When I first met with Oddcast, and even before that, I was starting to get the sense that the idea that "markets were conversations" was being taken further. Lines were being blurred. Blogging and other user generated media brought the brands down from the ivory towers to the people, even if they came kicking and screaming. They were ours.
When the brands woke up from being dazed, it seemed that they began to like us... to want to get closer to us. They wanted to be in our networks, to be friends with us.
At first, I started calling this phenomenon "Brand Association." The things I buy wanted to be closer to me.
Then I realized that, even more than that, they wanted to be me, and me to be them... and to a large extent, I am them. I don't drink, so when I'm out at bars, I'm Sprite guy. Its become a running joke, but ask any of my friends who they think of when they see a Sprite, its probably me. I am a Mustang and Jamba Juice, and Macy's, too. When I bring these brands with me online through Flickr pics of the car or moblogging from Jamba Juice, what it really is is "Brand Expression." I am self identifying with a number of brands. I have a relationship with brands that I am committing a part of myself to.
Henry Jenkins covers this phenomenon in his new book and new blog:
"I wanted to suggest the various ways that people are trying to
attach value to emotion in the new media economy...the ways
that product placements sought to connect the emotions associate with
entertainment onto products embedded within that story.
Some aspects of what I am calling affective economics are deeply
embedded in current advertising practice, referred to by the various
terms Bogost identifies ("lifestyle marketing," "associative
advertising," "relationship marketing," etc.) ...
I am convinced that this shift represents the best means we have of
getting media producers to reassess their relationship to their
consumers and that seems to be key to the long term viability of
participatory culture...companies...will have an economic interest
in opening themselves up to greater participation from their consumers...."
Some aspects of this, as Henry points out, are not totally new. We've always had lifestyle marketing... but something about this new trend... this new closeness, where brands are opening up and becoming vulnerable to form a stronger tie to consumers... it all seems a bit different.
When I was at USV, digital media and marketing stuff generally went into my VC & Technology category, but I think I'm in a new playing field now... and so I'm going to start categorizing it accordingly.
But none of the terms out there are quite as direct as I'd like... so I've come up with something that says exactly what I feel this is... MeVertising. Its a blurring between my own identity, brand association, ad consumption, expression, etc.
Its buying the Nike t-shirt. In that scenario, who is advertising what?
- Is Nike advertising on me, literally?
- Am I advertising that I subscribe to the Nike lifestyle, whatever that is?
- Am I advertising that I am a sophisticated t-shirt buyer?
And I don't even want to go into what that does to the economics of the whole thing...
So, over the course of the future of this blog, I will be doing a lot of MeVertising posting, tagging things MeVertising in del.icio.us and Technorati. Feel free to do the same and join me in the exploration.