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.