New technologies are enabling a subtle shift that marketers have yet to recognize and adapt to .... I call it "dissociative identity marketing"....
Marketers have recognized the need for a fundamental re-design of marketing practices linked to the technology-driven explosion of media vehicles, from the Internet, to cable TV, blogging or gaming. They have reacted by shifting their advertising budgets from traditional TV and print to online media. They are now experimenting with new technologies and viral marketing.
However, new technologies are enabling a more subtle shift that marketers have yet to recognize and adapt to .... I call it "dissociative identity marketing." In medical terms, "dissociative identity" refers to the existence in an individual of two or more distinct identities, each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment. "Dissociative identity marketing" would refer to the relationship a brand establishes with the various personas of a consume, from the blogging persona, to the social network persona or the gaming persona.
This phenomenon is not entirely new to marketers: they have had to grapple with the "dissociative identity" of their business customers, who are also consumers. The CIO of a Fortune 100 company could be interacting with HP on a $100 million IT outsourcing deal and on a $79 personal printer purchase for his daughter at the same time, but with different perceptions and interactions.
In these new cases, brands will have to act very carefully and respect online communities to avoid creating backlashs.
Blogging personas: understanding blogging personas can be complex for marketers as they tend to be fairly dissociated from their real life personas. At the same time, targeting blogging personas does not necessarily guarantee that you will reach their real life counterparts. Pete Blackshaw has IMHO one of the best written posts on the much blogged about Snakes on a Plane viral marketing campaign. He highlights that word of mouth spread through marketing bloggers who were enthusiastic about a studio inviting their consumers to "participate" but the core message and the core targeting did not necessarily reach the real life moviegoers.
Social networking personas: MySpace has introduced a blended form of advertising, allowing brands to create their own online personas to interact with social networking personas. Brands can have their own pages and their own friends' lists.
A great example is the viral marketing campaign organized by FOX on Myspace for the release of X-Men as reported by Search Engine Lowdown. He highlights some of the smart uses of social networking personas and the strong success of this campaign (at least as measured in terms of number of friends).
BL Ochman reports in a recent post on other surprising examples such as Gil the Crab for the Honda Element, where the crab sounds off on the supposed decision to exclude him from upcoming Element TV ads.
Gaming personas: Nowhere is the development of brand personas more fascinating than in Second Life, the much hyped virtual reality world built by its 300 000 "residents." New members can create avatars that interact with a new world, enjoy new experiences and connect with other virtual reality avatars.
According to a great Business Week article, residents spend a quarter of the time they're logged in, a total of nearly 23,000 hours a day, creating things that become part of the world, available to everyone else. It would take a paid 4,100-person software team to do all that, says Linden Lab. Assuming those programmers make about $100,000 a year, that would be $410 million worth of free code work over a year.
Brands have been quick to react to the opportunity to establish themselves first in the virtual Second Life world and interact with the avatars. Digital Media Wire has an article on the "firsts" from second life.
For example, Starwoods Hotels will be opening a new line of moderately priced loft hotels and is testing the concept by having the first hotel built in Second Life. Similarly American Apparels opened a virtual store in Second life where items cost only $1 and has starting hiring virtual sales clerks. Kevin Maney even reports in his blog that Former Virginia governor (and rumored 2008 presidential candidate) Mark Warner has an avatar in Second Life.
So what do you think? Is "dissociative identity marketing" the latest fad or the ultimate customer-centric marketing?
Eric Kintz is VP Global Marketing Strategy & Excellence for Hewlett-Packard. You can find his blog here
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