A follow-up note to the Douglas Rushkoff interview linked below:
One part of the interview really caught my attention, and is very relevant to recent discussions regarding co-creation, consumer control and the seeming inability for many brands to connect in a meaningful way with consumers:
what do businesses have to gain from collaboration and throwing out the models they have used to reap huge and ever-increasing profits? How are they going to make more money and have more fun ditching quarterly reporting and corporate objectives?
It’s the adherence to quarterly, short-term goals and shareholder expectations that have led corporations down their profitless, innovation-lacking paths. They look to decrease the bottom line without expanding the top line. So they can’t make investments in long term strategies like real research and development, or creating a culture for their products.
Smart brands understand that paying attention and understanding the culture in which they exist is key today. Brands like Nike, Converse or even Google get it. Going a step further, companies that fail to create (or participate in co-creating) a culture for their products are finding themselves kind of lost and bewildered by the ability of consumers, through new technologies and social environments, to take control of the essence of the brand and its communications.
Rushkoff's book sounds really interesting, as it looks at what he calls a renaissance taking place in our society, a move from the ideals of individualism championed in the Enlightenment to possibilities of collaborative action that are very much at the core of recent marketing concepts like Open Source Marketing:
Rushkoff: the book is about renaissance, and the unique moment we’re in as a society. A renaissance allows for a profound shift in perspective. While the original Renaissance invented the individual, as well as competition, this renaissance has really brought us new possibilities for collaborative action - networked collectivism and a society of authorship. We’ve been wrestling since the Renaissance - and some would say since high Greek culture - with the seeming contradiction between the agency of individuals and their power as a collective. I mean to show that we have new ways of contending with dimension that let us see how individuality is itself defined by connections to other people, and that agency is really a group activity.
Quick note on an excellent forum put on by the MIT Advertising Lab, on "Branding The Urban Landscape". Here is the description of the informative talk, the site includes a link to the audio:
As brands compete for attention in an environment saturated with advertising, some companies are taking to the streets, placing ads in unlikely and attention-grabbing locations, deploying mobile technologies to annotate the urban landscape, aiming to create marketing that doesn't look or feel like advertising. At the same time, activist groups are exploiting the same technologies to deliver their own messages about city life. How effective are these alternative approaches to branding? How are city-dwellers responding to the transformation of their neighborhoods into branded environments? What forms of branding and marketing will shape urban life in the future?
(Will try to post some comments on some of the themes in a bit)
As an electronic music producer, DJ and remixer I get a kick out of the growing interest in "remix culture" outside the context of music. In marketing circles, there seems to be a fascination with consumers not only creating homemade ads from scratch, but also with the ability to recombine, reconfigure and recontextualize digital content to produce new results and alternate meanings. Relatively cheap editing tools allow for the easy manipulation of audio and video, in much the same way that early samplers made anything in the music world accessible as sample material to shape into new compositions. (Here is a great example)
As pointed out in the Living Brands weblog, this is an interesting time for brand communicators, as it's becoming clear that the static, one-way ads we're all accustomed to are now easy content for anyone to fool around with. Yes, indeed, consumers do have the power to shape the messages directed at them like never before.
What are the implications of this for us in the communications industry (particularly old school ad agencies)? Some are beginning to embrace a more open source approach, as championed by the computer software industry. But, with advertising at least, this rarely goes beyond inviting contributions from 'outsiders' (see Converse).
So what about taking things a step further; what if we made the 'source code' of our advertising easily available to all those budding marketing remixers out there, encouraging them to add their own meaning to our commercial canvases?
You may have read about Joe Jaffe's homemade spot based on Tiger Wood's incredible chip-in at the 16th hole of Augusta last week. Widely circulated and much talked-about, it was a simple, effective spot in the spirit of good communal marketing (as Joe puts it). Another far more elaborate site has popped up, HowDidItGoIn.com, which by all accounts is really a Nike-sponsored/W&K site meant to keep the hype of Tiger's heroics alive. 15 downloadable, well-produced, 30-second spots...it gets tired pretty quickly. Close, Nike, but no cigar this time.
The mobile channel helps magazines not just extend their brand reach, but also interact with subscribers between publication dates. New revenue streams like premium rate SMS services, paid content and commercial database sponsorship are other advantages.
Billboard magazine responds to the changing role that music and technology is playing in their readers life by launching a makeover of the magazine intended to cover the growing world of digital and brand marketing. Most notably, Billboard is also recognizing the advertising potential for wider brand marketing opportunities that today's music culture represents:
the revamped Billboard carries ads from Hummer, Sony Electronics and Ketel One Vodka. “Billboard reaches out to the key influencers and decision makers of the music business,” he explained, which is an appealing audience for high-end brands.
It will be interesting to continue to monitor the changes that a lot of traditional publications make, especially in engaging sizeable readerships in new ways across various channels, like mobile phones. Many of these brands will have to be revamped and reinvented by listening and paying very close attention to what readers expect from them, and understanding what role the brand plays in their community. For Billboard, the move to embrace a broader, more consumer-oriented lifestyle marketing approach is definitely a step in the right direction.
Here is how to create an instant customer evangelist: show them appreciation for their support by offering them something of genuine value, and reward them generously for their loyalty.
Case in point: I received an e-mail yesterday from the online photo-sharing site flickr.com, a site I signed up for (and paid a yearly fee to) a while back, in their early beta stages. Recently, the company was aquired by Yahoo!, so it's safe to say that they've blown up ;)
You may have heard on the grapevine that we planned to reward our dear Flickr members who bought a Pro Account in the early days. Well, it's true! And since you're one of those lovely people, here's a little something to say YOU ROCK!
1. Double what you paid for! Your original 1 year pro account has been doubled to 2 years, and your new expiry date is Jan 10, 2007.
2. More capacity! Now you can upload 2 GB per month.
3. 2 free Pro Accounts to give away to your friends! This won't be activated for a day or two, but when it is, you'll see a note on your home page telling you what to do.
Thank you so much for putting your money where your mouth is and supporting us, even while we're in beta. Your generosity and cold, hard cash helped us get where we are today.
Kind regards, The Flickreenies.
Now, have I told you about this great online photo-sharing site called flickr yet?