Why We Celebrate? From The Wicked Witch is Dead to Mankinis

Why did some people want to celebrate Mrs Thatcher’s death?  In many parts of the UK there were street parties and the Wizard of Oz song ‘Ding Dong: The Wicked Witch is Dead’ was a chart hit. Putting aside your political views about Margaret Thatcher. The world today celebrates everything. It’s called ‘Everyday Exceptional’ – the consumers desire for occasion, to seek more reasons to endorse moments of fun and legitimise indulgent experiences.  Basically we like to celebrate. As we are living longer there will be more birthdays, wedding anniversaries and wakes. There are more students than ever and thus more graduation ceremonies. On the whole, consumers seem welcome to this idea of infusing more life and joy into their days, from the sensible to the silly, the ironic and emotional. Humans intrinsically seek celebration.  More than a novelty, celebration makes the air lighter, people feel happier because celebration allows the weight and stress of their world to be momentarily lifted.

The consumer definition of luxury falls under continuous cultural redefinition and this helps to lengthen the list of socially acceptable party pretexts. As a consequence, it was Hester Brown who said:

Always keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of champagne in the fridge. 

Champagne sales in the UK have increased by 40% over the last 10 years. According to a recent Wine Intelligence Survey, the number one reason outlets stock champagne is for special occasion sales \- and these reasons for occasion seem to be growing. Even dinner parties or small gatherings with friends can now solicit reason to bring on the bubbly.

It was Borat that brought us the Mankini to the Hertz Rugby Sevens.   Though not typical of  male party clothing it was a symbol of hedonism. Parties, which are not necessarily for the sport fanatic, but rather, for the party-lover… the game, race, match become secondary to the social gathering it spurs. There seems to be a natural increase in the number of occasions human beings choose to celebrate. At one time, steak dinners and party hats were the odd treat, reserved for certain special and perhaps extraordinary moments. But now, not only does each new season bring cause to celebrate but one can find an excuse every month, week or day to buy that new outfit, make merry and indulge in new ways. Under the modern forces of globalisation, there are now a number of national and religious holidays we can choose to celebrate. Ours is a constantly imbricating culture, in which there are simply ever more prompts to treat the day differently.  The result has been the transformation of the everyday into the exceptional.


In 2012, supermarket chain Kroger announced that branches in Southeast America would sell Girlfriends Wine  -  a range designed to suit different tastes and personalities and cover every occasion. Each of the options  -  which comprise “Party Girl”, “Wild Girl”, “Romantic Girl“, “Classy Girl” and “Good Girl”  -  carries a description of the occasion it is suitable to accompany. Classy Girl, for example, offers : “a sophisticated, stylish Chardonnay with hints of vanilla that transitions seamlessly from daytime to night-time for pleasure-seeking consumers”.


And those offers with a strong and obvious connection to social display have adjusted everywhere. Celebrating occasions with appropriate flair is becoming easier as luxury goods and services  -  which were once available to an elite demographic  -   are now accessible through temporary ownerships. Virtually anyone can acquire the right human bunting, fun visual champagne these days. For example Ma Bonne Amie is a French rental retail website, allowing consumers to rent dresses and accessories for a number of occasions, from parties to weddings, including appropriate wear for attending  -  and being part of  -  a civil ceremony.

The Future Foundation is suggesting is that there is now reasons to convene a party, taste special foods, drink nice wine, pat someone on the back, make a fuss of a friend, recognise an achievement, make a break in the established routine, give a day a special name, mark an event etc.

As societies grow wealthier, certain overlapping motives release special energy; the need for organised fun, the search for reasons to interact (in) formally with others and the pursuit of  endorsed cultural identity. As a consequence, this turns sporting events into a reasons for celebration not for sporting fans but party lovers. Hence the reason the Hertz Wellington Sevens has got nothing to do with rugby just like the Kentucky Derby is a fashion show not a horse race or Wimbledon is all about Pimm’s rather than Tennis and so on. So, the future looks bright for parties and celebration.

