Social media fatigue, Radiohead and QR Codes: Q&A with Josh Spear

As one of the youngest and most influential marketing strategists in the world, Josh Spear owns Undercurrent, a New York-based consultancy that applies a digital worldview to the challenges and ambitions of complex corporate organisations.

Nominated as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, Spear serves on the Global Agenda Council on Marketing and Branding. He has been an active participant in the World Economic Forum in Davos since 2008. Most recently, he has been advising Millennium Promise, helping apply digital technology to the eradication of extreme poverty and the completion of the Millennium Development goals.

Speaking to Memeburn, Spear believes that there won’t be an abandonment of social media platforms in the face of “social media fatigue”, but rather a search for more meaningful, closer connections online. As well as social media, Memeburn spoke to Spear about mobile strategy, the digital music industry, and his predictions for online marketing in 2012.

Memeburn: What do you think are the key differences between a “born digital” generation in developed and developing countries?

Josh Spear: In developing countries the leap to mobile phone as a primary computing device is going to change the game in big, big ways. Behaviourally, that also means a different fundamental relationship with things like money and banking.

MB: Do you think there is still a market for recorded music as a product, or only as a promotional tool?

JS: I still see a great possibility for it to be a premium item, almost like a collector’s item. Radiohead has mastered this — they sell their music online (or give it away, in some cases), but they make the box sets very expensive and limited.

MB: Do you think coupons can be used effectively in mobile marketing?

JS: Yes, but not with QR Codes. The “coupon” needs to be built into the mobile experience in a more substantial, easier and meaningful way.

MB: What mobile marketing campaigns have impressed you recently?

JS: I love the GOOD Guides, or anything that lets me learn a lot about a product before I decide to buy it. Is it sustainable, where did the cotton come from, am I paying the best price.

M: What do you think about the concept of social network fatigue? Do you think that online socialisation might overextend itself and face a backlash or do you think it’s going to just get more pervasive?

JS: I think there is definitely a social media fatigue setting in — I see it in my own life. However, I don’t think it’s a complete ‘abandon social media and run for higher ground’ phenomenon — what I think people are looking for once again are tighter, more meaningful connections. That’s why I’m seeing services like (Full Disclosure, I’m an investor) as so interesting, because they’re small networks of sharing.

MB: What are your predictions for online marketing in 2012?

JS: I believe the economy will suffer in 2012, and that brands will focus on high ROI tried and true marketing methodologies. My hope is that they take lots of risks, and some innovative stuff happens in the process.

Josh Spear is a keynote speaker at Tech4Africa: Africa’s premier web, mobile and technology conference. Other speakers include Herman Chinery-Hesse, Adam Duvander, Cennydd Bowles and Jonathan Gosier.

Image: Josh Spear

Questions contributed by Matthew Stone



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