Where Producers Disappear, Do Consumers Appear?
Take this from a viral marketing expert; the most contagious marketing messages are those that work the absence of their originators in some way or other. It is a fascinating game, not least because with the arrival of the intention economy, consumers are moving center stage, but the understanding of the process is still very limited.
A central role in the story is played by consumers who are turning the tables on producers by indicating that their elusiveness is less and less of a vulnerability businesses can exploit. Uniting is key in the new development. Consumers are uniting in their investigations on how products can be produced in as best a way as possible. The fun part is the involvement itself. Other than just stashing cash on a counter communally sourced production adds a life experience to shopping.
One example of crowdpowered production is Eventful.com. It’s a platform where people list their wishes for artist performances. At a certain level of demand, the performance takes place. It’s as simple as that! Eventful is incredibly viral and runs over 125,000 demanded events on normal days.
Trendspotting.com, a Dutch consultancy has reviewed it and believes that Eventful “Should help persuade well known artists to now and then change their regular touring schedule, and should definitely create a long tail-style bonanza for niche audiences, and thus niche artists, niche events and niche performances.”
Consumers before the internet era have always been completely invisible other than in numbers of marketing equasions. To understand how and why this is changing is important. Just like the nation state, or city communities, consumers have been hypothetical entities, surrounded by vagueness more than anything else. The social scientist Ernest Gellner is the prophet of choice on this issue. He poined out that a nation is an ‘imagined’ political community. It is impossible for members of even the smallest nation to ever know most of their fellow-members, but nevertheless, in the minds of each lives the image of the community. Gellner has said ‘Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness; it invents nations where they do not exist.’
The latest trends in the consumer story are changing this invisibility rapidly. Developments of perhaps even only the last months signal changes of astounding proportions. Gellner and many of his contemporaries’ views are beginning to be overturned by these events. Imagining the future by speculatively taking bets on what is going to materialize is not only for the disturbed or fantasists with too much time on their hands.
The music industry is perhaps where one should be getting the best ideas from, because it also lends itself for such models. Sellaband links fans to bands and enables them to sponsor them. The sponsoring fans get a piece of the action in return if a band is popular. This is how it works: fans, dubbed ‘believers’, find an artist they like on SellaBand.com. For 10 dollars they can buy a share, dubbed a ‘part’ in the band. Once the band has sold 5,000 parts, SellaBand arranges a professional recording, including top studios, A&R managers and producers. Believers receive a limited edition CD of the recording. The interesting twist is that the songs are then made available as free downloads. Income comes from advertising revenue, which is split three ways: artist, believer and SellaBand. Since both believers and artists benefit from getting 5,000 parts sold, both are likely to actively promote the band (and SellaBand) everywhere musicians and music fans are active: on their blogs, on their MySpace pages, in online communities and friends. The first band to win was Nemesea, from tiny Netherlands, my home country. This band is now in the studios recording their first album. The concept is not new in the music world, where fans of course have a long tradition of building close relationships with their beloved manufacturers of music. The group Marillion recorded one of its first albums from donated cash.
Consumers are materializing slowly. They bond together. The web is a great medium to find like minded people and that’s what has made consumers evolve from an elusive group to being closely knit. Visible.