Monthly Archives: December 2007

Word-of-Mouthfeel and the Democratization of Chow

I’ve written about food and drink before, and love to talk & think about food. It is such a powerful part of our cultural experience, and the most vivid examples of (literal) consumption and branding tend to come from the realms of food and drink. If you haven’t seen the Journal of Customer Behaviour article that Stephen Brown, John Sherry, and I did on retro brands that involved Quisp cereal, you can see a final version of it here: Sell Me The Old, Old Story: Retromarketing Management and the Art of Brand Revival.

I’ve been wondering and observing word of mouth, or maybe it *is* word-of-mouthfeel lately and wondering to myself: Is junk the new haute?

Think for a second about the question: What would make a relatively mundane, maybe old-and-tired CPG (that consumer packaged goods, for you neos and mundanes) brand actually exciting enough to be community-able? And I don’t mean the tame, paid-for-content panelgroupies of Communispace and the other paid-to-play online groups, but the Real Deal, the died in the wool enthusiasts who can’t wait to hit the blog, complain, relish, and love their surfing, comic booking, programming, SF, Heroes, Apples, BMWs, Harleys, or whatever else tickles them enough to go out there and organize and post and collect and produce and share and write…..<pant, pant>

I was perusing my airline magazine this month, which is the font of many good ideas and was struck by the number of articles about food. And not only food-food, the big bucks food you get in the fancypants restaurants that the people flying First Class can afford, but Real Food, Das Food of the People, and even Food that Blurs The Line between haute cuisine and low food, junk food.


So there’s one glorious article by David McGimpsey, accompanied by incredible food porn shots by Dan Monick (a lovely, fleshy centerspread to start things off) about the food of Los Angeles “where the most iconic food is at the drive thru.” This piece celebrates the hottest hot dogs at Pink’s which include the bacon-and-sauerkraut-topped “Martha Stewart.” The “surreal combo” of friend chicken accompanied by waffles offered at Roscoe’s (it comes with both maple syrup and gravy). The donuts of Randy’s. The Korean barbecues and double-dipped chicken sandwiches. And of course Of Course In-N-Out Burger. The Cult of In-N-Out Burger, whose word of mouth is positively flammable. From tacos to pulled pork to fried chicken sandwiches, the whole article is an eat your way through the junk food of LA and revel in it, glory in it, celebrate it, guide.

And in the exact same issue, a few pages later, is the story of Daniel Boulud of Manhattan’s DB Bistro, one of the chiquest chefs in the world, and his…hamburger. Yes, his hamburger. And fries. Ground sirloin stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras, and preserved black truffle, made to order on a freshly based sesame seed, no strike that, Parmesan, bun. Served with pomme frites in a parchment-lined silver cone. We’re all reading stories of these hundred-plus-buck superburgers now, but do I sense a trend?

I’ve always loved the democratization of taste and communication heralded by the Internet. Now we’ve got democratization of food, glorification of junk, elevation of junk both for what it is (bare, essential, authentic) and for what it can become (something to artfully experiment with at the highest levels of expertise and high culture).

I’ve written about the democratization of the adult entertainment industry in a past blog posting. I’m fascinated by Reality TV and what it signals and heralds. My research began with cult TV show followings–how could anything be more low culture and mundane? And explored and exploded those low-high boundaries. I’m all about worshiping cults, developing democracies, beatifying boundary-spanning, trumpeting the artful and richly meaningful communities that form around the stuff that others consider detritus.

Everything is being elevated and reduced as people are communication, sharing, voicing their opinions as never before. Where is it going to lead us? What are we doing to do with this new-found power to span cultural bridges and broaden our horizons? These are such exciting, challenging, interesting times, aren’t’ they?

Soda Rules

Here’s another fake ad that cracks me up. Doing some catchup fun surfing today.


Truth be told, I find these ads a lot funnier and probably more wryly effective than the over-the-top, we-take-ourselves-so-seriously AdBusters Culture Jamming ads. Sorry Media Foundation, but that’s how I see it. Jam the Culture Jam.

And if you want to know why that’s the case, Jay Handelman and I wrote an article for The Journal of Consumer Research about heavy handed consumer activist techniques that you can download in its entirely right here ( Adversaries of Consumption). If you like it, request it (and other fine Kozinets products) from their website here. They apparently track such things.

