August 2009

Dear students of pedantry,

Paul Simon famously sang that there are 50 ways to leave your lover.  I say there are 50 ways to kill a pedant, one of which is the fabled ‘Oxford comma’.

I refer not to the Vampire Weekend single quoted above, of course, but to the habit of using a comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list.  So called because of its popularity amongst writers, editors, and publishers at the Oxford University Press.  Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I used one back there, just to illustrate my point. 

Whilst technically not one of the seven deadly pedant sins (unlike yesterday’s apostrophe outrage), usage of the Oxford comma is genuinely frowned upon by today’s style gurus, in favour of the far more elegant semi-colon – the épée to the comma’s sabre, if you like.  The only exception is the OUP, of course, who like their little anachronisms and argue that the Oxford comma is still perfectly legitimate: –

 They would, of course – to change tack would be akin to turkeys voting for Xmas, grammatical pheasants voting for the Glorious Twelfth.  I disagree.  Don’t use commas before the word ‘and’.  It just looks silly and dated.  Normally I would defer to the OUP but on this issue I shall stand my ground. 


The Naked Pedant


pedantic graffitti professor

pedantic graffitti professor

I am surrounded by Pedants. The kind of people that can think of nothing better than relaxing at home in pipe and slippers and lecturing the wife on miss use of apostrophes. Exactly the type who circulate the cartoon below in order to boost their self esteen and enjoy a chuckle with fellow pedants. This forum aims to both challenge some of the assumptions about what is quality and at the same time chart best practice in pedantry. I look forward to your best shots.

Pop quiz…

Question: what do you get if you combine the analyst of the year (Ray Wang), the analyst blogger of the year  and author of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (Charlene Li), the most influential social media analyst (Jeremiah Owyang) and the previous lead of the Social Media Lab at Proctor & Gamble (@debs) in one analyst firm?

Answer: The superstars or the galacticos of the IT advisory world – now currently partners at Altimeter Group.

There has been a great deal of speculation ever since Jeremiah announced he was leaving Forrester as to where he would end up. The result is an incredibly smart one.

Ever since Charlene jumped the ship and setup Altimeter her mission has been to focus less upon future trends to a more pragmatic customer-focused model. She explains:

Instead of worrying about the next wave of technology, focus on what your customers are using – or not using yet.

I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Jeremiah to understand what the future brings…

What is Altimeter Group?

We are a company that focused on emerging technologies. Whereas yesteryear people looked at faxes and mobiles – now the focus is social media. Now the big disrupter is social. Change is coming at an increased pace but companies don’t have a policy to respond. Altimeter aims to help companies by evaluating technologies, identify key players and let people test in a safe setting.

The future of business requires a holistic approach to adapting and integrating emerging technologies.


Are you an analyst house?

We are not an analyst firm  – we are consultants. This is because an analyst is someone who has a research agenda. Instead we would like to have a few select relationships with clients and guide them through this process.

What are you each going to cover?


Ray mentioned specifically that he is:

Looking at bridging today’s world of enterprise apps with the E2.0 world of connected business platforms


What’s unique to Altimeter Group?

One of our key announcements is The Hanger

Physical and virtual spaces to facilitate experimentation

I think this is a great idea as it will enable that testing station in a safe environment to evaluate the most appropriate technology for a client. Surely this is better than installing it, paying thousands on consultancy support only to find it was the wrong thing to do.

How do you hope to remain as influential now that you have left Forrester?

It’s quite interesting to see that I have already lost quite a few subscriptions from my blog after I left. Some people value the Forrester brand over mine. However, what I am after is to seek fewer relationships more in a deeper capacity. I want to have long term relationships with clients


What type of customers will you be targeting?

Primarily these will be large brands. However, we would also expect a small set of clients to be vendors who want help with their product. The percentage split will still be more end users./brands vs. vendors. The priority will always be  to help the buyers first.


You are all based in the US – any thoughts of having a more global reach – or does this not matter as social media enables global communities?

If things go well, we will go where our clients are but no plans yet.



There are two major impacts on this announcement.

