Monday, May 5, 2008
Niche - The New Mainstream?
Have you ever had one of those friends that pride themselves on being so unique that they will try and differentiate themselves from the masses at all costs? And as soon as they see an apparent unique trend being coined by the masses - they are so quick to jump in and say " I did that, way before anyone else? Almost like they invented a particular style of music or fashion trend.
I personally, remember when I was at college and had stumbled across a song by Jimmy Fallon called Idiot Boyfriend. My friends and I reveled in the fact that we all knew this hilarious song and no-one else did. Then entered the inter-college network, where information, songs and movies could be accessed by anyone living on campus by the click of a mouse. The song became so widespread that it wasn't 'Our' thing anymore.
This brings me to my point - what exactly is the niche or unique these days?
Is there such a thing as unique?
Or is it just the rise of the individual?
Consumers and society are more fragmented than ever, meaning that reaching the desired market is often extremely difficult. I recently stumbled over an article entitled a mainstream that is hard to pinpoint, which points to the relevance of the cultural and business realms both having relevance to the mainstream and the increasing emergence of niche markets in a fragmented society.
Consumers are smarter than ever, and are more aware of marketing trends, thus reducing the effectiveness of mass marketing techniques (Flew, 2005). Today’s consumer certainly has far greater access to information than ever before. The internet has allowed the wired consumer, who has access to everything - the opportunity to source through an abundance of information in order to make decisions on likes and dislikes.
Chris Anderson ,author of the Long Tail points out that society was under the predisposition that if something sells well that it must be good. The emergence of the interactivity of the World Wide Web enabled users to discover alternate options to the norm and develop their own individual culture.
Culture is defined as “The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought .” The article, The mainstream, hard to pinpoint, notes that “In a paradoxical way, the unifying cultural preference of our generation is to reject the need for a unifying culture - rejecting the mainstream.
Enter the niche.
The era of the blockbuster is over. The niche is now King. Everyone's rush to customise and personalise their specific purchases, to me is indicative of a trend. After all, subcultures and niches had stronger divides in society and the emergence of the internet has once again drawn them all together. So doesn't this mean that the internet now is a mass market?
According to trendwatching the internet has made these markets easier to penetrate as businesses jump on the bandwagon to specifically target these lucrative markets. With 78% of Australians currently having access to the internet, online advertising is a booming market. With figures showing that online advertising is continuing to grow rapidly, with spend up to $294 million in Australia alone (IWS, 2007). Websites are becoming more inherently niche because consumers are more tech savvy and source information out of interest.
Is society really embracing individualism? Or is it just the social experiment that is Web 2.0? Has the niche market become the new mainstream?
I remember when it was cool to be a little bit alternate.
We all had that friend that refused to buy mainstream music or eat at fast food chains, and only bought second hand clothes. Now, its seems technology has given consumers a new way to access the information that they consume and everybody is looking for ways to be slightly more alternate.
An article entitled times person of the year: you, provided an interesting insight into how consumers should be rewarded for all their hard work. The integration of new interactive web based functions and the creation of new social networks, which have been user generated ventures has seen an explosion of productivity and innovation. The emergence of the individual and the interactivity of the world wide web has framed a new digital democracy.
In my opinion, with everybody so quick to differentiate themselves from the mainstream, the mainstream too has become a niche market.
Atal, M, (2007), A mainstream that is hard to pinpoint, The Brown Daily Herald, accessed May 5, 2008. http://media.www.browndailyherald.com/media/storage/paper472/news/2007/03/13/Opinions/Maha-Atal.08.A.Mainstream.That.Is.Hard.To.Pinpoint-2773901.shtml
Flew, T. (2005). New media: An Introduction. South Melbourne: Oxford UP
Grossman, L. (2006). Times Person of The Year: You, Time CNN, accessed May 5, 2008. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1569514,00.html
Internet World Statistics. (2007). accessed May 5, 2008 http://internetworldstats.com/pacific.htm
The drama Show, (2007), The underground is the new mainstream, culture and technology marketing 2.0, accessed May 5, 2008 http://www.drama20show.com/2007/08/21/the-underground-is-the-new-mainstream/