Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Industry Note: How Not to Think Strategically About the Future of Marketing, Pt 18848
Marketers are at the cusp of strategic reinvention.
That means they can either rise to the challenges of - and seize the opportunities of - the edgeconomy. Or they can get commoditized by those challenges.
Here's a mini case study of how to actively get commoditized: M&C Saatchi's One Word Equity. The big idea is to reduce a brand to a single word - to "own" a word, globally, permanently, always and everywhere.
There are a few drivers of this. The first is globalization, and the opportunity to market globally, reaping enormous efficiency gains. The second, and more important, is search. Single words, to put it bluntly, are tailor made for search-focused marketing.
Now, this is an example of a marketer literally handing market power over. From a strategic point of view, M&C is saying - search, you win; we will simplify our brands, neuter our creative output, and dilute the emotional and social value of the very brands we wanna build - all to fit into your new value chain.
Needless to say, brands that choose to do this to themselves are committing a significant strategic error.
Brands don't need to be reduced to single words.
Reducing and deconstructing themselves into nothingness is exactly the strategic opposite of what next-gen marketing really will be about. Rather, marketers must learn to embrace - and manage - the complexity that happens as interactions at the edges of firms phase shift from thousands to billions. This complexity live in things like conversations, memes, bubbles and crashes, viral effects, network pressures, etc.
Put another way, the edgeconomy - the millions of markets, networks, and communities that are the edgeconomy - offer marketers the game-changing opportunity to bring brands to life, to build social and cultural institutions around them, to embed value creation into the very fabric of consumer behaviour itself.
What could be more powerful than that?
Of course, to embrace this worldview, you've first gotta drop yesterday's assumptions - like, for example, the one that a firm can ever really "own" a word and what it signifies.
In fact, with a little deeper insight, M&C might see that they're using a bucket to fight the tide - attempting to "own" words, as the cost of attention skyrockets, is going to yield seriously diminishing (and then negative) returns.
More simply: as consumer hyperfragment, and market power continues to shift to them, guess who already "owns" words - which are really just shared representations of value?
You guessed it - markets, networks, and communities, and the prosumers that make them.
For example, it doesn't matter how much the RIAA pays to own the words "fair use" - because markets, networks, and communities are too busy living - and redefining - it.
Good to get some more flavour on branding 2.0. Is this then a form of social media optimisation, but in a much bigger way?
The only good example at the moment i can think of is the Channel 4 show "skins" here in the UK with their inyourface imagery of teenage debauchery + myspace marketing + TV Exposure leading to kids putting on "skins parties" and the "Skins" brand becoming a kind of short-hand for doing drugs and shagging.