The first is understanding how the business model has changed. Jeremiah positions his company via an analogy of a general contractor for a building project. What they want to do is ensure that the blueprints and plans are right before anything is built. I like this model as it is far more pragmatic for buyers.

From an AR point of view, the main difference is that they are not analysts.

They are not out to replace Forrester. In fact, what they are set to do is complement analyst thinking. They are a small company based in the US that is not out to compete against Forrester think it is a moot point in the whole definition game of ‘what is an analyst’ – the key thing to remember from an AR perspective is that they are influencers in the buying process and must be respected and engaged with as such.


End note: This post was meant to be published at 5pm UK when the embargo was lifted. However, seeing as this has now been broken and Ray Wang has given permission for it to go early, this has now been posted.


You wouldn't though, would you?

You wouldn't though, would you?

It’s not an original observation to say that the rise of social media and networking has paved the way a breed of self-obsessed, self serving, egoists. And whilst that might be the extreme end of the spectrum, it’s hard to deny that we have adopted a culture where we are continually encouraged to ‘broadcast yourself’.

We all know why it has proved to be so popular, we’re inherently nosey and want to know instantly what our family/peers/crushes are getting up to, wherever they happen to be and vice versa. Social networking is the perfect tool to do this.

Plus, it has also given people the chance to move out of obscurity and into the limelight. Scantily clad girls and women are plastered across profile pages everywhere – social networking sites these days often look like the equivalent of a third division Miss World contest. The words of Bros, ‘when will I be famous’ ring in my ears…

What are the consequences of this self promotion? One is to give airtime (and I’m sure a huge pay packet) to the likes of Tila Tequila, ‘the most popular artist’ on MySpace. Tila’s antics I’m sure will inspire other young ladies to follow her example in bid to be recognised as a sex symbol on a global level. Sadly, these D level celebrities used to be confined to their national borders, but we have technology to thank for their springboard to stardom. Social media has the ability for an individual to reach people across the world and make them an international phenomenon.

But even if fame isn’t on the agenda – what is? Why are people so willing to be poked by people they don’t know? Technology has given us a new forum to meet people, and social networks are a safe haven to promote our better assets and also hide our unattractive traits. Let’s hope there aren’t any nasty surprises when you take things offline and into the real world! For 2009 the online dating industry is expected to top $1.049 billion and is likely to grow at a rate of 10 percent. These stats support that technology has opened the flood gates for singletons, ready to find love, or simply get a leg over.

Recently asked in the Evening Standard– respondents were asked if they would you use Facebook to get sex – where a number of them answered yes. It begs the question, has technology made us more daring, or simply more desperate?

Against our better judgements, it’s not uncommon to befriend people online we don’t know- the caution we would use in our everyday lives is somehow forgotten. Maybe it’s the stroking of egos, or just the fun of flirting, but striking up ‘friendships’ with strangers online is a growing trend. But all this talk of me, me, me, means that actually you might be playing into the hands of someone more sinister. When you think of online predators, we can be quick to dismiss that we’re not at risk. But, the fact that sex offenders in Illinois have been prohibited from using social networking sites goes to show that social networks are places where victims are identified, targeted and also where personal information can be obtained and used against you.

From a personal experience, posting even the most minor piece of information duped me talking to someone I don’t know online. I thought I knew ‘John Taylor’ who befriended me on Facebook, through university. We shared the same city and some friends, so when he struck up a conversation I assumed we might know each other. It didn’t take too long for me to find out actually, I had no relation to this person at all – and in fact – he was messaging me from a prison cell!

Despite technology giving us the chance to bridge the physical distance between people, it also gives people enough distance to do things they might not dare to do when face-to-face. Would John Taylor be so brave to start chatting to me online if we met in the street? Doubtful given his current housing situation…

It’s scarily easy to obtain personal information through social networking sites, and then be duped into believing you know whoever approaches you. Tech News World reported that if you’re not careful, scammers can obtain enough information about you to rip you off. And according to research from PC World, it is estimated with free dating sites at least 10 percent of new accounts created each day are from scammers.

The secondary consequence of all this self promotion means that cyber-criminals can easily find out where you live, where you work, what tube you get, what parties you’ve been too – all making a very believable story that a stalker could actually know you.

