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#29 – The deceleration of culture, the rise of the hermit consumer, and brands as stories
Hello and happy Friday,
This week’s Strategy Bites look ponder the question whether culture really has come to a standstill (and if so, why that might be), why consumers have entered their hermit age, why brands are basically just stories, how younger people engage with live sports, how to judge creative work and give better feedback, and a reminder to not comparing apples to pears in your brand research.
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Judging Creative & Giving Feedback. I am about to walk into a pitch presentation and I’m at the stage where I second guess whether we moved the best work forward, so this post about judging creative work felt timely. It’s one of the hardest things to do, particularly if you work in an environment that prides itself on radical creativity and if your ambition is to do more than just adding to the earsplitting noise of nonsense out there. ”Average ideas can be nurtured into outstanding ones, good ideas can suffer death by a thousand cuts (or a thousand bits of unhelpful feedback.)” In this piece, Katie Pope shares the ten biggest challenges that get in the way of great creative work – before landing on a few recommendations to improve how we judge such work.
Gen Z watches less live sport but engages more with sports content. The decline of the live event has been lamented for a while. However, a different, maybe naively optimistic way of looking at this, might be around ‘how’ younger people engage. Sports still matter to them, they just lean into it differently.
Gen Zs on average follow the least number of sports competitions compared to older cohorts and watch fewer live sports. However, the 18-24s are most likely to engage with sports through other content and activities.
40% of 18-24s claim they are sports fans. They follow an average of 6.5 sports, compared to those 55-64 who follow 11.5 competitions.
While young consumers watch fewer live sports (73% of 18-24s compared to 79% of 25-64s), they are more likely to engage with sports through additional content and channels: they engage with sports on social media (93%), play sports video games (86%), or watch sports documentaries (77%), all ahead of their 25-64s counterparts.
Why Culture Has Come to a Standstill. This is a monumentally depressing and important article that will likely break your heart or just roll your eyes. For anyone even slightly occupied with some form of cultural production, it should serve as a wake up call – or maybe just a little reminder. “For 160 years, we spoke about culture as something active, something with velocity, something in continuous forward motion. What happens to a culture when it loses that velocity, or even slows to a halt?” And: “Today culture remains capable of endless production, but it’s far less capable of change.” But by far the most damning section: “We are now almost a quarter of the way through what looks likely to go down in history as the least innovative, least transformative, least pioneering century for culture since the invention of the printing press. There is new content, of course, so much content, and there are new themes; there are new methods of production and distribution, more diverse creators and more global audiences; there is more singing in hip-hop and more sampling on pop tracks; there are TV detectives with smartphones and lovers facing rising seas. Twenty-three years in, though, shockingly few works of art in any medium — some albums, a handful of novels and artworks and barely any plays or poems — have been created that are unassimilable to the cultural and critical standards that audiences accepted in 1999. To pay attention to culture in 2023 is to be belted into some glacially slow Ferris wheel, cycling through remakes and pastiches with nowhere to go but around. The suspicion gnaws at me (does it gnaw at you?) that we live in a time and place whose culture seems likely to be forgotten.” Jason Farago goes on to speculate about the reasons for all for culture’s abrupt deceleration. And he raises a point that is bigger than “culture” (as in its reproduction in art, music, literature, fashion) and points to a general slow down: the unprecedented progress between 1870 and 1970 made us believe that our lives would just continue on this trajectory. Turns out, it might not.
Are you controlling for size in your brand studies? For everyone who does research on their brands or is trying to understand attitudes towards theirs, this post serves as a little reminder that one shall not compare apples to pears: “Because it’s a universal, empirical fact that big brands score higher on average on category attributes. It’s a law of branding.”
Welcome to the age of the hermit consumer. Everyone who talks about how covid 19 has changed consumer behaviours normally gets sent a link to Mark Ritson’s article about the boring brown lines of average – and how many of those new behaviours quickly levelled back to the norm after we’ve found a way of living with the virus. There are, however, areas where behaviours haven’t bounced back: ”Rich-world consumers are spending around $600bn a year less on services than you might have expected in 2019. In particular, people are less interested in leisure activities that take place outside the home, including hospitality and recreation. Money is being redirected to goods, ranging from durables like chairs and fridges, to things such as clothes, food and wine.” With people going out less, we seem to have entered the age of the hermit consumer. Partly due to a lingering fear of infection, partly due to changing working patterns, and partly due to a potential change in values: “According to official data from America, last year people slept 11 minutes more a day than in 2019. They also spent less on clubs that require membership and other social activities, and more on solitary pursuits, such as gardening and pets.”
The glory of storytelling. Ana Andjelic has made a name for herself when it comes to critically examining and exploring the concept of aspiration – and how luxury brands cater to them. In this piece, she talks about the power of stories. ”Stories are all the brands got. A brand itself is a story, invented to give products and services a context and meaning; brands separate products from commodities. When differences in quality or design are minor, a brand sways consumers from one product to another, regardless of price. We pay more to wear something from a certain brand; we use a brand as both identification and differentiation mechanism. Without stories, there would be no brands.” The graphic she shared on LinkedIn is a handy little summary and a reminder of the power of storytelling in the realm of commerce’s obsession with numbers
That’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed this week’s Six Links of Inspiration. If you did, feel free to share or forward this issue to your friends.
See you next week,