Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A new brand era? or a Brand New Era?

Two days ago I had a very interesting hour and a half with a friend of mine who was deeply involved in Yahoo in it's earlyish stages. The conversation turned to the developments in marketing and brand building over the last 10 years. Weird wonderful stuff with the tech boom and bust and web 2.0 coming our way - it has been very exciting.

But the next few years will be even more dramatic. Why? Well here are a few things:-

1. A generational shift in the people in marketing roles. The people in the top jobs in the next 5 years will all have grown up with the internet. Facebook myspace blogging will all be part of their brand scape.

2. The technology can actually do what we are talking about. In 2000 we talked to clients about things that were coming - but they did not! The tech wreck saw the VCs hurry back home and the digital agencies were belted by the downturn. Now we have real broadband (sort of in Australia) an the things that we talked about then are now real! Well most of them anyway.

3. Our customers (our partners and spouses to paraphrase Ogilvy) now expect that we know this stuff and expect that we (marketers) are up to it. They take referrals and advice from people online that they have never met as well as their neighbours. Look at - fantastic!

4. There will be a bucket load of behavioural data available to marketers. It will require more than gut ideas to make sense of it all. So the new CMO might have to be idea AND data driven!

5. Think of the businesses that are succeeding now - Apple, Nike, Toyota - they are all based on conversations that are going somewhere not just 'stories well told' as the brand building agencies like to remind us when they talk at conferences. Brands will evolve in the conversation not just be an outcome of communication.

6. These dialogue driven brands will place themselves at the service of the people whose needs they exist to serve. Technology will enable and facilitate the dialogue, but the CMO will no longer just be a communicator - listening will be just as important.

7. In a world where there are exploding channels of communication (fragmentation is the media terminology, as if lamenting the days of concentration) only brands with the most interesting conversations will thrive, Sure there are many that will muddle in the middle, but they will only be business wallpaper - and bland at that.

8. The agency world will shift - and shift dramatically - but to what? Every agency that I know approaches branding from a communications background. Every one of them talks brand but is selling PR,design, advertising, direct mail, web build or something else to do with downstream communications because that's where their cost base and economic engine is based on.

What if an agency approached the task from the point of view of the brand conversation? Oh wow! They would have to really know the consumer and be interested in them. Really interested - like more interested in consumers than in going to Cannes - and in return they would find they had to have something interesting to say to that consumer. This new 'agency' might employ anthropologists, psychologists and technologists rather than creative directors, writers and producers. They might deliver only ideas not ads and logos and websites.

This new era is going to be very interesting....more to come.

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