending dropped $5bn on last
year to $42.4bn. Entertainment spending was the worst hit by attitudes influenced by the global economic downturn, with outlay falling $7.3bn to $19.4bn. However, travel spending increased $4.4bn to $9.3bn.

Perhaps most surprisingly, internet usage dropped over the
past 12 months, with those questioned spending an average of 8.6
hours a week on the web, down 30 minutes on last year.
Average time spent in online chatrooms also fell, down one
hour to 2.3 hours, with TV consumption declining by 1.3 hours to 4.4 hours.

Another trend defying aspect of the report was the increased consumption of newspapers, with
time spent reading titles increasing by 30 minutes to 1.9 hours a week. The report found a general love for nostalgia among respondents, with farmer’s markets, vinyl
records and vintage clothing all proving popular.

Late-night revelry appears to be in decline, with those polled increasingly preferring activities
such as jogging, dinner parties and home entertainment.

Brands seen in a positive light by respondents included Converse, Vans, iPhone, Nintendo Wii,
Pure Blonde and Asahi. “Young adults are steering away from the consumerist culture that
previously characterised their spending and lifestyle habits,” said Dion Appel, CEO of Lifelounge
Group. “As digital natives, the youth market has grown up online but are increasingly seeking to
balance their online world with offline contact. They’re starting to question the authenticity of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. They want technology to assist – rather than dominate – the way they communicate.”

Source unknown...but similar SMH article can be found here

Interesting insights on post-consumerism

From PSFK.com

Here are some example drivers of this change and the “Citizen Renaissance”, as Peck has coined it:

Citizen needs

• Loss of faith in the corporation and the promise of borrowed wealth have challenged the established model of consumption and the relationship between consumer and producer. Consumers are looking to government, and NGOs, to intervene, protect their assets from corporate misadventure and govern this relationship. Governments have become critical to rebuilding economies AND shaping and governing the impact of business.

Greater advocacy and citizenship.

• Climate change, environmental issues and health-related concerns have exposed the lack of accountability from corporations and consumers. Consumers are looking to government, NGOs and corporations, as well as themselves, to participate and engage in critical change.

Post-consumer sentiment

• According to Worldchanging.com a new poll from the Pew Research Center has found that the recession is altering our perceptions of what we truly need. The depressed market, bank balances and the increase in price of commodities such as oil and food over the last year has changed societies relationship with consumption. It’s no longer possible or sensible to consume like we did; it’s also becoming socially un-cool to over-consume and own-BIG.

Political advocacy

• Job losses in the highly depressed global economy and, in the US, failing healthcare, education and public transportation has led to highly vested public interest in government expenditure, the Stimulus Package and corporate rescue plans. The jobless and the employed are highly engaged in political decision-making and the direction of stimulus.

Participation

• Access to the network is enabling greater participation in business models and the supply chain, transforming the industrial producer-consumer model. Consumers are increasingly vested in the direction of corporations, a product or campaign, or indeed ARE the stakeholders of the company – coming together as part of a cooperative or collaborative business model to create shared value.

Are We Experiencing Cultural Exhaustion?

I really like this article from PSFK

It highlights the supposed problem we are having with popular culture today...not much has changed. The root of the problem according to Mark Fisher is 'exciting new technologies have actually stagnated real cultural development'

Here is a good little quote from his article:

“In general, however, Web 2.0 encourages us to behave like spectators. This is not only because of the endless temptations to look back offered by burgeoning online archives, it is also because, thanks to the ubiquity of recording devices, we find ourselves becoming archivists of our own lives: we never experience live events, because we are too busy recording them….”

I think this is why we seeing a shift from a 'consume mentality' to an 'experience mentality'...i.e. we are bored of seeing the same stuff all the time (whether its on an ipod or a plasma), to the point that voyeurism/spectating/consuming media content is no longer stimulating (youtube, reality TV, facebook, gossip mags etc)...I think we are now craving to be part of the action, empowered and challenged by real life experiences, as opposed to just recording and/or vicariously consuming them.

Shed Envy - A Sign O' The Times?

