What came first, Instagram or the selfie? Just as with the chicken and the egg, it’s impossible now to have one without the other. Since Alexander Wolcott patented his first camera design in May 1840, our appetite for images of ourselves and those we love has soared to the point where almost 1 trillion photographs are now taken every year.
Growing self-awareness, the advent of “personal branding” or just the plain vanity of what Time magazine refers to as the “Me, Me, Me generation”? Whichever it is, for marketers and those of us in the personalisation game, there’s been an impact we couldn’t have foreseen and that’s not set to change any time soon:
- Some 1m selfies are snapped every day and make up almost one-third of all photos taken by 18-24 year olds* (with Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat being their final destination).
- Around 300 million photos have already been tagged with the #selfie label on Instagram alone and, as it continues to grow (at around 9% per annum), it’s increasingly becoming a medium for brands and B2B marketers.
- Babies start to respond to their own faces at around 15 months. Combine that with mind-blowing statistics which reveal 10% of those aged 0-1 year, 39% of those aged 2-4 and 52% of those aged 5-8 have used a smart device (such as an iPad or video iPod) and the implications are obvious.
- Personalised cakes, and now marshmallows, are BIG business – it’s said that Prince George (whose Uncle James Middleton runs the Cake Kit Company) is a fan and both of these featured at his recent 2nd birthday bash!
- Many landmarks, public buildings and theme parks have banned the use of selfie-sticks and in South Korea, selling an unregistered selfie stick can result in a fine of up to £17,000 pounds.
- Warnings of a “digital black hole” by Google’s vice-president Vint Cerf aroused fears that a whole century of digital material could be lost by storing it online alone. This prompted the British Library and prominent UK universities to archive and in many cases print images and information to preserve it for future generations.
- The personalised retail gift market (calendars, photo-cards, photo-books, single-image gifts, wall art, etc.) is huge and growing. Across Western European it grew by 11% in 2013 and by 9% in 2014 to reach a retail value of €697 million.
- Online has become the dominant channel for ordering this photo-merchandise. Driven by the use of mobile devices, applications which integrate with social networks and access photos uploaded to these are pushing this growth yet higher.
So, are we becoming more narcissistic, or is it just that now the technology and applications are available to indulge ourselves more? What do you think?