Dr Ian Yeoman

Victoria University of Wellington









Why Does Google Know More About You Than the CIA? Understanding the Dimensions of Customers and Service in the Era of Big Data

Service today is seamless to the point of automation and big data. Every time we make a purchase, information is gathered about us. We tell our friends where we are and what we are doing via location services and social media. As retailers know our preference, Amazon makes recommendations as if they are reading our minds. So, what does this mean? The answer probably resides with Google, as Sutton notes writing for CNN:

“Google knows the things you wouldn’t ask your friends. It knows things you can’t ask your spouse. It knows the things you haven’t asked your doctor yet. It knows things that you can’t ask anyone else and that might not have been asked at all before Google existed,” he writes. “Google’s servers are a repository of the developed world’s darkest and most heartbreaking secrets, a vast closet lined with millions of digital skeletons that, should they escape, would spare nobody.” The search engine does anonymize data over time. “We strike a reasonable balance between the competing pressures we face, such as the privacy of our users, the security of our systems and the need for innovation. We believe anonymizing IP addresses after 9 months and cookies in our search engine logs after 18 months strikes the right balance,” Google says on an FAQ page about privacy.

The willingness for consumers to share information and there inner most thoughts has changed service traits as a consequence. Consumers have power and the internet has made purchasing more transparent. Using price comparison search engines, the prices of airline tickets, handbags, books and everything else can be compared. Google may know more about you than the CIA, but consumers have also changed concepts of service. The Future Foundation, a London based consumer think tank captures this through a number of observations about service.

The End of Inefficiency is the rapid evolution of intelligent, data-mining systems and algorithms which can make informed, accurate and optimized choices for the consumer. By analysing personal information in ways that no individual could or would want to replicate, services are appearing that can relay advice on the best moment to purchase a deal, the most competitive or value-laden brand or offer in any given marketplace, the perfect evening meal to suit our new personal training regime. In China, Lehe Interactive launched an app which claims to provide personalised recommendations for places to eat  -  with those who are out and about and find themselves hungry being invited to “shake” their phone in order to receive directions to a nearby venue. At time of writing, the app’s name was yet to have an accepted English translation although had been unofficially called “Shaking for Delicacy” and “Shakey Shakey Food God”


Today, consumers maximise their behaviour. Once upon a time, It was once the case that large numbers of consumers were what we might term satisficers  -  those who were happy to select a product or service which, while not perfect, met their needs and was, as it were, good enough. But stimulated by the economic crisis of the late 2000’s  -  and galvanised by its still rumbling aftershocks  -  the attitudes of so many millions of shoppers have been transformed. Consumers have become maximisers, ultra price-sensitive and retail-savvy consumers who are willing to expend considerable time and energy tracking down the most competitive offer.  Other factors, meanwhile, have swelled together to energise this mindset still further, including a) the proliferation of comparison and review sites which promise to offer assistance in navigating those marketplaces where choice can seem almost limitless b) the explosion of mobile phone capabilities and the ease with which we can use handsets to locate price reductions c) the social capital which can be accrued by finding  -  and then sharing  -  competitive deals and d) deep-rooted suspicions that companies are not to be trusted and that we must seek, in a sense, to beat the retailer.   In September 2012, UK transport minister Norman Baker outlined a future vision of the country’s train ticketing system which would see paper tickets being phased out in favour of smartcard alternatives that, among other benefits, promise to find rail customers the cheapest fare at the time of travel.  According to the minister, new technology will simplify the fares system, which is often attacked for being unclear and overly complex for consumers in search of a good deal. He told a UK newspaper :  “Smart technology is one way of making it easier for passengers. I want to get a better deal to make sure people aren’t ripped off… Why should it be that someone travelling at 6am pays a peak-hour fare the same as someone at 7.45am? Why do we still have season tickets that assume that you are going to work nine to five Monday to Friday? If someone wants to work at home on Friday why should they be penalised? With smart technology we can change these things”.


