Shame, Shame, Shame

Or The Lack Thereof…

We were thinking about the new Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Broad and the fact that tickets sold out in an hour. Given that more than half the individuals probably don’t know who Yayoi Kasuma is, the ticket frenzy exemplifies a generation that uses personal brand moments as a modern day accidental Pokemon Go.

We’d bet that 90% of those people who bought tickets, did it to be first with the next 14th Factory or Ice Cream Museum style image, not to engage with the art. We know because we are victims of this truth too, it wasn’t until we took some time to ask ourselves what was going on, we realized how our behavior was socially engineered. Most people’s Instagrams used to be pretty flippant and casual, now millennials are thinking differently about what their profile means and how they are judged and perceived by their peers.

The shamelessness with how Millennials and Gen Z curate their Instagrams, especially with regard to the events they attend, brings up the concept of shame in our society, especially that on social media. In an age dominated by the “experience generation” we question how much of their overarching motive is to truly engage in a shared experience with friends, and how much is simply to take a photo. At the turn of the century, photos enabled us to share experiences with close friends and family through physical photographs of all kinds. With “social media” this opportunity is on steroids, and companies have taken note and have exploited this innovation. Apple recently filed a patent to control the recording and taking of photos with your camera, so don’t be surprised if one day you might have to spend money to take a photo at your favorite experience like a concert or museum.

As Digiday reports, brands are also bending the perceptions of shame as well. They just want numbers, numbers, numbers. They actually encourage the use of artificially intelligent bots for growth of likes on profiles. Remember when it was shameful for an artist to “sell out?” Now, no one really cares!

Many studies have also been done about the effects of attention and “likes” on your brain as well as the power for social media to sway you. There’s something about the perception of intellectualism and fun that drives us for that perfect gram. This might be why going to a unique museum is the “it thing” now and btw, maybe your money IS totally wasted if it doesn’t end up on your Instagram or Snapchat in one form or the other.

Is all this really shameful? Maybe, but probably not. Will it stay this way? It depends. Communities dictate what’s acceptable. Some communities are larger than others. There’s thin-shaming, fat-shaming, class-shaming. Our shame molds with our society. Currently, it’s shameful to post ads with products on your social media and not tell your followers. It could also be a crime. It used to be considered rude to do anything other than eat and socialize at dinner, but now we must take a photo of our meal for everyone to see what’s about to go in our belly and somehow that’s ok.

Getting ahead of shame and understanding social stigmas is a way to contextualize what content works for your brand. The content and activations that tap into people’s shameless desire for credit and attention, win. And sometimes shame quickly turns into desire (see the Pepsi commercial). And even more so, people become infamous because of their dislike (see Donald Trump, Martin Shkrekli & Milo Yiannopoulos).

We’re certain there is a business opportunity in understanding the new ways in which the most affluent consumer thinks. Instagram has gamified social behavior in a digital scavenger hunt for millennials wanting to experience everything. Literally. Capture your memories, but next time you buy that ticket, make sure to read up on the artist, engage, and learn because that’s the most important part of the experience.

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