Critic’s Corner / Marketing & Business




Liquid society is the formula that Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman popularized to describe the contemporary world, where personal experiences and interpersonal relationships are typified by increasing levels of uncertainty, volatility and fluidity. The recent economic recession and related booming of social inequality has made clear that liquid society has deeply redefined our sense of belonging and shared beliefs about the future.

Of course, all these events have had a tremendous impact on reshaping consumers' habits, preferences and aspirations. Longtail, low-cost and e-commerce are just the most striking examples of the increasing fragmentation and delocalization of shopping strategies and purchase decisions.

Liquid society describes the lack of reference points and the loss of a shared social identity that characterized the late capitalist society, in which the flow of desires became more and more voracious and omnivorous. Consumption as a fragile and temporary substitute for previous social values made everything shining, mesmeric and iconic, but also easily revocable, outdated, and ephemeral.

Modern marketing was designed to deal with that model of roaring capitalism, but today we face a completely different landscape, where increasing expectations of easy profits look like a fading vestige of the past.

It seems urgent to understand what liquid society rejects from the traditional marketing approach.

We stay liquid, orphans of stable frameworks and beliefs (impossible to imagine returning to our once assured past , everything is changing and passing by at a higher and higher speed), but the dynamics of desire have also jammed, due to the recession.

Is liquid society therefore liquefying marketing too?

Author: Luca Vercelloni

Category: Marketing & Business

Tags: Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid society, marketing, longtail, delocalization, e-commerce



From its humble beginnings as an online bookseller, Amazon could at first claim little more distinction than having the most comprehensive book library.  From there they expanded quickly into digital content distribution amidst the then very trendy auction sites and newly emerging "e-tailers."
They knew they had arrived, however, when their competition began trying to rip them to shreds.  In 1997, Barnes & Noble sued Amazon to stop them from claiming to be the world's largest bookseller.  They didn't stop because they were proven to be just that.  The next year WalMart sought legal remedy for unfair trade practices.  Bankrupted main street shops across the US couldn't help but smile at the irony.  If the world's biggest retailer couldn't stop Amazon, it seemed unlikely that anyone else could.

Without the restrictions of literary-related product lines like its book bound rival or the singular value stigma of America's low price leader, Amazon continued to grow by providing a pastiche of electronic products such as the Kindle Fire tablet, which functions both as content delivery device as well as another shopping tool.

In addition to their physical product ranges, Amazon aims to control and enhance the overall shopping experience in ways their bricks and mortar counterparts could only imagine.  Since Amazon Prime's US launch in 2005, the $79 annual fee (half price for students) not only gives their customers free, two-day or faster shipping of any qualified purchase, but also free, unlimited access to a huge library of streaming video content available through virtually any electronic device.

Not content to dominate merely home and office delivery, during the past year Amazonlaunched Locker, a product distribution service aimed at apartment or other dwellers without the ability to receive packages securely.  This revolutionary offering alerts shoppers via email or text when their packages arrive at an ever-growing list of Amazon Locker kiosks, helping them to avoid long lines at the post office or other traditional delivery locations while maintaining a wholly Amazon-branded experience.

The elasticity of Amazon's brand architecture continues to include not only their own product lines but virtually every type of merchandise that could conceivably be delivered, in some states including even wine and spirits.  "Fulfillment by Amazon" is a promise of comfort and security not only for Amazon products, but for those of virtually any retailer including formerly litigious adversary WalMart.

As a service aggregator rather than traditional manufacturer, retailer or distributor, Amazon can remain agnostic even to its own product lines by providing access to comprehensive consumer and commercial reviews, daily deals and deeply detailed product descriptions.  Amazon devotees are amazed, amused and ensnared by a dazzling array of merchandise, from those offered by used resellers all the way to top of the line branded versions of the same or similar products.

Amazon's tightly knitted retail quilt weaves itself into nearly every facet of the consumer's online shopping experience, offering tailor-made solutions that allow Amazon to become part of the tapestry of their lives.

Author: Tony Blass

Category: Marketing & Business

Tags: bricolage brands, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Kindle Fire, Amazon Prime, Amazon Locker, brand architecture




Zygmunt Bauman’s famed metaphor of tourists and vagabonds could help us to better understand the big shift that has occurred in the last decade within the realm of consumption.

Tourists are comfortable and self-confident, globalized consumers, hedonistic and whimsical, savvy web-explorers, sensation seekers and experience collectors. For them, citizenship has been dethroned by a sense of community. However, it is a virtual kind of community that has nothing to do with the ancestral meaning of community (homeland). It is rather a chosen and virtually boundless kind of community, joined by shared aesthetical feelings, values and lifestyles.

Though we are firmly convinced that most companies haven't yet understood nor efficiently managed rules and the potential of digital branding, it is pretty evident that a lot of brands benefited from the emergence of the tourist-type consumer. Love marks, brands pampering our look and our selves, brands promising (and delivering) an involving and uplifting experience are still the most successful examples.

Vagabonds are more difficult to reach. Survivors of the mass market age, they are on the move as well, but constrained by a lack of means which downgrades their quality of life, dreams, aspirations. They are experiencing discomfort and disenchantment, and the values previously attached to brands are being tossed here and there in a frustrating trade-off between hyper-choice and forced downsizing of expectations. Low cost and saving specialists, they are targeted by private labels, perpetual sales and off-price promotions.

Which marketing countermeasures will win them back? Currently most companies persist in using old, blunt tools, becoming less and less effective, as if nothing has happened in the meantime. Vagabonds will require a completely re-imagined customer experience that offers the prerequisite frugality while enhancing their self image as expert consumerists.

Author: Luca Vercelloni

Category: Marketing & Business

Tags: Zygmunt Bauman, digital branding, love marks, vagabonds and tourists, customer experience