As many of us have noted, business is changing at an alarming speed. This is especially true from a marketing perspective. Consumers now hold the power to watch what they want, when they want it and how they want it (and even choose to skip those “pesky” commercials that I have worked so hard to create). Not only this, but after watching it they can participate in the discussion and blog about it.
At the same time and due to these new technologies, there has been an explosion of new content and of outlets created with the sole purpose of distributing it. This has developed a cycle where content creators hold more power than ever. And now, the Ipad has put all of this information in the palms of our hands, literally, inviting these new technologies into our everyday lives (i.e. no longer reading comic books in the toilet but watching Youtube videos and updating our Facebook status).
In practical terms what this means is that traditional sponsors of content, the advertisers as well as the content creators, have to figure out a brand new set of rules of engagement.
For all of us “brand builders” (true believers that all marketing dollars are well spend only if they respond to a seriously developed brand directive), this new environment means that we need to re-invent the science of branding as we know it. We no longer live in the world of structures. Rigid, formulaic brand books, like Unilever’s brand key, are limited in this new age of technology. The brands vision, values, and discriminators are not designed to perform in this brave new world.
What we need to perform in this environment is NARRATIVE. A successful brand book today should look like a Tolstoy novel not a like a chart. We need to have a rich, engaging, relevant, transparent and provocative story to share and engage our audiences.
Our brand story has to be rich enough, interesting enough, broad enough to perform in any scenario, not only in a 30 second commercial.
It has to have, like great literature, plot structure, characters, exposition, climax and dénouement. But, most importantly it needs to be engaging enough that audiences WANT to know what’s coming next (and even feel the need to participate in the discussion themselves).
It needs to resonate with those who just read the captions and those who read the entire article. It needs to reach a crowd of over-exposed audiences who have the capacity to jump from one place to the other as if they had ADD.
The time for substance has arrived and this substance needs to be delivered in many forms, as a credible performer of the latest sitcom, as blogs, as tweets, as banners, and yes, as a 30 second spots.
But unlike a great novel, this branding narrative needs to morph with the reader. It needs to take advantage of a participative consumer willing to blog, chat, and twitter about something her or she is moved by. Consumers now have the capacity of writing the guidelines with us. They want to be part of the decision, to create the product THEY want to buy. This is a key factor to branding in the modern world, and a powerful tool that if manipulated correctly has the power to reach up to 60 million people and more (i.e. Angry Birds).
As Michael Eisner, ex CEO of Disney, points out in an article for the Wall Street Journal, “A lot of people can learn to write computer code and understand the inner workings of the technological revolution we’re going through, but if you’re going to be in content, I would rather you understand what makes a good narrative.”
I fully embrace this new world with open arms and add to it my firm belief that brands need to be looked at as characters with rich and interesting stories that have the power to grab consumers attention.
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