There are some things you can’t control about the internet; the rise of talentless, fame hungry, desperate and horny people are some of them, but something you can control is what you post online about yourself. It’s just a matter of modesty – broadcast yourself, but just not too much.

Pam Chowdhury (currently not on twitter… yes, yes we know… we’re working on that)

businesswomen(NB: The headline of this post is not the original as penned by Lucy. Mark Pinsent has abused his editorial position.)

Why are female successes always indirectly related back to men?

The Independent reported yesterday that “ruthless women have extra testosterone” and implied that the male hormone is the key to females achieving success in the business world. The recent hype around Olympic athlete, Caster Semenya, is an exemplar of this line of thought. Instead of congratulating the young athlete on years of hard work, determination and downright dedication to her sport, the world questioned her sex and thus, her ability as a woman. Caster’s success was finally attributed to her elevated levels of testosterone – talk about feeling deflated!

The media love a good story about putting women down in the workplace…I can’t remember the last time I saw a positive story. The Guardian reported several weeks ago that new research from LSE suggested that having women in the boardroom can damage a company’s bottom line and lower performance. The survey revealed a correlation between companies with proportionally more female board members and lower profitability and market value.

Talk about advertising agencies and fashion brands damaging the self-esteem of young women with digital enhancements and airbrushing – what about the ambition of women in the workplace?

Lucy Davies – @lucydesadavies

Wow, Pete and Randy making big claims for the technology sector; to crudely summarize their eloquent points:  transparency and accountability are key for technology eco-system and survival therefore driving an inherent level of trust within the industry’s sales cycle.  I just have to play devil’s advocate.  Do technology companies  (or any company) really promote transparency or is it at best the much touted translucency, the truth up until the point of commercial disadvantage, (or as I like to think of it in Trekkie terms,  “It’s openness Jim but not as we know it”).  In fact I get suspicious whenever anyone asks me to trust them even more so if the reason is transparency.   Surely you have to live transparency and I am not sure that many technology companies genuinely do so.

 However, I do agree that there is something about the technology model that increases a sense of dialogue.  An approach which ranges from the whole open source and standards movement to collaboration on free applications on Internet.  But it strikes me that the crucial characteristic element in commercializing this technology at some point involves maintenance of IP even if this only exists at brand level or statistics behind user behaviour.   Furthermore Toni also makes a great point about understanding of technology and the default level of trust among consumers because they often don’t know enough to critique technology category again this seems a pretty murky form of translucency. 

I would love to hear from anyone who can prove this old cynical Pheasant wrong and show me deeper transparency both in fully open communications model or even a company who has said just,  “We launched a product which we thought was great it turns out we were wrong it sucked.  Sorry.”

Honesty, integrity, knowledge, curiosity, insight, passion, respect and influence

These characteristics were repeatedly highlighted when AR Pro’s were asked to identify the analyst house and individual who they wanted to recognise as being the best in the industry. This second post in the “analyst of the year” series aims to highlight individuals and firms who are seen as the best in the industry regardless of their speciality sector. See here for the first post.

At a time when vendors are having to evaluate carefully where they should invest their limited funds, it is refreshing to see best-of-class analysts receiving recognition for the value they deliver. Now, more than ever before, analysts have to prove their tangible worth and those that provide independence, integrity, flexibility and deep industry knowledge of their specific areas are being recognised as true partners for vendors and IT buyers.

Without further ado, here are the results:

Global Analyst of the Year

1st Ray Wang, Forrester
2nd Jon Collins, Freeform Dynamics
3rd David Mitchell, Ovum
4th James Governor, RedMonk
5th Steve Blood, Gartner

This is an incredible coup for Ray having been named the analyst of the year in 2008. Some people have argued whether his influence will diminish now that he has left Forrester but in my opinion, when we get to the cream of the analysts, companies seeking to work with analyst houses tend to invest in the individual rather than the firm they work for. Ray has of course now left Forrester and joined Charlene Li as a Partner at Altimeter Group looking at bridging today’s world of enterprise apps with the E2.0 world of connected business platforms. Commenting on this award, he explained:

It’s a great honor to be recognized by the IIAR, especially in a year where clients challenge analysts to provide more actionable and personalized advice.   As we rely more on social media tools to improve client delivery and outreach, I’m often reminded not to forget the other part of the equation – building strong relationships.  In fact the best AR pro’s I work with master the art of fostering strong relationships and understand that art often trumps science when dealing with people.

