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Writing for Advertising Age, columnist Pete Blackshaw said that while gossip in the past was traditionally spread at office coolers, social media and the web’s search capabilities acts like a “feeding frenzy on steroids” for curiosity seekers. In the last two weeks, the shelf-space for Google search results for “Tiger Woods” had shifted from 95 percent favorable to nearly 50 percent hostile.
What particularly keeps scandals around, however, is that the web creates a permanent record of any scandal. And the bigger the scandal, the more content spreads across the web, equating to a perpetual “Reminder-gram,” Mr. Blackshaw wrote. He noted that Wikipedia alone had nearly 500 words dedicated to “Car Accident & Alleged Affairs.”
“At the end of the day, fair or not, our brand equity is inseparable from the volume and composition of our search results,” Mr. Blackshaw concluded. “And the web rarely, if ever, forgets.”
But writing for CNN, Anita Elberse, a professor at Harvard Business School, cited a study she conducted that showed that brands across a number of product categories jumped an average of four percent in the six months after the start of an endorsement deal. Some grew more than 20 percent. Importantly, the endorsements differentiated themselves from competitors, “which did not experience any spillover of increased sales.”
Beyond connecting a star’s fans to a brand, an endorser reassures consumers about a product’s attributes and quality. For example, seeing Maria Sharapova using a Prince racket shows the item is premium quality or the tennis star “herself would be at risk of damaging her reputation.”
Ms. Elberser said Accenture’s decision to drop Mr. Woods made sense since his actions ran counter to the consulting firm’s messages, including the payoffs of risk-taking behavior and recovering from setbacks. But she believes the rewards in most cases far outweigh the risks.
“Marketers who rely on athlete endorsers know they can be in for a rocky road — their allied partners can suffer from injuries, a loss of form, scandals, rumors, and a range of other woes — and they need to adapt accordingly,” wrote Ms. Elbserer. “But don’t expect firms to cut back on the strategy altogether, as endorsers on the whole generate considerable value.”
“Over the last couple of years, I’ve really noticed if I sit down with a book, after a few paragraphs, I’ll say, ‘You know, where’s the links? Where’s the e-mail? Where’s all the stuff going on?’ ” says writer Nicholas Carr. “And it’s kind of sad.”
Carr says he’s thought of himself as a serious reader all his life, but in an article in The Atlantic, he argued that the Internet is training us to read in a distracted and disjointed way. But does that mean writers will have to change the way they write to capture the attention of an audience accustomed to this new way of reading? Carr thinks the answer is yes, and he looks to the past to make his point.
“When printed books first became popular, thanks to Gutenberg’s press, you saw this great expansion of eloquence and experimentation,” says Carr. “All of which came out of the fact that here was a technology that encouraged people to read deeply, with great concentration and focus. And as we move to the new technology of the screen … it has a very different effect, an almost opposite effect, and you will see a retreat from the sophistication and eloquence that characterized the printed page.”
As digital platforms proliferate, writers are trying to figure out how to use them. Novelist Rick Moody recently wrote a story on the social networking site Twitter. Moody says he got intrigued by the idea of writing in abbreviated form to fit within the 140-character limitations of each Twitter post.
“I began to see that trying to write within this tiny little frame, 140 characters, was kind of like trying to write haiku. It’s very poetical in its compaction, and it kind of got under my skin, and I kept thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to try and work with this?’ ” Moody says.
His flirtation with Twitter was not entirely successful. The delivery of the story went awry, and some industry insiders were bombarded with repetitive tweets. Still, Moody doesn’t regret the experiment. But he does have doubts about Twitter’s literary potential.
“It forced me to try to imply more narrative than I could actually include in the piece, because I was so stuck in this little box. It’s hard to have dialogue between characters in the confines of the Twitter box,” Moody says. “That was all fun. Whether I think Twitter is going to be a great vehicle for fiction, I’d say no.”
A lot of writers are trying their hand at Twitter books — both on the Web and in print — but Timemagazine book reviewer Lev Grossman thinks it’s a passing fad. Asked what might have some staying power, Grossman suggests the cell phone novel. Written on cell phones and meant to be read on them, many of these books are best-sellers in Japan. The authors are usually young women, and romance is the main theme.
“They tend to be narratively very propulsive, [and] not very interested in style and beautiful language,” Grossman says. “There tends to be a lot of drama and melodrama, sex and violence. They grab your attention, and they don’t really let it go.”
