“It’s interesting because in a sense, in social media as a whole there is a lot of motivation to be ‘liked’. It gives you validation. The selfie is a very literal manifestation of that.” Iain Matthews, head of planning at social media agency Jam (Marketingmagazine.com, April 9, 2014)

“They no longer want to be a walking billboard of a brand. Individualism is important to them, having their own sense of style.” Michael Scheiner, an Abercrombie spokesman (Reuters.com, September 10, 2014)

“People are looking to create a unique identity. They want to put together their own story rather than have someone else tell them.” Allen Adamson, an author and branding expert at Landor Associates (Reuters.com, September 10, 2014)


Description

In the extremely competitive environment we live in, there is ever-growing pressure for both individuals and brands to stand out from the crowd. There is a search for an articulation of one’s unique identity. In a mass-marketed, consumer-based culture, the quest for individuality is a backlash against sameness and globalization. Millennials now have many opportunities to define their personality by expressing their independence, opinion and creativity in personal matters. This collection of personal choices is a means of expression, a voice telling the world who they are.

40% of today’s Millennials simply have no consideration for what the rest of society thinks about their opinions or behaviour, and 56% will actually fight against society and norms if they believe that they are in the right, according to the same MTV/TataDoCoMo survey data.

A striking example comes from India, a country yet well-known for the respect of traditions, where a third of Millennials cited ‘personal satisfaction’ as the single most important factor behind their decision-making, ahead of both parents (26%) and wider family (24%) – an unthinkable order of priorities for previous generations of Indians! Far from safety in numbers, and looking for identity, prestige and endorsement from a wider group, 40% of today’s Millennials simply have no consideration for what the rest of society thinks about their opinions or behaviour, 56% will actually fight against society and norms if they believe that they are in the right, according to the same MTV/TataDoCoMo survey data. As a complement to this consumer drive, brands are also taking on more of an individualized personality themselves, daring to take a unique position instead of being all things to all people – and winning consumer loyalty and advocacy as a result. Paradoxically, despite these unprecedented levels of self-obsession and independence, young consumers feel the need to belong to peer communities. Actually, they want to share their individuality with the communities they are part of, both in the professional and private context, both online (social networks) and offline (family, friends, colleagues). Sharing has become the main form of validation and meaning for these young adults.

Self-identification

And then come… the selfies. The Telegraph reported a recent poll saying that among British people 18-24 selfies are the most popular genre of photography with 30% of the photos they take being selfies. According to the study, of Instagram’s top 10 tags, two explicitly have to do with taking selfies, and the third most popular tag, #me, is devoted entirely to self-shots, representing over 67 million self-portraits. Instagram as well as the photo messaging application Snapchat are a breeding ground for young adults’ narcissistic tendencies and e-reputation awareness.

Of Instagram’s top 10 tags, two explicitly have to do with taking selfies, and the third most popular tag, #me, is devoted entirely to self-shots, representing over 67 million self-portraits.

Initially popular with celebrities, selfies have gained wider popularity with average young adults over time. The appeal of selfies comes from how easy they are to create and share, and the control they give self-photographers over how they present themselves. Uploading attractive or alluring selfies allows people to get attention from as many people as possible; to gain a self-esteem boost while dealing with one’s own self-consciousness; to show off one’s own great achievements when feeling good about oneself. Meanwhile, personal branding keeps growing in importance in the professional sphere. With business being ever more competitive, professionals and business owners need to strengthen their own and unique brand among their peers. In doing so, they get to decide what their unique promise of value is and who they want to share it with, making others able to identify their own identity. Personal branding is about expressing one’s authentic self by allowing being the person individuals are meant to be.

Self-expression

Millennial consumers have quite eclectic tastes, and they don’t want to follow rules nor trends. In other words, they don’t want to be a stereotype. Compared with their parents, Millennials are far less likely to identify with a political party or to formally affiliate with a religion – which is a key indicator of an independent streak – according to Pew Research Center. As shoppers, they are less attached to brands and more willing to create their own style, surveys by Nielsen, The Boston Consulting Group and other researchers have found. Also, Millennials’ quest for individuality has taken the concept of personalization and customization to new levels. As a response to consumer desire for individual expression, product and experience customization has moved from the margins to take centre stage as a mass offering from brands.

Compared with their parents, Millennials are far less likely to identify with a political party or to formally affiliate with a religion – which is a key indicator of an independent streak, according to Pew Research Center.

Consumers want to be able to co-create and are thrilled to get involved in the manufacturing process. They want to self-customize their products in accordance with their own tastes, which leads to a more modular design in response to specific preferences. Technological and digital advances as well as social networks have made it easier, simpler and more cost-effective to create, interact, and share the content on their own terms. On top of that, crowdsourcing opens up the talent pool for innovation and provides a way for brands and retailers to build deeper connections and sustainable relationships with consumers.

Featured examples

 

“Dress Normal” campaign by Gap

gap-dress-normal

Credit: Gapinc.com

Gap is putting normality at the front stage in its new Fall “Dress Normal” campaign. With taglines ranging from “the uniform of rebellion and conformity” to “simple clothes for you to complicate” to “dress like no one’s watching,” the brand is redefining the concept of normal from that of a collective norm to an individual belief. “Finding your own version of ‘Dress normal’ is an art,” Seth Farbman, Gap’s global chief marketing officer said. “My normal is different from your normal, and that’s the essence of the campaign.” The inner message is that selecting a wardrobe should bring consumers closer to an understanding of themselves; picking out what they want to wear allows them to show the world who they are as well as build their personal style identity.
United States of America United States, August 2014

 

