Thursday, February 23, 2012

Champion a Movement, Not Just a Message

Anyone who knows me at all, knows how much I love to talk about branding, the future of brands, and the importance of social media, although that term is a bit dated now that global interconnectivity is within everyone's grasp today. In this parallel universe, interactivity has become the new norm and participation is hardly an option. In fact, life will never be the same, as marketing itself is being re-branded. Yet I refuse to spew the same esoteric rhetoric your run-of-the-mill social media marketing guru can provide these days. You know, the type that go on and on about engagement, social purpose and responsibility? The same group who started out years ago with an an insatiable preoccupation with tactics and technology, as if platforms like Twitter or Facebook invented the art of conversation and communication between human beings and brands.

But make no mistake, they all know one thing to be profoundly true. The conversation is definitely different. But while most businesses are studying how the internet keeps changing, they ought to focus their time and attention on how the internet is changing their business. That's the biggest variable in all of this. People are different. Attitudes are different. Tolerances, routines and behaviors are all different. The consumer is different. The world itself is very different.

The internet has empowered customers, and now THEY call the shots. They own the conversation. They dictate what they want from a brand. As Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts has said in a keynote speech in Cannes, "return on investment," or ROI, should be dubbed "return on involvement." In essence, marketing has moved from interruption to interaction in the battle for customer attention and relevance. Endearing brands know how to champion a movement, not just a message.

Then there are those who still point to the old adage that content is king. Really? Content is just the hors d'oeuvres served at your cocktail party. That doesn't make it king. Your guests are king. Your social network is king and the conversations that revolve around their content is king. Social media isn't just a content delivery system, anymore. It's about community, connectivity and the collective causes of cultural movements that arise and become a rallying cry for brands and their followers. Those who get that are king, in my opinion, and that's all I have to say...for now.