Chasing Status

Status is an odd thing really. The things we use to define our place in the world, in our social groups, our organisations and even our family are often very subtle.  Status however is often a wider sense of perception that defines us and how worthy we are to be counted on, communicated with or fundamentally, listened to. Looking back three decades, status was intrinsically linked to ownership. What car do we drive? Where do we live? What is our job title?

The 80s saw this type of status definition reach its zenith. It’s a decade often looked back on with derision, so much so that to define ourselves in such materialistic ways is now considered highly negative. Shallow is a common adjective used here; a person who has a shiny reflective exterior but little depth or richness beneath the surface. This was characterised all too well in Bret Easton Ellis’ masterpiece American Psycho through the personification of 80s avarice, Patrick Bateman.  Ellis’ cautionary Tale looks back at the 80s, figuring the type of unhinged, soulless person this type of status creates and a cold, unfeeling society which nurtures materialistic monsters.

patrick bateman american psycho

(image sourced from: http://www.konbini.com/us/entertainment/emails-american-psycho-lionsgate-share-emails-patrick-bateman/)

If we can now all see that this type of status is and was unhealthy, well…what has replaced it? And what does it mean for marketers and communicators who still need people to engage in the act of purchasing products and engaging with brands?

Over the past few years, not only has it become undesirable to be perceived as defining one’s self through material possessions. It has also become extremely difficult. How can you demonstrate status through your car when cities are becoming increasingly unfriendly to motor vehicles? How can you define yourself through your house when many in the Millennial Generation seem to be barred from ever owning their own home? These younger people now seek to display status through uniqueness, specifically through the events they attend and the experiences they accumulate.

The more unique and interesting, the higher value we collectively award. Secret Cinema, Punch Drunk, experiential pop ups, and guerrilla events all fall under this category. Now, events within marketing must be part of this zeitgeist to stand any chance of delivering engagement. Alongside this, personalised event journeys and experiences are vitally important to win share of attention in a desperately crowded marketplace. Finally, events cannot and must not be viewed in isolation; they have to be part of a campaign in a flat, non-hierarchical system, while the immediate sensory benefits of live interaction award them value. Power in the moment: marketers have to ensure consistency across their channels to maintain share of attention and deliver ROI.

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Over the next few years, this trend won’t diminish but will evolve. We’ll start to see people equate digital experiences with live ones and view these as status markers as well. We have seen the beginning of this evolution with HTC Vive’s Virtually Dead Live action/VR mash up. We’ve seen it through ABBA’s recent announcement that they are going on tour again, albeit in virtual reality. We’ve seen it through NIKE’s launch of the first live Augmented Reality shopping experience at their Parisian Flagship. This digital experience marketplace is a new frontier for communicators, one where creativity will be the main signifier of success.

Callum Gill – Head of Insight and Innovation

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