I mentioned this last point in the previous post but believe it is worth reiterating as to why so many European analysts tend to feature so well. At first analysis, I was immediately concerned over the relatively high number of awards that have gone to EMEA-based analysts and firms thinking that this was due to the physical location of the voters.

However, 72% of all respondents were based in the US or Canada.

My personal view is that whereas a great deal of syndicated research tends to get created and published from the US, the European analysts have to rely on their revenue stream coming from their local market knowledge, deep messaging insights and customer focus. To put it bluntly, they need to prove value otherwise they will be out of a job. This point may well be the most contentious and I am happy to discuss this point further.

Global Analyst House of the Year

1st Gartner
2nd Forrester
3rd IDC
4th Ovum
5th AMR

This year has seen the larger, global firms dominate the awards when it comes to sector importance. It is of little surprise therefore that when it came to picking an individual firm who represented the highest value, Gartner came top. Their success should not be underestimated. In a time when many firms are cutting back on their analyst expenditure, the fact that the Gartner remains so highly recommended (even though they are far from cheap) is tantamount to the calibre of people they have working for them as well as their relevance and influence they bring to the table. Peter Sondergaard, SVP & Global Head of Research, Gartner was delighted at Gartner’s recognition and explained:

We really value this feedback from the analyst relations community as we are fully committed to constantly improving the quality of our products and the service we provide to all our clients worldwide.

I am especially pleased to see that Ovum and AMR can be recognised after they both missed winning ‘importance’ awards by sector by coming in fourth place. As an aside, and similar the UK premier league, it is always refreshing and healthy for there to be a highly competitive market where the larger firms cannot rest on their laurels and must continue to innovate or be overtaken by the competition.

EMEA Analyst of the Year

1st Jon Collins, Freeform Dynamics
2nd David Mitchell, Ovum
3rd James Governor, RedMonk
4th Steve Blood, Gartner
5th Neil Rickard, Gartner

It has been a great year in Europe for boutiques. These firms, more than any, have had to challenge traditional analyst business models and the boundaries in which they operate such that the art of defining what an analyst is and does has had to change. Nevertheless, a few firms with considerably fewer analysts have seen their share of voice rise disproportionately – within the market they are recognised by AR Pros as being able to contribute a level of service that is exemplary. Jon Collins, who has recently taken over the role as MD at Freeform Dynamics explained upon receiving his award:

I’m delighted to be called out, I see this as a vote of confidence not just for me but the whole Freeform Dynamics team, not to mention its collaborative philosophy and approach, which keeps us all grounded in the real world of mainstream IT usage and makes this job such a pleasure to do.

EMEA Analyst House of the Year

1st Gartner
2nd Freeform Dynamics
3rd Forrester
4th RedMonk
5th Quocirca

Gartner once again steal the show. With a solid presence of industry experts, they are recognised as being the best in the region. However, a significant number of ‘boutiques’ also make the top 5 – edging out likely candidates such as IDC and Ovum. In the previous post I explained that it is of little surprise that firms are cutting back and focusing on the analyst houses that have the greatest global reach. However, it is somewhat refreshing that other houses have managed to carve out their own niches – notably: Verdantix and Quocirca in the green IT space and RedMonk and MWD in the developer/ IT Pro sector. It is in these smaller, areas where ‘boutique’ firms have managed to push their own USP and become sector leaders.

Comparing important analysts and ‘analyst of the year’

it’s quite an interesting dichotomy between the analysts who were voted as most important by their coverage areas (as it highlights perceived expertise) compared to the analyst of the year overall ranking. The characteristics that stand-out amongst this crowd are difficult to combine but necessary to be a good analyst:

  • Social/Relationship (ease to deal with)
  • Domain Expertise
  • Influence/Presentation skills

Final thoughts

My congratulations go to all the firms and individuals who have been recognised with awards. The third and final post to be published in a couple of weeks will look at which firms provide the greatest offering for bespoke research, consulting/inquiry and reports. It will also identify which firms have increased in relevance the most over the past year and the key reasons why people tend to work with analysts in the first place.