#Underwater selfie

Samsung recently challenged consumers to take a dive in Lake Zurich in Switzerland – which was freezing cold at only 8 degrees Celsius – and take selfies while being submerged completely underwater, without destroying the phone itself. The aim? Win the new smartphone model. The social marketing campaign asked participants to use the hashtag #underwaterselfie to inspire others to use the latest model’s water-resistant functionality.
Switzerland Switzerland, June 2014

 

Me. By me.

me-by-me

Credit: Mebyme.tkmaxx.com

The Me. By Me. project from Tk Maax is about encouraging people to experiment with style, try new things on and to simply be themselves. The Brooklyn Brothers has created a TV ad for the TK Maxx spring/summer campaign that features ordinary shoppers. It charts the journey of TK Maxx customers with no modelling experience who turned up to casting sessions, were interviewed about themselves and their style, and then taken to a film shoot in Cape Town. The spot, which was directed by AB/CD/CD through Partizan, has been supported by a digital campaign that invited people to submit their own material and interact with the brand.
United States of America United States, March 2014

 

#MyCalvins by Calvin Klein

my-calvins

Credit: Explore.calvinklein.com

Calvin Klein’s #MyCalvins campaign encourages the lucky recipients to take to Instagram and post a half naked photo of themselves clad in CK, adding the hashtag #MyCalvins for good measure. After launching in February, the social media campaign has enlisted a number of notable names in fashion for Instagram posts featuring the waistband of Calvin Klein underwear. Models such as Miranda Kerr, Lara Stone and Poppy Delevingne are part of the campaign as well as musicians Fergie and Iggy Azalea. The brand has also tapped well-known fashion bloggers such as Chiara Ferragni of The Blonde Salad and Rumi Neely of Fashion Toast for the project.
United States of America United States, February 2014

 

The Black Farmer

black-farmer-package

Credit: Blackfarmer.com

British food brand The Black Farmer has launched a special-edition package that displays photo portraits of scores of its brand loyalists. A consumer photomontage enlivens the band around special-edition trays of The Black Farmer’s Pork, Bramley Apple & Cider gluten-free sausages. To get their images on the package, enthusiasts responded to The Black Farmer’s social media requests for fan photos. Hundreds of consumers responded, and 100 actually got their mugs on the package.
United-Kingdom United Kingdom, April 2014

 

#CastMeMarc by Marc Jacobs

cast-me-marc-jacobs

Credit: MbyMarcJacobs’s Twitter account

American fashion brand Marc by Marc Jacobs, for whom British designers Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley unveiled their first collection in New York in February, announced in April that aspiring models could submit applications with their “best modeling look” for the Fall/Winter 2014 campaign via the #CastMeMarc hashtag. Results were immediate: by day five of the contest, the company had received more than 15,000 headshots from a diverse group of mostly Millennial men and women.
United States of America United States, April 2014

 

DoubleTake app by Chivas

Play video

With Chivas’ DoubleTake app, gone are the days of single camera photography. Users can capture photos of their friends while simultaneously activating their self-facing camera and create a unique side-by-side image. The app captures images of both the front and back cameras of a smartphone and then composes the two images into a single frame. The good news is that the photographer can be in the frame without posing, making it easier for people who are not so comfortable with taking selfies. The app was released along with an invite for the app’s users to upload photos that they clicked using the app on the Chivas website. More than 8,000 consumers had uploaded photos by mid-January 2014.
China China, March 2013

Business & Marketing guidelines

1

Segment your offer. Create a product range that can adapt to consumers’ gender, age, social group, ethnic group, etc.

2

Tap into people’s desire for approbation and react to what people are doing, but ultimately you have to do it in a way that is authentic and co-ordinates with what’s out there.

3

Market to the individual and not the masses, and find ways to become ‘customer-made’. Consumers are looking to co-create and self customize their purchases in order to express their own personality. There is also a need to define what your brand experience is about in order to promote your unique selling points.

4

Incorporate incentives for customers to share their individual experience on social media channels, it will create a larger organic buzz around your brand. Analyze social media chatter, examine word sentiment around your brand and look for new potential influences for future campaigns.

Summary

  • In a mass-marketed, consumer-based culture, the quest for individuality is a backlash against sameness and globalization. Millennials have now many opportunities to define their personality by expressing their independence, opinion and creativity in personal matters.
  • Instagram as well as the photo messaging application Snapchat are a breeding ground for young adults’ narcissistic tendencies and e-reputation awareness. Initially popular with celebrities, selfies have gained wider popularity with average young adults over time.
  • Millennials’ quest for individuality and desire for individual expression have taken the concept of personalization and customization to new levels. Consumers want to be able to co-create and are thrilled to get involved in the manufacturing process.
  • According to a The Telegraph study, of Instagram’s top 10 tags, two explicitly have to do with taking selfies, and the third most popular tag, #me, is devoted entirely to self-shots, representing over 67 million self-portraits.

Experts that we recommend

monique-dagnaud Monique Dagnaud
French media and Millennials sociologist & author of book Génération Y, les jeunes et les réseaux sociaux: de la dérision à la subversion (Presses de Science Po, 2013)
garance-dore Garance Doré
Founder of blog Garance Doré
yvan-rodic Yvan Rodic
Founder of blog Face Hunter
fabien-benoit Fabien Benoit
French journalist at France Inter & at Usbek & Rica; author of book Facebook expliqué aux vieux (10/18, 2013)
stephane-loignon Stéphane Loignon
French journalist at Le Parisien Magazine & author of book Lady Gaga expliqué aux vieux (10/18, 2013)
alexandra-golovanoff Alexandra Golovanoff
French presenter of TV program La mode, la mode, la mode on TV channel Paris Premiere
joelle-menrath Joelle Menrath
French Millennials and social media sociologist & journalist at The Huffington Post; author of article “Les “selfies” exacerbent-ils le narcissisme des adolescents?”