Recommended Reading: Convergence Culture

I was reading a book over the weekend called Convergence Culture, by Henry Jenkins. This book was recommended to me by John Durham. When Durham recommends a book, it's a good idea to read it, because he knows his books!

The book is fascinating, as it deals with one of my favorite topics; the collision of popular culture and technology. The core element which I took away as I was reading this book is that convergence creates its own culture.

The concept wasn't stated in so many words, but my understanding as I was reading these pages was that the convergence of technology and the ability for consumers to create and share content at a faster pace than ever before creates its own culture and its own environment. Fundamentally this phenomenon explains the hype around user-generated content and citizen journalism. It explains why our society is shifting toward a consumer-oriented culture. It also explains why certain brands are successful in this environment. As I see it, and I've stated before, the successful brands in today's marketplace are those brands which become synonymous with a lifestyle. Apple is a lifestyle brand. BMW is a lifestyle brand. Harley Davidson, Starbucks, Nike, Adidas. Each of these are lifestyle brands which extend far beyond the parameters of the products they are selling. Microsoft, for all its strengths, doesn't quite get this--and that's why their new digital music player, the Zune, won't successfully tap into the 75 percent+ market share of the iPod. You can create a superior product and you can throw all the money in the world at marketing, but your products needs to extend beyond the parameters of the products itself. They need to have a soul and they need to extend into the consumer's life.



The reason that I am focusing so heavily on the lifestyle is that our current marketplace is one where a lifestyle that resonates with a group of consumers, however small and tightly knit, will be shared and spread through digital media. As convergence gains more steam and permeates your day at an increasing level, it becomes even easier to share the ideas that shape your culture and affect your lifestyle. As convergence continues to evolve your daily life, it weaves into your culture and the immediacy of sharing an idea or an experience with others increases, until the culture itself becomes one of sharing and exchange.

What is interesting for marketers to consider is, once again, how different elements of media can be used to integrate a brand into your lifestyle, or your personal culture. A few weeks back I shared my vision for the role and responsibility of media in today's marketplace and how much of the digital media is utilized for a dialogue, or the opportunity to have an exchange. In a world of convergence culture, I find that most formats of media, if not all formats, can become an opportunity for dialogue through convergence.

TV is not a dialogue medium until you tag your TV spots with a Web site address or a short code. Outdoor, another booming element of the media mix, is becoming more than a Reminder vehicle because you can tag it with digital information through short codes or Bluecasting. All media becomes multi-faceted as a result of convergence and at the same time you have a consumer who responds well in this environment because they have created a culture that satisfies this requirement for digital savviness. In effect, the convergence of technology creates a culture that is self-perpetuating.

It's a fascinating topic and one that I highly recommend you look into. If you have a moment, pick up this book. And if I get any other great recommendations, I'll be sure to pass them along.

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