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Cyber Anthropology: Why Blogs Matter

By: Michelle Krell Kydd
Posted: September 5, 2008, from the September 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Look at the word “thread.” The dictionary definition of thread is two or more pieces of fiber twisted together. If you Google the word, you will discover that the top three entries define a computer science term referring to the way a program splits itself into two or more tasks upon execution. Online, the term thread refers to a series of comments posted on a blog in response to a question or statement. There is an anthropological force running through technology that marketers need to pay attention to. When the meaning of a word changes or expands, it is a sign that the culture is changing, which in turn affects the marketplace.

Cyber anthropology is something the industry will hear a lot about in the next decade. Humans in virtual communities, though unseen, are still humans. The rules of cultural anthropology don’t always apply because geography no longer defines ethnography. Marketers have to become more proficient in understanding Internet culture in order to promote and propagate their messages authentically. This is critical when sensory or emotional branding should be applied, as is the case with fragrance.

Maintaining Authenticity

One can stay in touch with what is important to the fragrance consumer by walking in their virtual shoes. Perfume of Life (perfumeoflife.org) is a fragrance community that is thread-rich, and in the site’s Talk about Perfume section, an end-user can gauge the importance of a particular topic by the number of replies it receives and read the culture in real-time. Daily immersion in fragrance blogs, communities and Web sites allows marketers to keep their finger on the pulse of what is important to the consumer based upon both content and content response.

With the Internet, consumers have the ability to access product information before companies have had a chance to establish a consumer/brand relationship. Fragrance is an emotional product, so it should come as no surprise that consumers rely on word of mouth before making a purchase. Running a regularly updated Web site for offerings is not enough. Marketers must inform and engage consumers beyond traditional means.

Don’t underestimate the consumer. They aren’t impressed with mystical stories and claims of exoticism with regard to perfume ingredients. True fragrance lovers want products that are authentic. James Dotson, a Now Smell This (nowsmellthis.blogharbor.com) reader, proved this when he won a prize in a mock copywriting contest on the blog, called Le Prix Eau Faux. The secret ingredient in his well-written and boldly concocted Leopard Blossom formula was yak excrement. Dotson and the readers of Now Smell This sent a direct message to the industry that is worth listening to.

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