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The Shazam-effect in marketing: when “push” and “pull” strategies become obsolete

1 September 2011
tags: ,

shazamization

Before turning into a super-hero, Captain Marvel pronounced the magic word "shazam" (which stands for Salomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercure)

Steve Jobs’ genius was to combine existing technologies in an innovative manner to create seamingless browsing and multimedia experiences. Now, Apple sells its hardware with a price premium for which a lot of people are willing to pay, and it will stay like this in the future. The people from Shazam revolutionized media consumption in their way too. By allowing us to tag music whenever and whereever we are (as soon as we are connected to the internet), this application is symptomatic of a shift in our consumption: it has become ubiquituous and instantaneous. That’s what two French researchers describe in a recent paper, the call it the “shazamization”.

Mobile technologies allow us to satisfy needs and delights all along our physical and emotional routes (“Any Time, Any Where, Any Device”). Shazam is not the only available application based on this value proposition, Google developped its Goggles application, and will probably apply this to shopping with the aquisition of Like.com. According to Lemoine & Badot (2011), the success of these technologies is closely linked to the fact that we live in a world of fluency and ubiquitous information.

As the above video shows, Shazam anticipates this shift by allowing users to tag even TV commercials and get access to exclusive deals or content.Brands, on their side, offer a more consumers a better and more immersive cross-channel experience. A recent whitepaper about  consumers’ vision of the future of retail shows that smartphones now play a huge role: consumers are asking for relevant and location-based information while shopping. Lemoine & Badot illustrate their paper with a description of a mobile application that has been rolled-out in France: Collection Inspire.

collection-inspire-screenshots

With the application, French DIY-retailer Leroy Merlin, lets consumers take a photo of any support/object/color to apply it to a visualization of your home’s interior. I remember that the NikeID application has the same functionnality applied to apparel, as you can see on the application’s iTunes-page (see last screenshot). Going a step further, the application StickyBits does not only recognize barcodes of any available product, but it also allows consumers to score and/or comment on products, adding a social layer to shopping (btw, Layar has similar functionnalities).

But what does this change in marketing practice? It gives consumers an unprecedent level of empowerment!

  • From top-to-bottom to bottom-up communication

In the traditionnal marketing-model, communication is descendent. Today, organizations are not the only information sources anymore but consumers can ‘augment’ places or objects via internet-based applications, as far as it is now commonly accepted to check peer-reviews about products, restaurants… before purchase. The only twist is: it adds intermediaries to the whole information chain, and these new intermediaries will be very powerful… if only their technology/standards are widely accepted and used.

shelf-price-tags

Imagine this situation in your supermarket... Would you choose according to the price-tag ou the "like-tag"? (Image via eYeka.net/our-works)

  • Situations matter more than ever

Brands, ads, packaging, promotions… that’s what usually drives consumption desires. While this will still be the case in the future, there will also be a lot more serendipity in our consumption. As soon as consumers will be conscious that these tools gives them instantaneous access to products and information, their shopping will slowly become situation- and emotion-based. They’ll “delegate not only information storage , but also product memorization, to databases and applications“, the authors say.

  • Consumers won’t be (only) consumers anymore

Let’s take the example of Foursquare, where regular consumers can be “Mayor” of places.  From being an avid visitor of a store, the consumer turns into a brand representative, an ambassador… If he is an influential person, he might also perceive a remuneration for promoting the place. From being a consumer,  the ‘ubinaut’ (a mix from the French words internaute and ubiquité) can become an active promoter by creating relevant content and information.

mobile-billboard-photo

Victoria's Secret's new "Sexier Than Skin" ad campaign (image via FastCompany.com)

So why does this challenge “push” and “pull” strategies? Because the stimulation of consumer desires will less and less be created by merchandising, promotional offers (“push”) or advertising (“pull”), but increasingly by situations that consumers will experience in everyday life. Badot and Lemoine say that new type of actors will emerge due to this power shift: application providers (i.e. Shazam),  database managers (i.e. Google) or hardware producers (i.e. Apple)… except if hardware disappears. Check out the following video (TED India, 2009):

This post is inspired by the article “La ‘shazamisation’ de l’offre: modalités, devenir et implications managériales” [French] by Jean-François Lemoine and Olivier Badot (2011), published in Management & Avenir (44, p. 187-196)

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