UnaReality – Monophysit markets
Sometimes evolutions are so blatant, they are difficult to register at all. Sometimes evolutions are so stealthy, it is difficult to guess the extent to which they have changed everything. Take the “digital world”, the past 40 years have brought disruptions after mutations after disruptions, and still … it surprises.
Anyone else having an eerie feeling so far in 2021?
Is it just me or did conf-calls, emails, posts, memes and tweets just walked straight out of our screens, into our living rooms, our streets, our markets? The Year of the Ox will bring calm, patience and grounded work, but in the meantime, in politics, stock-markets or economies, we had the Capitol, GameStop and assorted DogeCoins.
We talk about the crystallisation of 40 years of digital evolutions into a new organic reality. As there are yet no real established words for this, lets call it a una-reality, a monophysit reality.
Regardless of your date of birth, time-zone or position, for a year now, we had a random, erratic, dislocated reality, disrupted rhythms at home, in the office, in the economy or in politics. Digital space, of all the places, has probably been the one consistent thing we could rely on, some very new phenomenon for it! It morphed beyond its individual components and eco-systems into an integral, organic spatial continuum.
In a comfortable separation between physical and digital realities, we had separate conventions, separate behaviours and often separate rules. In a una-reality, a monophysit market, ubiquitous, always on, it is usage rather than ownership that underlies the new market conditions.
To continue making nonsense of the twenties, sharing and discussing with you, 5 suggested dimensions to consider, 5 guiding principles, with examples, potential or actions to grab the attention of today’s audience and the pent-up demand.
1. What was
2. What is
3. What it means
4. What next
5. The risks not to
The world used to be separated between very strongly differentiated online and offline realities, each with its own internal set of differentiators between systems, tools, social media, tribes, groups and societies.
You opted in or out. Whether on your FB account, WhatsApp group, WeChat, Insta, Tiktok, and your twittosphere. Your email account(s) were for private, professional or official use, your physical communities at home, work, friends were neatly set and organised. Each incrementally added to and complemented the previous, compartimentalised and time apportioned to each. Because of this, a lot of efforts over the past decade were on acquisition, a battle for exclusive attention, even more than of a direct share of wallet. The main drive being to target, capture and own audience or membership play.
We, our audience, had split identities, literally or figuratively. They were asically overlapping, even possibly conflicting, existing simultaneously, in parallel, sometimes linked, worlds. Just as example on the different social media, there was a strong identification, insulation, separation in independent ecosystems. Whether your personal and company persona was on LinkedIn, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik-Tok… WhatsApp or WeChat, the ecosystems were still largely independent from each other, with little interaction over each other, the competition being to create a content captivating enough to switch the target to your orbit, with binary market competitions built around models of exclusive marketing systems.
Overlaps were strong, but each of these worlds, both offline and online, existed in and by itself. You may have been at the same time a stock trader, a parent, a foodie, a gamer, you still had strongly persona, that could exist in parallel and totally different dimensions. Digitalisation happened, so all of these could exist concurrently, but with an amount of parallel lives increasing consistently, your overall personal infrastructure performance increased as well as the ability to juggle these dimensions.
Each world however was specialised, and so were the tools for each. For example, in 2019, Discord would still be a gaming tool, the name known essentially in gaming circles, TravelAdvisor reviews powered by the users of TA, etc… Everything had its own ecosystem, hard borders and walls between realities, and actually galaxies.
Marketing was therefore classic push-marketing for the past decades, if not more. The name of the game was “Bag and Tag”, identify consumers or customers, through social demographics, locations, deploying trackers and micro-dots, define the pockets of high potential targets, create particular marketing persona, fitting your positioning and that specific exclusive target.
Early 2021 events showed that the world has evolved beyond that, red-pilling was actually too late, as both worlds had definitely merged. Part of the reason is probably that, with disrupted rhythms, at home or in the office, in politics or in the economy, the digital space in general is the one consistent thing across the period, evolving into an organic, integral, part of our continuum.
