The Revolutionary Shift From Brand to Customer.

Over the weekend I came across a very powerful web video, “Bigger than TV? Social Media’s Power Shift” by Radian6 featuring CEO Marcel Lebrun. I wanted to share the link, and put in my two cents on the subject matter Lebrun talks about.

Make no mistake, we are in the middle of a revolutionary shift in how brands and customers are doing business. If your company/brand doesn’t start taking this seriously you are going to find yourself in a very lonely position and with out a voice. Anyone that has studied marketing and advertising has heard the term, “The Medium is the Message.” And while this is completely true, the medium itself has a significant social impact on business, and in our lives regardless of the message being communicated through that medium at any given time.

Look at TV and Radio. TV and Radio came at a price. With your media purchase you got to tell your story the way you wanted it to be heard, and for almost the entire 20th century, and the first decade of the 21st that worked just fine. Now the social web is a very different experience, because it is owned by the community, and no one controls it. You can’t just say “Buy This”, and everyone is an equal participant in what is being communicated.

Now lets look at email. Email changed our lives, and this has nothing to do with a particular email that we have received. Email changed our lives because it has become such a ubiquitous part of the way we do business and communicate. Like TV and Radio, up to this point this medium has been controlled by the gatekeepers in charge of your brand/brand experience.

This is applicable to almost every media channel you communicate through. Print, Broadcast, direct mail, email, etc.

Now in today’s world, the customer has as much voice as the brand itself, and that is a revolutionary shift in the power structure. Because of this the messages are no longer controllable. Your brand is now defined by the conversations that are happening about it, as much as they are controlled by the message you push forward. Your brand is now communicated in the language, shaped by the voice and in the words of your customer. You can influence it but, ultimately, your customers will own it and shape it. The era of the one-way conversation about your brand is over.

Now with that said, we are all better off because of this. When you isolate the conversation, you never really knew what was happening in the end. You never really knew if your brand was believed or trusted, or if your brand inspired your customers, if your brand was the topic of conversation, or more. All the focus groups in the world, and data gathering will never give you the kind of honest feedback about your brand perception that social media will. Because now in realtime if you are engaged with the areas where your customers connect, you can see the reactions, all the ideas, recorded and living here on the Social Web. And more importantly, right now you have the opportunity to engage directly with your customers.

Now in order to be successful, it is imperative that you humanize your brand and engage in an authentic and engaging way. You need to earn the trust of your customer base and target audience. You have to be willing to listen and ready for disappointment. I say this because they might not tell you what you want to hear. The good thing about this, is it allows you and your brand to grow and change, and this leads to positive results. It kills stagnation, and lack of innovation.

I guarantee, that in less than 5 years, we are all going to look back and realize just how much this single medium has revolutionized how we do business, much the same way every major technology shift changed how we did business in the past. (print, radio, television, email, the internet…)


Is Digital, The DNA of all Modern Advertising?

I just finished reading an article on ClickZ by Augustine Fou, that talks about Digital Content being at the root of modern advertising. This is interesting because it fits in with a number of discussions I have been having with various clients and colleagues over the last few years.

My point, and one that Fou eludes to is, not everything begins and ends with your website, or Facebook fan page, or a banner ad, but rather it is made by the cultural impact created from all of these digital options. It’s not that people live their lives online, but rather people use these digital properties, in ways that are integrated with so much stuff in their lives. Even when you don’t think you are online, you are. You use digital technology when you pay for items with a credit or debit card, you use it in the TV programs you watch, when you have your smart phone check movie times or help you find a location. It impacts you when you are waiting inline to check out at a store and there is a screen in front of you that commands your attention. More and more, all of the digital components in your life become more ubiquitous and literally everywhere. And more over you relate to it and use it, even if you are not actively searching for information about a product or service. In the end there is ultimately more and more human behavior that is now being tracked or linked enhanced or enabled by the digital properties that are embedded all around us. And due to the nature of this digitally enabled request and receive behavior, all of this information can be leveraged to understand needs and desires.

The value of these digital breadcrumbs, the information that we leave behind in our modern world can’t be overemphasized. I was just talking with a client about why integrating digital components at the core of their marketing and advertising initiative was so key. Because it allows for unprecedented analysis of data. Data that is related to how people interact with these specific digital properties in relationship to more traditional media channels. I was trying to make the case for more efficient and effective advertising, especially when it is designed from the beginning to take advantage of human insights and behavior.

Unlike Fou, I don’t necessarily think that digital is the center of the advertising universe, but it is a key element of the modern landscape. A ubiquitous component, rather than simply another media channel.

Hulu Really Could Change Everything

Yesterday posted a rather dreamy vision of how we will consume media and interact with TV, Internet, Mobile device etc. If you didn’t read it, the basic point was where are we going to be in 10 years, and get ready because how you use things like your TV especially will be a very different animal. I really think that cable providers are going to have to re-think the way they do business. Their business model is a mess, and really they seem out of touch with what consumers want.

On the Hulu blog, there were some interesting year-end facts they posted. And this is why I think you won’t experience  TV the same way you do today in 5 or so years.

– Monthly users of Hulu, as measured by comScore, grew to over 43 million, a 95 percent increase over this time last year.

– Monthly streams, as measured by comScore, grew to 924 million, a 307 percent increase from this time last year.

– Hulu’s content library doubled over the past year. They now offer over 14,000 hours of premium content, up from 5,600 hours at this time last year.

– Hulu grew from 130 content partners last year to over 200 today, which includes the addition of Disney/ABC content.

– The number of advertisers/marketers Hulu have served has more than doubled, growing from 166 to 408. As a team, we are extremely excited about the atypically strong results we have been able to drive for our marketing partners.

– 6.4 million Hulu video players were embedded across the web in 2009, a 237 percent jump from 2008 levels. To date, Hulu players have been embedded on over 207,000 websites.

– Some of the more prominent consumer-facing innovations from 2009: Hulu Desktop, Captions Search, Continuous Play, Tags, and the ongoing innovation hub that is Hulu Labs.

– Our search service managed nearly 1 billion search queries in 2009, up 175 percent from 2008.

– The five most popular shows on the service in 2009:

– Hulu’s most embedded video of 2009 was the live stream of Barack Obama’s inauguration.

– The most popular clip on Hulu in 2009 was “Motherlover“, a Saturday Night Live Digital Short.

– The most popular full episode on Hulu in 2009 was Family Guy’s “Stew-Roids.”

– Our customers had a lot to say about us in 2009, and Hulu listened carefully. Some of the more colorful comments (via Twitter):

  • BradMays: If truly is an evil alien plot to take over the world…I’ve already been assimilated.
  • andrewjmay: Dear Hulu, This has been on my mind for a while now, but tonight is the night that I let you know my true feelings….I love you.
  • kiki_miserychic: I’m getting a coffee from McCafe tomorrow because Hulu told me to do it. My brain is liquidy slush.
  • Tiffanyasapun: found and my feet hurt. Those 2 are unrelated.

– Hulu was fortunate to receive a number of awards over the last year, including being named the World’s 3rd Most Innovative Company (Fast Company, March 2009), being included in TIME magazine’s Top 50 Best Websites, and ranking among the Top 5 fastest rising Google search terms.