Shed Time = Time Out?


A friend of a friend wanted a couple of tools

He came to my 'shed' and I fixed a couple of things for him and gave him a couple of tools to use

He sat on an old office chair and drank a beer

Another friend dropped by, he knew that this is where I would be on a particular night

We listened to some tunes played on a redundant hifi connected to a redundant computer

As he was leaving he said quietly "I Love this place, it's so comfortable, I must get one"

I asked him what he meant, he said that it was great to have a place that could be messy and also creative at the same time, making things. A place where you could play any music that you liked at any volume without annoying someone else

Men and their sheds is a well known phenomena

I just wonder if it is growing in popularity again now that we are not going out so much?

Hackerspaces

Wired points us to a new trend, hackerspaces. They are akin to bike co-ops, urban gardening groups and underground foodies except they are communal spaces for geeks (...its cool to be called a geek these days) to build techy stuff out of old gadgets.

I'm not 100% sure what they are making...but I don't think matters. It's more about getting outside, going to a common space and creating stuff that interests you with other like minded people in the name of a good cause.

Marry for life, but divorce is OK?


Almost 30 per cent of the men and women believed marriage was "until death us do part" but divorce was an acceptable escape route.

Marriage is for life, right? Most Australians agree with the proposition. But most also think it is perfectly all right for unhappy couples to divorce, even if they have children.

The apparently contradictory attitudes emerged in a survey of 11,325 Australians, published in the latest Family Relationships Quarterly newsletter.

Roughly half the men (51 per cent) and women (56 per cent) agreed either strongly or moderately with the statement that "marriage is a lifetime relationship and should never be ended".

But an even bigger proportion of the same group (63 per cent of men and 70 per cent of women) thought it was "all right for a couple with an unhappy marriage to get a divorce, even if they have children".

Almost 30 per cent of the men and women endorsed both views - that marriage was "until death us do part" but divorce was an acceptable escape route.

Ruth Weston, principal research fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies and co-author of the study with Lixia Qu, thinks she understands the seeming contradiction.

"People believe you have to go into marriage thinking it is for life," she said. "They believe marriage should be a serious commitment. But they acknowledge the ideal may not pan out, hopes will be dashed, and as the course of the marriage unfolds, the ideal may need to be set aside."

The study shows only 24 per cent of Australians hold consistently anti-divorce views.

A higher proportion of women than men in all age groups clearly accepted divorce, and those in their 50s were more accepting of divorce than younger or older age groups.

Rejection of divorce was highest among teenage boys and men over 70. Ms Weston said the high rates of cohabitation in Australia might give the impression people no longer took marriage seriously. "Some people say marriage is just a piece of paper. But the study indicates people see marriage as a really important institution, but acknowledge that it doesn't always turn out all right."

http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/parenting/toddler/marry-for-life-but-divorce-is-ok-20090318-91le.html?page=2

Aussies suffering from loneliness

MARRIAGE benefits men more than women and single men are lonelier than single women, according to a survey.

The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, which covered 2000 people and focused on the link between wellbeing and loneliness and money and debt, found that loneliness is a significant problem among Australians.

It said the wellbeing loss associated with loneliness is most pronounced for males but that people who live with partners are the least lonely.

It said men who never married, were separated or widowed are significantly lonelier than females in the same circumstances.

"Curiously, however, married and de facto females record higher levels of loneliness than married or de facto men,'' the report said.

"In this respect, therefore, marriage benefits males more than females''.

The report said just over 30 per cent of respondents recorded their level of loneliness at or above the average score of 40 which indicated an average loss of wellbeing.

On the money side, men from households which earn less than $60,000 are significantly lonelier than men with a household income of $100,000 to $250,000. 

Slow movement: A big trend in 09???


I'm going to put it right out there. I think this is going to be a BIG trend in 09:

The Slow Movement.


The slow movement website explains it best

"The Slow Movement aims to address the issue of 'time poverty' through making connections. We are searching for connection. We want connection to people - ourselves, our family, our community, our friends, to food, to place (where we live), and to life. We want connection to all that it means to live – we want to live a connected life."