The year opened up with events that showed the depth and significance of this market mutation. Eroded trust remains certainly a key vector, and will radically influence the markets and decisions over the coming years, but the how, the underlying vector will be this merged reality, or una-reality. The previous references were, as in Tron, The Matrix or Ready Player One, worlds where you could/should hop-on/hop-off. This is pretty much obsolete, and the worlds now one continuous, ubiquitous, seamless physical reality. The human body is nothing else than another user interface, as we alternate seamlessly online meetings, dating, messaging, stating, posting, joining, demonstrating, voting, rating. All that “IRL”.
The implications of this new state was demonstrated vividly this month by the events around the Gamestop shares, where the share value was heavily influenced not only by the due-diligence analysis of DFV on Reddit/WallStreetBets, but also the amplification through twitter, and the slogging match on CNBC. Or the ongoing discussions on cryptocurrencies, such as Dogecoin. I add some references and articles as notes if you want to know more about this.
We evolve in a literal fishbowl, including the magnification of opinions and actions, the impact of the full alignment of our online and offline worlds only beginning. It is unlikely that the complete overlap, such as in China the WeChat/AliPay (ANT) model, will be rolled out or even feasible in the rest of the world, given the reluctance of abandoning any type of social, economic or political control, but it is a fact that the digital dots are connecting by themselves quite well. Some, such as Elon Musk, live already in a straight timeline, both physical and digital, literally streaming family events and corporate launches, weather in Texas to the Berlin Tesla factory, sharing its calls on the Kremlin in Clubhouse, or podcasting with Joe Rogan, while plugging stocks crypto-currencies, making investments for his son, all of that in 48h as an example, a seamless unified online/offline persona.
Gamestonk! Moving forward, this will become a standard behaviour for the successful entrepreneur. The very direct risk for companies, however, but also for individuals, is inconsistency of message, positioning and practises: have a look at the former stockmarket arch-disruptor, RobinHood.
Grabbing these new opportunities means as well mashing updated tools for the daring; little known is that the all Gamestop saga was played live on Discord, with some 90k live attendees on the 27/01… Now, Discord is best known as a gaming voice/chat systems, but has earnt its stripes as a live social medium. So did AOC on Twitch sessions to push to vote earlier last year. Insulated siloes don’t exist any more, it is more and more necessary to have a full alignment between the different personas, which will create new realities, as well as opportunities. Maybe Deepf..gValue aka Keith Gill will trade career…
Both realities not only co-exist as they did a year ago, they are organically linked, simultaneously existing and interacting with a real-world impact that can not be ignored. You may still try and delete your social-media accounts for effect, commanding media shock and awe, but it sounds and looks more peevish than flamboyant, an irrelevant grand gesture. As a company, group, societies, individual, the time where you could/would entertain dual personalities off and online is drawing to a close.
Lets call this una-reality, a unique reality, a monophysit reality, we now operate fully in a continuous world where there is no real boundary between these realities. Boundaries, either physical or digital, used to be clear and set, do not exist nor matter anymore, and therefore, we move on to a demand/pull marketing.
We stepped out / red-pilled out of “the Matrix” into “Roger Rabbit”!
WHAT IT MEANS / WHAT TO DO WITH THAT
The continuity between offline and online, the disappearance of the digital to physical distance creates a need for adjustments in how to operate, both as individuals, groups, societies or companies. Piecemeal fixes and approaches don’t seem to hit the nail.
What could be done with that? If we are, as I believe, in a solidly pull market, the end-decision is per definition dependent on the audience itself. Up until a couple of years (turn of the 2010s, for some industries such as media until 2019), we were firmly in a push market, led by releases, announcements, etc… so we had a selection of traditional recipes. These were based on strategies of both audience exclusive ownership and hence necessary acquisition as a main target.
