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May the Force Be With You

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: April 27, 2012, from the May 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

In 1977, 20th Century Fox released Star Wars, and despite the scrolling prologue, I’m pretty sure the studio wasn’t banking on its blockbuster sequels—let alone prequels and a place in popular culture that’s still vibrant 35 years later (though the 6-year-old me armed with the improvised light saber with which I destroyed a number of household items knew it was for the ages). This legacy can be, in part, attributed to fan-created content, and the Star Wars universe portrayed in subsequent films was certaintly informed and enriched by this.

Similarly, it’s no longer solely fans from “a galaxy far, far away” that influence their favorite brand, and a light saber is not required (though a mascara wand would be an acceptable subsitution). In fact, the “beauty metaverse”—new beauty worlds created through consumer-generated content and populated through consumer advocacy and digital word-of-mouth, which David Frederick predicted in the July 2009 issue of GCI—is the beauty world in which we now operate. “Communication between brands and consumers is also evolving from one-way messages to two-way conversations and digital experiences that turn consumers into a facet of the media,” Frederick wrote. Though still evolving, social media is this two-way conversation, and in becoming a facet of the media, consumers have become both spenders and drivers of other consumers’ spending.

In an InnoCos blog post, Angela Cretu, group vice president, Avon Eastern Europe, writes about social shopping—a facet of social networking and what she calls the next frontier in retail evolution. It is a powerful thing, but like the “force” in Star Wars, it requires nurturing to avoid its dark side. Communication doesn’t end after purchase, writes Cretu, it must become even stronger and intimate. It is not simply between one consumer and the brand—it includes every other consumer in the purchaser’s metaverse.