As I complete this second post, a statement that Vinnie Mirchandani made to me when I was discussing the definition of an industry analyst sticks to my mind:

“analysts” are just a small subset of a 1000 points of influence

Regardless of the debate regarding ‘who is an analyst?’ – a clear point remains. We work in a time where those that can influence buying decisions are in high demand. If analysts wish to remain a significant player within this, they must continue to offer the level of service and value that the firms and individuals who have been recognised by the IIAR in these awards provide.


1) Entrants:

This survey was open to anyone who works in analyst relations in any country, either in-house or at an agency/consultancy. In order for someone’s entry to be validated, they had to submit their email address and company name to verify they not an impostor trying to distort the results. This personal information will not be distributed or used beyond sending copies of the results to all participant. The survey was open for specific period of time and IP addresses were taken to ensure that someone could not vote twice. A total of 137 AR Pros completed this survey.

2) Questions:

The survey specifically focused on an individual’s perception of the analyst world. A full list of every analyst house was made available for respondents to select their preference.

3) Segmentation:

Respondents were asked to specify their submissions based upon geography and segment. Based upon these criteria further analysis could be made of the results to identify specific regional or segment champions.

If you have any questions or comments about this survey please contact me (@jonnybentwood)

Note: This post is also published on the IIAR web site

For those of us in technology, the word “virus” typically connotes some nefarious little bit of code meant to turn our PCs into a zombies or steal our personal information. But as the world braces for what many predict will be a resurgence of the so-called Swine Flu over the next few months, we’ll all be hearing much more about biological viruses, and much less about the digital variant.

Even so, there are no shortage of links between Swine Flu and Technology. Yesterday, I sat in on a call hosted by colleagues in Edelman Health.  Dr. Julie Gerberding, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and now senior advisor to Edelman, shared her thoughts in advance of the impending flu season. The discussion got me thinking about all the different ways technology companies are playing a role in the prevention of Swine Flu, and in fact how Swine Flu is catalyzing innovation and driving adoption of new technologies. A look across the board:

Social Media

News of the original Swine Flu outbreak spread quickly on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, with plenty of frightening images showing up on Flickr and YouTube. And while spikes in buzz gave authorities important clues that helped track down hotspots, many critics complained that jittery users reporting symptoms in 140 characters or less caused a worldwide networked panic. But these same authorities harnessed the power of social media to distribute updates, dispel rumors and dispense reasonable advice.  Follow @cdcemergency on Twitter or subscribe to their RSS feed for the latest news.

Data Visualization

Google found themselves defending their privacy policies when they introduced Google Flu Trends, a service that aggregates relevant search queries like “fever” to produce some interesting visual analytics. More useful perhaps is Google’s participation in Health Map, a very rich tool that plots data from a variety of credible sources onto Google Maps. (For those of you who prefer a good hearty Excel spreadsheet, Google has you covered as well.)  The New York Times used an Adobe Flash-based graphic to illustrate the speed and severity of the infection. Today, there is news of a location API for Twitter in the works. One wonders what interesting Swine Flu visualizations this will provide.

 High Powered Computing

High Powered Computing clusters worldwide are helping researchers better understand H1N1’s unique properties, predict how it may mutate over time, and importantly model how the little bugger might respond to various vaccines. These HPC clusters are capable of processing exabytes of data in a fraction of the time it would have taken even two years ago. Similarly, researchers are renting processing cycles on Amazon’s powerful cloud computing servers to analyze data. In one instance, a small group of scientists was able to crunch the data they needed in just 6 days, a process that would have taken more than 140 days on a single desktop computer. Technologists have asserted that pandemics are fundamentally complex data problems, so this sort of processing brawn is proving to be an important part of the solution.


