Where music, particularly in the form of live musical performances, used to bring people together, and even effect social change, devices like the Walkman and especially the iPod are acting to do the opposite, argues Nikil Saval
The concern that recorded music promotes solipsism and isolation isn’t new. Before the invention of the record and the gramophone (1887), the only form of listening people knew was social; the closest thing to a private musical experience was playing an instrument for yourself, or silently looking over a score. More often, if you had the means, you got to sit in the panopticon of the concert hall, seeing and being seen to the accompaniment of Verdi – an experience most fully described by Edith Wharton in the opening scene of The Age of Innocence (1920), just as it was going out of style.
Barry Mowszowski, recently appointed creative strategy director at the Sydney offices of Starcom MediaVest Group, spoke at the first of the Australian INfront Insight talks last night at the Apple Store in downtown Sydney, and discussed the challenges, and opportunities, facing brands in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).
His intention, in a talk titled “Brands Instigating Social Change – Profit + Purpose”, aside from outlining changing consumer perception of brands, was also to trigger debate and discussion in the advertising and marketing industry regarding brands, corporate social responsibility, and their part in encouraging responsible consumer behaviour.
Following are a few stand-out points from last night’s talk:
- Consumers adopted a “live well, spend less” (a phrase appearing on a November 2008 cover of the New York Magazine) thinking during the GFC.
- Despite this very few brands have adjusted to changed consumer expectations after the GFC.
- Consumers want to see brands giving more back to the community, not just their shareholders.
- Consumers are becoming less tolerant of bullshit from brands.
- Brands need to adopt a genuine corporate social responsibility policy, rather than treating it merely as a “check-list” item.
- Increasingly consumers are looking to brands to encourage responsible behaviour and social change.
- Indeed brands need to become positive instigators of social change.
- These goals are not straightforward however as brands need to reconcile shareholder value against cultural value.
- Levis are an example of a brand who reinvented themselves through social awareness campaigns, and their “Water<Less” jeans.
- Brands need to do more to encourage the desire of consumers to share, rather than own products, through car and bike sharing services for instance.
- Brands need to give more thought to “Cultural KPIs”, and redefine their measures of success.
- There needs to be less focus on stimulating consumerism in favour of material accumulation with purpose.
- Consumers would be happy to pay more for goods or services were brands to reinvest in the future of their customers.
Mowszowski also made a number of suggestions as to how several well known brands could become more socially responsible.
The presentation was recorded and I will post links to the video and podcast as soon as I can.
Television soap operas are proving to be a surprise driver of social change and self improvement.
Researchers in Rwanda have found that radio soap operas there can help defuse the country’s dangerous ethnic tensions. Turkish soap operas have set off a public debate about women’s roles in the Middle East. And research in the United States has found that health tips tucked into soaps have greater sticking power than with just about any other mode of transmission. In a surprising number of ways, soap operas are improving lives around the world.
TV is proving to be an important driver of social change in developing nations.
In our collective enthusiasm for whiz-bang new social-networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, the implications of this next television age – from lower birthrates among poor women to decreased corruption to higher school enrollment rates – have largely gone overlooked despite their much more sweeping impact. And it’s not earnest educational programming that’s reshaping the world on all those TV sets. The programs that so many dismiss as junk – from song-and-dance shows to Desperate Housewives – are being eagerly consumed by poor people everywhere who are just now getting access to television for the first time. That’s a powerful force for spreading glitz and drama – but also social change.
Josh Catone on how Twitter can be used to harvest information from events that are in progress, such as voting in elections. Sure there’s a few hurdles to clear, and a lot of sometimes useless data to sift through, but it can very effective.
Twitter works well as a vehicle for news or data gathering because it allows researchers or organizers to crowdsource those tasks and create a network that can pull in information faster and cover more ground than a single reporter, or even a team of reporters could. One of the downsides of Twitter is that it is rather jumbled – there’s a high ratio of noise to signal.