What’s Contagious Now: Amplified Life
Posted: October 18, 2012 | 8:41 ET by Nick Parish

We recently unveiled our latest crop of trends and movements we’ve been watching at tandem Now / Next / Why events in London and New York City, and there’s one that’s particularly interesting that I’d like to introduce here.

We’ve dubbed it Amplified Live , and it’s essentially how marketers and entertainers are using certain behaviors, namely those around photo sharing and the willingness to show off our experiences to heighten live events, typically concerts, music festivals, sporting events and the like. Amplified Live is about brand creating tools that people can use to supercharge the euphoria they’re living at any given once-in-a-lifetime moment, that amazing feeling at being part of a sea of 40,000 screaming fans at a concert.

There are several key behavioral motivators at play here. The first is strange and primal and resides in our brains, and the others are more attuned to modern media behaviors.

A pair of Harvard psychologists published a paper earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which isolated an interesting part of our neurobiological makeup, and found it’s pleasurable for us to talk about ourselves.

This isn’t a huge surprise, but the paper’s authors, Diana I. Tamir and Jason P. Mitchell, took comprehensive steps to use both functional MRI data and behavioral, transactional data to build volume around their hypothesis. They found again and again that not only does talking about ourselves activate centers of our brain structured around reward, but also that we’re willing to give up benefits, in the case of their experiments, money, in order to talk about ourselves.

‘Just as monkeys are willing to forgo juice rewards to view dominant groupmates, and college students are willing to give up money to view attractive members of the opposite sex, our participants were willing to forgo money to think and talk about themselves,’ the authors write. ‘If humans are indeed motivated by the opportunity to propagate knowledge,’ they continue, ‘we should expect individuals to place especially high value on those situations during which they not only have occasion to reflect on their thoughts and opinions, but also are allowed to share their insights (both self-referential and otherwise) with another person.’

Other major factors in Amplified Live come around how we’re developing behaviors specific to smartphones and large-bandwidth data plans. Sharing of video and photo content is getting huge. Mobile app services company Flurry reported that in a survey of eight million mobile app users, photo and video led the top five app categories in minutes-spent growth from October 2011 to March 2012, with 89% more time spent on those types of apps. And this isn’t just among early adopters. According to a September report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 46% of internet users post original photos and videos they’ve made themselves. 41%, according to the report, only share or pass along the content that others have created, a counterintuitive statistic. We love, according to Pew, to bring new things to the internet, and our friends and family, more than just passing along things that were already there.

Here are some examples of campaigns and experiences that get towards the idea of Amplified Live:

Coca-Cola/ Real Life Like

In 2010, with post-digital, or real world/web-world linkages, sending the marketing community all a-flutter but with few actual working examples in play, Coca-Cola in Israel popped up with its Real Life Like at the Coca-Cola Village (an experiential summer camp for young people). That example saw revellers putting on an RFID-enabled wristband which, by touching certain objects, activated a Like on their Facebook profile.

The campaign, from Publicis e-dologic, generated more than 35,000 Facebook posts in each three-day cycle of 650 teenagers. That’s over 50 posts each, shared across social graphs. That struck us as a fantastic example of Amplified Live: a brand creates an opportunity for ebullience, then makes it ultra-easy to tell everyone about it.

Smirnoff/ Nightlife Exchange Project

Smirnoff did a similar thing for the 2011 iteration of Smirnoff’s Nightlife Exchange Project in London. Visitors were offered to pick up an RFID card that they could use to sign in to Facebook. Staff were on hand to take a picture, swipe the RFID tag and automatically post the photos to Facebook.

This was continued throughout the night, when Smirnoff staff, armed with iPads, asked visitors which cocktail they preferred and also posted this right away. More than 5,000 cocktails were Liked on Facebook, and more than 8,000 uploaded photos drove a campaign that dominated the web, winning 87% of blog conversation in the vodka category, and a 30% increase in share of voice.

Dan Deacon / Live App

Baltimore-bred noise pop musician Dan Deacon is putting the participatory audience environment he’s famous for into his fans’ hands. Deacon, a performer who’s just as likely to be in the crowd as on the stage, created an Android and iPhone app that turns the audience’s mobile phone into a mini extension of his own stage show, with the screen turning into part of the light show, the speaker becoming another instrument and the flash a strobe light.

Designed to be used in his Fall 2012 tour, the app doesn’t require data connectivity or phone signal to operate, ensuring it will work in whatever ancient concert venue he plays in. Fans simply install the app ahead of time and see their smartphone become an extension of Deacon as the show goes on. This transforms an annoying human concert behaviour (phone up and out and recording the performer, or taking pictures) into one that amps up the collective excitement around the concert. And, it’s no doubt the one or two people still focused on taking photos will feel like the odd ones out. Another genius bit is that the app doesn’t use data. Updates to the software can push new tones for new tours, and optimise light and strobe patterns.

The I’s Have It

So much of this trend is about meeting fans on their own level. People are ready for the time of their lives. Now, it’s imperative that brands meet them eye-to-eye. Show the same sort of enthusiasm in helping them share their experiences, and they’ll reward you with more and more advocacy and diffusion of your messaging.

Nick Parish is Contagious’ North American Editor, based in New York. He tweets @paryshnikov and @contagiousmag. Sign up for Contagious’ free weekly newsletter at http://bit.ly/newstagious
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