Acquisition in itself may, in the current market situation, be unnecessary, as exclusivity is both unrealistic, unnecessary and unattainable as a rule. Therefore, it could be more successful to conceive clients, consumers, customers, voters as swimming in an organic flow of opinions/information/data, rated and prioritised but without exclusivity or set/hard hierarchy (cf “a New Trust blog post”).
In this sphere of relativity, 5 key elements seem crucial to ensure success:
–Credibility : on the topic/in the sphere
–Clarity : simplicity and clarity of the positioning/message/promise is critical to cut through the multiplicity of formats
–Intensity : you need to define, set and maintain the level of engagement you need and wish with your specific audience/sphere
–Continuity : it must seamlessly tie all elements together, regardless of topic, ie whether you speak about sports, social, politics,…
–Unicity : your positioning can not be dependent or conditional, multiple; that much seems obvious, but is not always the experience…
Your audience, your audience-s, will exist across many realities/systems/dimensions/communities, reviews, opinions and ratings an indication but not an absolute, and your competition will also be to capture attention. In this non-exclusive environment, the battleground will remain time. Your clients, customers, consumers, voters,… will expect you to be a stand-by commonality across all spheres, and element that can be reliably found where it is expected in a whirlwind of reality spheres, which credibility and voice.
The objective can not be to sit back and wait for it, but to use this opportunity, even if or because it does present some thorny potential issues, if only due to the 24/7 always-on aspect of this reality, which exists everywhere in parallel or in conflict to the wish for private/own/me time (for an example in China, “bedtime revenge”).
We deal with a non-exclusive reality, which means that we have to create new relationships which are not based anymore on property or unique belonging but mainly by a feeling of proximity, with all the shades and nuances this means.
To be pragmatic, hereafter some practical ways to grab the opportunities of this unareality which could be deployed rather. They are clearly not exhaustive, and I look forward to hear more about them:
–4th wall : create a direct rapport with your audience as an equal/insider/in on the joke
–Map and position: define yourself precisely, to be able to cater for/address at the same time siloed and overlapping publics
–Gamify: engage your audience with higher intensity
–New timelines / New Cross Overs: reset your/the timelines to the new schedules, change the game by crossing-over into other spheres
-New KPIs: deploy new measures adapted to the current market
Lets dive a bit more into this.
- 4th wall
The 4th wall technique originates in the theatre, where actors on stage would engage directly with the audience, hence the 4th wall by reference to the stage (think panto/commedia-del-arte). A contemporary/international illustration of it can be found in “Deadpool” movies or comics, where the hero continuously engages directly with the reader, as an insider/confederate. By using this technique, you directly play on the continuity between off and online worlds. You literally reach out across the screen to the audience. That could be achieved by engaging through interaction in videos, web-pages or meshing digital and physical.
For example, linking range of clothes on website/a pop-up store/an IG-TikTok vid/an exclusive item or redeem code
- Mapping and positioning
New dimensions have appeared or their importance increased. To define your position, you need to list and set them, then position your offer/company/yourself on these new coherence axes. For me, a key starting point would be the digital intensity of your market (how important the digital world is) and how important the community is as such in the market.
Engaging in such an environment means high intensity of the contact, either in frequency, depth or volume. It means active participation of both you and your audience/public/team/partners.
Gamification, ie the rewarding of action through an interactive activity is a fantastic way to achieve that as it allows you to chose all the elements and illustrate indirectly and subtly exactly where you want to be, by chosing precisely the space/theme/action and expectation, whether you are in tech, fashion, DIY, gardening, toys, gaming, retail, food or anything. Cultural codes are less and less period-exclusive, hence, you can re-invent/recycle/reposition anything.
- New timelines / New Cross Overs
From early morning commutes, lunch times, curfews at 18h00, 21h00 or 23h00, or none at all, movies releases postponed again and again, micro and macro, personal and public timelines have been shattered. This reorganisation of the physical space goes further than the physical reorganisation which we address in a separate article. Shattering the timelines has opened up possibilities to link up across vertical times/periods and hence reflexes.
