The Selfie revolution and its impact on modern marketing

Boy George was amazing at MediaCom’s Cannes event.  Talking profoundly to Steve Allan he talked what goes around, comes around.

“I say to my niece, we had selfies in my day.  It’s just that you had to get dressed up, get on the bus (in fear of being beaten up if you were dressed like me), go to the train station and take them in a photo booth.”

Bit more of an effort than it is now though then.  The “Look at me!” drive is the same of course, fuelled by the ease of shoving your image in other people’s faces on social.  In Boy George’s day he had to find someone prepared to admire him.  Now you can create a gallery of selfies all day long for anyone who cares to share.

This might change society quite profoundly.  It certainly already has an impact on marketing and consumer expectations.


For Millennials it is impossible to imagine a world without selfies.  As impossible as it is for the rest of us to imagine a world without mirrors.


600 years ago you couldn’t really look at yourself at all.  Although polished metal mirrors have been around for millennia, the glass mirror, developed the 15th and popularised in 16th century was a revolution.  According to historian Ian Mortimer “the development of glass mirrors marks a crucial shift, for they allowed people to see themselves properly for the first time, with all their unique expressions and characteristics.”

So what?

So the development of individualism, a shift in popular images from religious iconography to portraits, maybe even the first seeds of democracy.

Imagine for a moment you had never, ever looked at yourself, other than to see yourself reflected in a pool of water, or maybe on the surface of a frying pan.  Blurred, amorphous, indistinct.  Then mirror technology – amazing spotlight on your true image and self.

If you can see yourself you can improve your look.  Until this era people knew their place, but if you can work on your image then the idea of bettering your status becomes more obvious and accessible.  If mirrors led to portraits as Mortimer argues, then portraits lead to the idea that you are the centre of attention, literally the centrepiece of the room.  Seeing yourself gives you a completely different perspective on life.  You’re not just part of the community, you begin to have a sense of personal self-worth.

Now will the effortless, ubiquitous, selfie of today have as profound an effect on our culture? It is already having an impact on marketing.   Personalisation is more salient than ever.  We love it when a brand calls our name – just look at the latest award winning work where Coca Cola partnered with 4OD to deliver a 10-second bespoke spot featuring the Channel 4 logo transforming into a bottle of Coca-Cola personalised with the individual names of viewers.  In the world of the selfie consumers will expect recognition.  Brands and media owners that don’t deliver this might lose relevance compared to the ones who do know and call their target audience’s name.





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