Connected Lives

With social-networking infiltrating every part of our hyper-connected lives, how we interact, shop, form opinions and portray our self-image has changed beyond recognition – even to the extent that we now choose to present multiple ‘ideal’ images of ourselves across various platforms.

Consumers are now forming ‘elastic’ personas, in order to stretch themselves across a variety of social networks – the need to share, promote and express now means that cultural shifts are fleeting and temporary, their lifetimes accelerated by hyper-connectivity.

But how is this affecting how people interact with each, with technology and with brands? How are brands reacting to a culture where trends and attitudinal shifts are ephemeral?

It’s not only access to the Internet that is key to the rise of Connected Lives – it’s also the sharp increase in connectivity of the everyday objects we surround ourselves with. The Internet of Things means that even more information and personal moments can, and will, be sharable by people across the world.

As a comment on the increasing ability, and desire, to share every moment of our lives, Laura Cornet created a group of soft toys that will let babies post on Facebook themselves. As part of her graduation project “New Born Fame”, the designer created a crib mobile equipped with a motion-sensing camera that automatically captures videos when the baby reaches upwards. Other items include shoes fitted with sensors and pairing capabilities that will automatically post the baby’s physical activity on Facebook.

Although the designs aren’t meant to go into production, the project gives an interesting commentary on parents, particularly Millennials, who are already creating a presence on social networks for their children – not necessarily out of choice, but more due to the fact their hyper-connected lives encourages the sharing of their entire existence.

This awareness is what drives us to increasingly share our lives, and gain value enhancement by being tagged or pictured in specific places, situations and with specific products. On many social-networks, particularly those that are image based, consumers are looking less to share their experiences and moments, and more to broadcast an ideal persona that a particular audience can identify with and value.

This sense of self-promotion has now begun to create a monetary value, as shown by retailer OnePiece. The US brand launched a first of its kind shopping experience in SoHo, New York, where its #socialcurrency concept allows discounts for every 500 followers a consumer has across social networks. These platforms included Facebook, Instagram, twitter, Vine and Pinterest – every 500 followers gets a $1 discount towards purchases.

OnePiece is not the only brand to start use consumers status on social networks as a form of currency – Marc Jacobs exchanged tweets and Instagram posts for its Daisy perfume. As brands increasingly look to reward consumers with high numbers of followers on social networks, people will become ‘Trumans’ – much like the main character in the movie ‘The Truman Show’, they’ll broadcast scripted versions of their lives to attract larger audiences.

This means that people are now more comfortable having an ‘elastic persona’, that stretches across various platforms, from LinkedIn to Vine. It’s become important to express separate aspects of our lives, interests and work, and divide them between accounts and social-networks. These fragments of our personalities are now scattered across the Internet, and are picked up or put down when we choose.

Consumers are now constructing identities through mood boards and image-based diaries, such as Tumblr and Instagram. Brands have picked up on this image-centric approach to people’s behaviour across social networks, and have sought to create apps and platforms that leverage it.

This year, ASOS launched As Seen On Me, an online channel that links customer generated visual content to ecommerce. The platform uses a format similar to that found on Pinterest and enables users to share images of themselves wearing products from ASOS via Facebook and Instagram, by using the hashtag #asseenonme. Consumers can also upload images directly onto the site.

ASOS is not the only brand to take a user-generated, social commerce approach to its content – cosmetic brand Sephora launched a similar strategy with ‘The Beauty Board’, and American luxury retailer Neiman Marcus also has an app with similar functionality.

Celebratory style influence is being replaced by individual street style trends, as user-generated content holds more sway over decisions of style and purchases. As a result, some brands have looked to celebrate individualism and imperfection in their new collections, moving away from the glossy, high-production imagery shown in the likes of Vogue and Elle.

Connected Lives is forcing brands to become more agile in their messaging and with how they deliver it, but also reinforcing the need to hold onto core values.

As connectivity becomes even more ubiquitous with the Internet of Things, profiles will soon become more like broadcasts, as Truman’s seek to project idyllic and desirable elements of their daily lives. Millennials in particular will stretch themselves across networks, fragmenting their personalities and existence in an attempt to live across as many events and happenings as they can.

Brands will need to be shrewd about how they tap into Connected Lives – the speed and efficiency that information is shared is a valuable tool, but also tempered by the cultural surges that it creates, making trends and attitudinal shifts fleeting and momentary.

In order to appeal to connected consumer, brands will need a resolute identity, unified and strong enough to withstand constant change, but to also to introduce marketing that is elastic and dynamic – able to cater for cultural surges, and that will support and enable Connected Living.

This consumer trend was explored by Ben Sillence.

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