Whereas physical time is by definition linear, we can tactically and strategically play on the relative timelessness or on the contrary instantaneity of the digital world as never before.
We can now splice and play on the timelines. For examples of this meshing of timelines, both individual, corporate and historical, cf Elon Musk Twitter feed.
- New KPIs
New spaces, new concepts, new timelines, new positionings, all of this needs of course to be monitored, and hence requires new KPIs, more than views, star reviews, likes. Partly, it is because crowd sourced opinions (reviews, star ratings,…) are since many months rather suspicious to many, partly because they are as well part of the controlled behaviour, likes and dislikes a politeness with only scant relation to an actual behaviour/purchase, but fundamentally because of the new (dis)trust expectations.
Followers, audience numbers, would be a good indication of the potential reach, but do not give the intensity of this link (ex. following X.Y, subscribing to Z channel, …because it will show on your profile). New compound KPIs, followers/ratings/comments/scroll down would be a solution, if technically feasible).
An easier way to picture these markets is to try and visualise all dimensions, key competition elements, and competitors.
Disclaimer on the chart: companies have been used for illustrative purposes only, the picture does not purport to be exhaustive, nor implies endorsement of the article, blog or podcast. The opinions and positions expressed are my own and do not engage any of the companies listed.
THE RISKS NOT TO
Due to its very nature, this una-reality comes with new challenges. Beyond the constraints it would create in un-adapted delivery, the disappointed expectations of your audience, ignoring this new reality leads to direct risks. We saw a few of them over the past days:
Inconsistency of positioning, message or action, leads to dilution or loss of relevance. Given the nature of today’s audience attention, it will be an uphill struggle to re-establish eroded identities. As an example, check the effect of the unprecedented step taken by Google to try and exonerate the RobinHood app of the backlash from online community resetting thousands of reviews to restore their previous 5 stars rating. Of course, as should have been expected, this only created a lightning rod for users to repeat their ratings (as of 2021/02/19, 1.1 star)
These are High Obsolescence markets. Opinions, output, deliveries, this blog, are judged in hours, maybe days if very good. All of this either creates or amplifies a certain market dualism, with a high premium for established/ entrenched positions (space owners) on the one end of the market, and a disproportionate effort for a gaggle of challengers on the other side. In the classical position of middle markets, challengers will have to accept that to compete, the effort in the medium term will be as or even more intense that on the more established part of the market, and this led by a seamless demand
Many will be tempted by short termism, while current markets require long term investment and sustained belief. Just looking at the flag bearers of the digital economy, whether Amazon/Tesla/… it’s the consistent delivery over very long periods of time that made it possible at all, with periods that vastly outlast the lifespan of opinions. This further pushes a market duality between infra and super-structure, backstage and frontstage. For example, while the the immediate rating of Robinhood app by irate users was still under pressure in February 2021, but their long term / IPO prospects did not seem hindered. Either a clear schizophrenia, or the survival of a two-tier concurrent reality
Finally, more than ever, in such a shattered reality, we/our audience can make sense of this reality with clear vision, direction: they are rare and far between on the ground. Whether as companies, products, we can see the success in strong, unifying, destination map with Elon Musk/Tesla/SpaceX for example. There is so far no strong theoretical background, nor analytical structure and vision. Until such day, companies/groups/individuals will continue to be buffeted by the winds of the latest day news (cf “memestocks”)
A year of dislocated, erratic, random reality, disrupted rhythms has brought the digital space to a new level of existence, an organic continuum where the boundaries between ecosystems, communication groups, physical and digital are not anymore about insulated realities, choosing either/or, but fully moving into this seamless reality . This new unbound reality is likely to continue spilling over.
REFERENCES to refresh memory: the list provided is only illustrative, non-exhaustive, of moments; actions, opinions and analyses engage only their respective authors and media.