For all of the immediacy and connectedness of online experience, I’d argue consumers feel a gnawing distance from one another and the marketplace.
Pay retail? That's for somebody else. Wait in line? There's a way around it. Get better service? There's a special number to call. Terms of agreement? There are always exceptions. Information is ubiquitous and it's brand heresy to fail to present it in a unified and consistent manner, yet every consumer is looking for an exception. The same phenomenon infects our politics: someone else, or the proverbial "they," are either not paying enough taxes or trying to make you pay more than your fair share. The Internet lets me see what's being offered to others, so I want something different.
Is it possible that each of us is an exception?
This phenomena should be manna from heaven for marketers, because we can develop exclusive clubs, rankings, and services to anoint and reward specialness. Playing to consumers' expectations of exclusivity can be brand attribute for almost any product or service (for instance, my CostCo card is inclusion in a club that wouldn't have someone like me as a member, to paraphrase Groucho Marx).
I wonder what it does to expectations for brands, though: can we keep elevating and dividing our marketing to make each consumer feel unique? It's more than that, really, because the Somebody Else Economy means they need to perceive that they're getting deals that are better than those that others are getting (and yet are arguably identical to them in terms of needs and desires). I know technology is the Holy Grail that'll deliver this promise, but it sure seems like it would be more honest, sustainable, and profitable to figure out ways to get more people to embrace the same brand benefits.
But that's somebody else's job.
Image source: nickwheeleroz