Apart from Twitter books and cell phone novels, Grossman, who is also a novelist, says the real challenge for writers is electronic-book readers like the Kindle. He says the increasingly popular devices force people to read books in a different way.
“They scroll and scroll and scroll. You don’t have this business of handling pages and turning them and savoring them.” Grossman says that particular function of the e-book leads to a certain kind of reading and writing: “Very forward moving, very fast narrative … and likewise you don’t tend to linger on the language. When you are seeing a word or a sentence on the screen, you tend to go through it, you extract the data, and you move on.”
Grossman thinks that tendency not to linger on the language also affects the way people react to a book when they are deciding whether to buy it: More purchases will be based on brief excerpts.
“It will be incumbent on novelists to hook readers right away,” says Grossman. “You won’t be allowed to do a kind of tone poem overture, you’re going to want to have blood on the wall by the end of the second paragraph. And I think that’s something writers will have to adapt to, and the challenge will be to use this powerfully narrative form, this pulpy kind of mode, to say important things.”
Grossman, Moody and Carr all believe that traditional books will still be around for a long time, and that some of the changes that may occur in writing will be more evolutionary than revolutionary. But it’s hard to know, says Carr, whether traditional books — and the people who read and write them — will have much influence on the culture in the future.
“The real question is,” wonders Carr, “is that segment of the population going to just dwindle and be on the periphery of the culture rather than at the center, which is where printed books have stood for centuries now?”
Perhaps we’ll have to wait another 10 years to find out.
Original Post here
Trendwatching.com’s top 10 consumer trends for 2010:
1. Business as unusual: Companies must move “with the culture,” meaning they need to be transparent and honest about their efforts to conduct environmentally sustainable business practices and genuinely collaborate with their customers rather than try to dictate to them. Trendwatching.com cites Google, Amazon, Zappos and Virgin as four companies that are successfully conducting “business as unusual.”
2. Urbany: As of 2008, more than half of the world’s population resides in cities. This means increasingly sophisticated consumers want daring goods, services, experiences, campaigns and conversations.
3. Real-time Reviews: Consumers are constantly online with immediate access to reviews of products and services by fellow consumers. Companies must either offer products and services which are so good they are beyond criticism or involve customers in product design from day one to minimize the chance of a bad reaction.
4. (F)luxury: Consumers want luxury, but there is no longer a clear definition of “luxury.” To create a sense of luxury, companies should produce products and services that are scarce or radically different from what is on the marketplace.
5. Mass Mingling: Consumers who interact online through social networks increasingly are taking those virtual relationships into the “real world.” Companies should help facilitate real-world meetups from social networks in a way that promotes their brand.
6. Eco-Easy: Time-strapped consumers want to be ecologically conscious but don’t want to expend time or effort in doing so, creating a market for products and services that make it easy to be “green.”
7. Tracking & Alerting: Using online technology, consumers want to instantly track and be alerted of events and information they find interesting or important.
8. Embedded Generosity: Consumers will continue to respond well to products and services which have a charitable component, such as apparel items which have a portion of their profits donated to a worthy cause.
9. Profile Myning: Consumers are increasingly protective of their online privacy and are receptive to products and services which offer security for online social networking activities.
10. Maturalism: Short for “mature materialism,” this trend revolves around consumers’ increasing receptiveness to products, services and advertising campaigns which are edgy, controversial and push social boundaries.
A recent study on the social networking habits of US women by social media platform SheSpeaks supports trendwatcher’s predictions for the domination of the consumer marketplace by online social networks. The study found that 86% of US women now have a profile on at least one social networking site, with 50% of female social media users saying they have purchased products because of information on social networking sites, and 40% reporting they have used coupon codes found on social networks.
The accelerated evolution of “real-time” search, introduced to us mostly through the adoption of Summize, which was eventually acquired to now serve as Twitter search, inspired both Google and Bing to release new iterations of its search engine to now include live Twitter results. Bing also announced a deal with Facebook to include status updates and shared content that were intentionally earmarked for public consumption – although this is expected to go into effect at a later date. Each announcement was strategically timed to release during the prestigious Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco while the technology world focused on tomorrow’s trends discussed during the show. With the great deal of attention thrust upon these two industry giants, Yahoo is now rumored to also have a real-time strategy in the works. Unlike Bing and Google however, Yahoo is potentially seeking to either partner with or acquire a current real-time search player.