Notice the address: Chicago, “ILL.” Is that a typo?

Negative Philosophical Marketing

Have you seen this Immanuel Kant attack ad on YouTube? How to “market” philosophy. Not how to market philosophically.

The source of the humor is really about the manipulative way that we use marketing to market political candidates (and by extension all sorts of people, and services, and products). The heavy hand of the marketer just becomes so obvious when we replace political candidates with the Great Dead White Men of Philosophy. The use of weird visuals, unflattering twisting turning unnatural images (countered with happy plain images), sneering tone of voice (countered with simple plainspeaking tone), negative moody music (countered with upbeat melody), and simple wrong/right good/bad dichotomous statements is bang on. And funny. That’s well done satire.

An Airport-Embedded Study of the Boingo Community

Well I’m back from Norway, and back in the airport again, traveling back home to the Land of the Free, which always feels good.


It’s nice to be able to blog from the airport, and I have to say that I am enjoying and using my Boingo membership. Boingo is the company that provides wireless Internet access to airports around the world with a single membership. A great idea for those of us who are on and off of planes a lot. I remember probably 7 or 8 years back, I had a student presentation in my New Products MBA class at Kellogg with a similar idea. Back then, the economics were a bit different because wireless wasn’t a ripe technology.


Anyways, I just brand blogged about Boingo. Ooops, I did it again. I’m getting no compensation of any kind, just saying that I think it’s a good idea and a decent service and I’m using it, and the deal they gave me ($10 a month for the first three months) was fair and got me hooked. Now that brings up an interesting point that came up in the class on Consumer Communities that I taught in Bergen Norway for NHH‘s Marketing Department. And that is:

How incredibly vast this topic of Consumer Communities is, and how incredibly much we currently don’t know about it.

So, the Boingo example. Because I blogged on Boingo, am I now a member of some “Boingo Brand Community”? Well, we could use the standard Muniz and O’Guinn 3 pillars of brand community view to ask:

1. Do I have concsiouness of kind as a Boingo member? Well, yes. But as a Boingo “community member”? Hmmm, that’s something different and I’d say no to that. I don’t know who else is in the community, so I don’t feel connected to them. I did, however, blog to my posse (that’s you guys) about Boingo. I WOMmed them. But that’s not the same as feeling like I connect through them (although, literally right now, I do).

2. Do I share rituals and traditions with other Boingo members? Like the log-in, the plug-in, the weary airport carry-on shuffle? Well, yes I guess that I do. But it’s not really Boingo brand community related, though, is it?

3. Do I share moral responsibility with other Boingo members? Hmmm. Ten minutes ago, a woman I’ve never seen before and will almost certainly never see again approached me and asked me if I was connected to the Internet. “Yes,” I said. I didn’t bother to flog Boingo, just said yes. “Could you do me a big favor?” She asked. I expected her to ask me to check her email, or her Facebook account, but instead she asked me to check on her flight, which is sort of sensible. Toronto is getting some weather today, with freezing rain, but things seem to be okay at the airport so far.We checked her flight, she realized she was at the wrong terminal, and away she went. So Boingo allowed me to engage in a moral act or responsibility towards my fellow traveler and in fact fellow human being. But it isn’t that I reached out to her as a fellow Boingo-er (Boinger? Boingee?–c’mon brand-brothers and sisters what should we call ourselves?). In fact, maybe sharing our online access is bad for Boingo’s business. Probably it would be.

So this quick example suffices to show some important areas we still need to explore and fill in with an enhanced understanding of online communities.

1. When does a customer become a community member? What’s the threshold?

2. Related to this, is their an awareness that you are a community member, or not?

3. What are the degrees of community-ness?

4. How does community form temporally? What are the acts and the processes involved?

5. Are those formation processes different for different kinds of communities? I’m thinking that virtual communities of consumption (VCCs), product communities, lifestyle communities, and brand communities are all different social formations that are all relevant and interesting to marketers and marketing/consumer researchers.

6. What happens when companies mess with them?

7. When does brand or product community work against the company? When does sharing something hurt sales? What happens then?