Speaking of cloud computing, many companies and governments are revising their continuity plans with teleworking top of mind. For starters, authorities are advocating “social distance” as an effective strategy to slow the spread of Swine Flu. And of course employees showing symptoms are encouraged to stay home. This is welcome news for companies like Citrix, Cisco, VMWare, Microsoft, Juniper Networks and many more who are pushing SaaS offerings ranging from desktop virtualization to web-based collaboration tools. Swine Flu or not, business marches on. Meanwhile, educators and parents shudder at the thought of prolonged school closures.  This concern has created an extremely fast-growing market for companies like SIMtone, who recently launched a new business unit focused on delivering a whole range of cloud-based educational services to students and school districts.


Swine Flu has been a boon for companies that make thermal imaging products, as governments around the world rush to equip their ports of entry with H1N1 screening equipment. Market leader Flir Systems was trading at ~$18/share in March.  By mid-May, they were trading above $26/share, a whopping 44% jump. On another front, Sanyo has announced a new electrolyzed water technology they claim kills off Swine Flu virus. Look for commercial deployments in a public restroom near you by the end of this year. 


The development community is doing its part in the fight against Swine Flu, shipping new code to help hospitals better handle an influx of suspected cases. Patient Care Technology Systems – an EMR player – released an enhancement to their emergency room system that helps triage nurses when a patient presents with Swine Flu-like systems. And new apps are being developed atop of Microsoft’s Amalga platform, some in as little as three hours. Software – fast, infinitely flexible and easily deployed – will continue be a powerful tool as the Swine Flu crisis continues.


Cybercriminals are preying on public fears, with flu-themed spam accounting for four percent of global spam during the height of the initial outbreak, according to an analyst at Cisco’s Ironport messaging security division. Unsuspecting users who click on mails with clever subject lines like “Madonna caught swine flu” end up installing malware on their machines. Companies like Symantec and McAfee will be very busy this fall fighting virus-inspired viruses and trying to thwart the bad guys. I should point out that the impending launch of Windows 7 adds another layer of complexity, as the black hat community loves nothing more than to expose vulnerabilities in any new OS.

Electronic Entertainment

World of Warcraft devotees (you know who you are) will remember “Corrupted Blood”, a virtual plague that in 2005 infected nearly 100% of the online game’s population. While many players were irate, epidemiologists took the opportunity to study the outbreak, work that later informed theories of how Swine Flu and other diseases could spread in the real world. More recently, a group of Dutch researchers unveiled “The Great Flu”, a highly entertaining game that casts players as the head of the fictional World Pandemic Control organization. It’s certainly better than “The Swine Flu Sneeze”, a somewhat bizarre affair funded by the Wellcome Trust to teach players just how dangerous a sneeze can be.

Surely I’ve missed some obvious links between Technology and Swine Flu thus far. But the trend is clear.  In times of public health crisis, technology serves as a potent remedy by speeding communications, accelerating research, and providing employers, educators and public officials with options that simply weren’t possible even a decade ago. That said, there are side-effects that we – and our tech clients – will need to carefully manage.

One last note: if all of this reading about viruses, sneezing, and pandemics has left you feeling a bit squeamish, you might consider running out and getting yourself a self-sanitizing keyboard. This little beauty tops my holiday wish list this year.

Pete Pedersen
Chair, Edelman Technology

Disclosure:  Adobe, Citrix, Microsoft and Symantec are all Edelman clients.

There was a moment when the new intake of girls at school stopped being brace-muzzled, awkward creatures in baggy flares and neon tops, with their eyes ringed in zingy, badly applied electric blue mascara. It coincided with the moment when Topshop became a fashionable, on-trend outlet; taking looks straight off the catwalk and onto the average person in the street, placing everyone suddenly within reach of style.

The girls became leggy, blonde and polished, arriving with their thirteen-year-old fashion senses already honed and with wardrobes to match. Topshop stopped being a place where you could buy a vest, jumper or T-shirt in every colour of the rainbow, and became a chain of fashion palaces, complete with ‘shoe lounges’, nail bars and shiny new shop fronts.

Did ex-director Jane Shepherdson’s phenomenal rebranding exercise (which undoubtedly changed the face of the British high street) rebrand the consumers themselves, or was it just a case of the right strategy at the right time?