The Demanding Consumer has been driven by a number of factors. A long (pre-recession) period of rising incomes led many to feel entitled to be more selective, try new alternatives and to generally expect more from their brand and service providers. Together with the growth of consumer review sites, price comparison tools and e- and m-commerce options, it has become ever easier to investigate purchases thoroughly and select the very best option. Further, the recession of the late 00s invited millions to re-evaluate their default consumption behaviours and brought sharpened price and value sensitivity across all demographics  -  something we argue will have lasting effects even once disposable incomes recover. With so many having become maximisers (as above)  -  looking for the very best deal for the most attractive price  -  the demanding consumer is here to stay.   Netotiate is a site positioned for the “typical American consumer [who] likes deals, but doesn’t like the discomfort of haggling”. Consumers are invited to decide how much they are willing to pay for various items being offered by partnering retailers and then “make a binding, anonymous offer to the merchant” (with a price bar giving them an estimate of how likely the retailer is to accept a price in that range). Subsequently, the brand in question has a 48-hour time-window in which to negotiate over the offer, with Netotiate hoping to limit the “ping-pong” nature of haggling by restricting the retailer to a maximum of three counter-offers (which might revolve solely around price but which can also include the provision of attractive delivery options or additional items being added to the deal at no extra cost). Consumers are, however, only allowed to “netotiate once for any product with any given merchant”.

Expert influence is a human face in a virtually robotic world. Consumer outlets are staffed by experts as assistants, advisors, demonstrators and even “teachers” equipped with the skills to pass knowledge to customers will form a new élite army of retail professionals. This means knowledge is passed on through fresh fashion advice, in-store repair workshops, inspiration for meal plans, creative stimulus, one-to-one financial budgeting and lifestyle courses. Whole Food Markets teaches families about healthy and organic foods and lifestyle online and instores, whereas Nike at Boxpark London houses a physio room, in-house running consultant and free running club.

Concierge living
means more than expert influence, but a concierge-style perks, services and  amenities i.e., exclusive customer lounges where shoppers can relax and make use of free WiFi or iPads. Increasingly, consumers are being treated as a VIP, every person is entitled to a sense of exclusivity. Selfridges offers a “Personal Shopping Salon”  -  an in-store 5000 sq. foot space containing a central relaxation area, seven themed “character” rooms as well a s two VIP suites. The “character” rooms inside the Salon are dedicated to a range of stylish women, including Grace Jones and fashion designer Jeanne-Marie Lanvin, and are furnished/decorated accordingly. The space also includes a bar area and a library, with the intention being to provide a more enjoyable and leisure-based shopping experience.

Bonus brands means extending a level of premium service as a standard feature, therefore the level and quality of service enhancements will gradually increase for more premium customers accordingly. A great array of “bonuses” or “extras” will form a major part of brand customer service. As well as small extras such as free apps, interesting content and entertainment events open to all, loyal and existing customers will be rewarded with extra, exclusive privileges. Indeed, service enhancements that provide a sheen of luxury or privilege appealed greatly to the aspirational urban middle classes of China, Brazil and India in the early 10s. Whether it is Puma bring Caribbean culture to the London Olympics or IKEA relaxation pop up lounges at Charles De Gaulle airport

Concluding thoughts

Google may know more about than the CIA, but it’s not all big brother. A re-alignment of power between the consumer and business has occurred. We will see stricter regulation but if you want a consumer’s data what is the consumer getting from you. This blog demonstrates that the consumer has capital, they are using the power of transparency too control their relationship with business and brands. They are more dynamic with their behaviour and have access to search and prediction via smart phone. But we mustn’t forget consumers are human, don’t want to have a relationship with a machine or robot. Technology should support service not replace it as the demanding consumer doesn’t want time wasting, but efficiency and choice. This is the world of a culture of immediacy.