8. When is a ritual really a ritual? Or a moral responsibility? Are those really critical elements? Are there others? Where do we draw the line between the kind of support I would offer a stranger at the airport with that I would give to a member of the same brand-oriented tribe? Does it even matter? Are there overlapping circle of community-ness? The traveler’s community (an imagined community of cosmopolitan travelers). This airport’s local community (including staff, workers, people waiting for family and so on). The Canadian and American and Euro communities of travelers. The TSA workers community. The people-wearing-jeans, and people-wearing-business suits communities. Maybe I hate the other people wearing Armani suits, because they make my brand seem more common. So there’s no community fellow-feeling there, there’s a feeling of resentment and competition.

It seems to me we have some fuzzy understandings here. And lots of good research that can and I hope will be conducted to keep on clarifying and building our understanding of this important and fascinating topic.

Yahoo! Zap! Twitter! Google! Boing! Oh.

“In the Age of the Internet, Anonymity will Disappear”

That’s what I allegedly said in an interview with Kristian T. Marthinsen of NHH’s online newspaper, “Paraplyen.”

Here’s the interview.

The free auto translation software programs out there on the net kind of suck. I ran the first couple of paragraphs of this article through Intertran and this is what it spat out (I’ve edited the first parag as best I could for readability; the second one is left as it emerged, so you can see what we’ve got to work with here).

In the future, net-surfers won’t have the same degree of anonymity as they have today. “In the future you will either be displayable or will have to disclose your attendance in a variety of web-sites and services,” says professor Robert Kozinets. “More and more Internet sites and e-services will be able to discern and demand information from their members.”

This week am førsteamanuensis in markedsføring against York College Robert Kozinets på NHH for å hold on to a doktorgradskurs about nettsamfunn for PhD – the students. IN årene as comes discern he for her big alterations for they social community , or communities , as it goes by the name of på fagspråket. Such community må no matter confound along with nettaviser. Hovedelementet at the back a succesful nettsamfunn am that it is the the users herself as assigning contend.

Hmmmm. Any kind Norwegian souls out there feel like translating the article and posting it back here? It’d be much appreciated.

Anyways, it was an interesting, wide-ranging interview where we spoke about many things.

Apparently, one of the most newsworthy was my observation that as we move around online we are constantly being tagged and cookied, and that the net effect of all our Facebooking and networking, combined with the increasing incorporation of GPS devices into our mobiles is that of course we are going to lose our anonymity, but gain all sorts of interesting services in the meantime.

I also said that people will have the opportunity to opt out of those services, temporarily or on a more Luddite like permanent basis. Don’t use the net, don’t provide personal data, don’t bring along a GPS coded mobile device. Then you can just be a face in the crowd.

I don’t foresee forceful microchipping of everyone, or barcoding of foreheads, any time in the near future. This is the old services-for-privacy tradeoff. And like many others in the newer generations, I’m not completely sure what all the fuss is about. For the members of a hyperconnected, networked, twitter-enabled tribe, privacy is overrated.

Norway is Cool

Actualy it was 12 degrees Celsius (that’s 54 degrees for those of you in Bushland) here in Bergen today. But very rainy. Very pretty.

Just wanted to say that the Norwegians are treating me right. After a wonderful sushi dinner today with two professors and one Ph.d. student from the NHH Marketing Department we went out for a couple of beers. Topics for conversation ranged from the scary sociocultural implications of Norwegian heavy metal bands (I now have two degrees of separation from the guitar player from Immortal, and the Satanist guy who burned down Bergen’s oldest church), to the banking scandal here in Norway (related to the sub-prime stuff in the US), to whether Condy Rice would have made a good presidential contender.

On the work side, I’m teaching a Ph.D. level course on online and offline consumer communities. I’m learning tons, and the student projects (studying things like tattooing communities, BMW online cultures, Flickr, Podzilla, and Swedish knight re-enacting communities) are off to a great start. I’m going to try and see if maybe I can post some of them here. I’ll keep you posted.

Hello Poland!

For some reason, I’ve been getting a ton of hits from readers in Poland. That happens to be the land of some of my forebears, which is pretty intriguing in a way. And I heard that Krakow is the new Prague, whatever that means…

Anyways, I wanted to say hi and call out to my new Polish Pals. Don’t be invisible (and on the net, it’s hard to truly be invisible). Let me know how you’re doing,with a comment or an email. And thanks for reading. Dziêkujê!