One thing is certain, British teenagers are now rated the most fashion-obsessed in the world:

‘The advertising agency JWT recently asked young people in the UK, America, Brazil, Canada and Australia which items they would never cut back on, no matter how tight their finances. Brits ranked “buying new clothes” higher than any other nation in the poll.’

This isn’t in traditionally chic France or in sun-kissed Hollywood. This is in Britain, never internationally renowned for the beauty of its people or their style sense. But that’s all changed.

It is no coincidence that in the past decade, the rise of a youth culture fixated by fashion and celebrity has been so marked in Britain. Teen idol Emma Watson’s decision to head Stateside for university to be ‘more anonymous’ says a lot about the kind of world Brits are growing up in.

This trend of fashion-obsessed teenagers doesn’t mean they’re all running around in designer labels, flashing Louboutin soles. The astronomical growth of sites like (As Seen on Screen) demonstrates the fact that everyone now wants access to celebrity wardrobes, high fashion, runway styles and the associated glamour, all in a purse-friendly, disposable form. Yes, the odd birthday presents might be iPhones and Marc Jacobs bags, but the average purchases of these teenagers are under £40 and happening every week.

Going back to the discussion last month about Madonna and Jimmy Choo taking to the High Street, perhaps this is the most financially savvy move brands can make. By jumping onto the Topshop/ASOS bandwagon of affordable yet aspirational trends that teens can buy into week in, week out, big brands can sell to the most important emergent demographic; one that has a large disposable income, but is also surprisingly discerning.

Sarah Ventress – @sarahventress

The downturn has caused consumers to question every purchasing decision. When every penny counts, consumers will count every penny. Our very own Richard Edelman has talked of a cultural shift from instant gratification, to instant justification. But I can’t help but think that the ‘make do and mend’ renaissance though a momentary blip in consumer spending may have wider implications. Today it was announced that Aldi and Lidl’s growth is slowing, suggesting that middle England has returned to the comfortable lanes of Waitrose, rather than continue with carefully planned assaults on the budget aisles.

With Anderson’s launch of Free and during some conversations at our recent DET Breakfast I began to think about media brands forced to question notions of content ownership. Then a recent Wired feature (apologies I can’t find the link) made me think that technology has facilitated a wider cultural shift that I’ve decided to call DisOwnership. (More illustrious academics may have been talking about this for years – if so I’d love for someone to point me in the direction of a good book. For now I’m claiming it as my own).

We used to be a society of hoarders. From record collections to photo albums, we stored mementos in the real world. Digital Cameras, Spotify, Flickr, Facebook and iPods have changed this. Now we don’t have tangible products to own – but files, folders and passwords.

Back in the day you wouldn’t buy something if you couldn’t afford it. My grandparent’s generation balks at the idea of buying anything on credit. We seem to have swung the other way. No need to put an album on your credit card, if you can listen for free on Spotify? Why buy a car when you can rent one cheaply with StreetCar. Why even have cheque books when you can transfer cash online?

Of course there are security and protection issues when the products, documents and entertainment you own are stored virtually by a third party. But what I’m interested in is whether or not there is a wider cultural movement at work?

If you don’t own something, do you respect it? Perhaps, but certainly the relationship is different. For example – if you borrowed a book from a friend and accidently spilt tea over it you would probably buy them a new copy. But we share and lose USB sticks and pass on digital files over email, without ever thinking twice. So does that mean we don’t see ownership as important anymore? We might value the content, but do we respect it?

And what does this mean for brands, technology and media companies? Firstly – hardware companies will still shift units – I’m not thinking that DisOwnership is the beginning of the end. Just because we share content differently, doesn’t mean we all will move into a commune and wear hemp clothes. We are still materialistic, just perhaps virtually so. Secondly – as we know monetisation of digital content is a burning issue (and one I’m going to avoid here). Thirdly – the power of the crowd has forced brands to realise that they can’t own something as intangible as a brand anymore. As PRs we have to work with our clients to give the audience a degree of license over campaigns. Consumers may have disowned traditional goods, but the internet has also meant that every consumer is an intellectual share holder in the brands they engage with.

Luke (@LukeMackay)

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