How brands can strategically use it
Each of the three models of social influence has its own organizing principle, dynamic and aesthetic. Knowing the strengths and the benefits of each layer helps brands create a coherent cultural strategy and a considered media investment:
In the past several decades, society moved from “we” to “I,” as reflected in The Avengers film series, Silicon Valley visionaries and cult personalities of self-actualization. We all became focused on getting, not giving. “We get one life, so why not milk the shit out of it?” asked Gwyneth Paltrow in the trailer for her show, “The Goop Lab”, on Netflix.
Our worldly successes outbid the desires each of us have to be good people, resulting in the fraying of the social fabric of our communities and the demise of traditional institutions, like the church, libraries or local newspapers that held them together. The religiously unaffiliated share of the population is up to 26 percent from 17 percent in 2009, per Pew Research. We put radical individualism ahead of society and ignored the secondary effects of our choices. This was not hard to do for quite a long time: climate change always seemed to be something that happened in the future (until it wasn’t) and the threat of a deadly virus was invisible and foreign (until it wasn’t).
Our national heroes have been soldiers and warriors. Our social heroes have been nuclear scientists and tech inventors. Our cultural heroes have been influencers and celebrities. There was never a better time than a global health crisis to reorganize our communities around new influencers, aspirations, social rituals, and habits.
Who are the new influencers?
The playing field of who and what we want to identify with and aspire to be and do has expanded. It has also reorganized our communities under different personality cults: more generous, pro-social, and giving.
This is important. Thanks to platforms like Instagram, Twitch and TikTok, our consumption choices across categories are now more susceptible to social influence than to individual preferences — although, as we’ll see, TikTok…