Mike Fromowitz
Aug 30, 2011

Some random thoughts on where things may be going.

Our traditional idea of bands is changing.David Ogilvy, Leo Burnett and Bill Bernbach pioneered powerful Brand images that transformed the landscape of commerce.  Great creative work combined with ...

Some random thoughts on where things may be going.

Our traditional idea of bands is changing.

David Ogilvy, Leo Burnett and Bill Bernbach pioneered powerful Brand images that transformed the landscape of commerce.  Great creative work combined with mass audience awareness proved to be a powerful combination.  Brands evolved and some became consumer icons building enormous profitability for their companies.

Today, there are many who advocate that Brands will become less important as digital technology marches onward.  In fact, it is likely that Branding will become more important in the Digital Age.  With more media and more Brands, consumers have more to filter out. In order to cut through the clutter, marketers will have to work harder to build Brands that inspire loyalty. Brands must not only capture consumers attention, but keep it. That means they need to evolve in the marketplace while staying true to core values.

However, our traditional idea of bands is changing. We don’t “build” Brands anymore—not like we use to.  They grow to have a life of their own, and web savvy consumers are finding it much easier to identify with these strange new organisms.

Wally Olins, Chairman and co-founder of Saffron Brand Consultants. is widely recognised as a pioneer in the field of Brand strategy and corporate identity. He believes “Brands are becoming something bigger and different. Brands are becoming platforms. More and more, customers are invited not just to buy things but to do things.”

Technology has enabled a higher level of dialogue with consumers and consumers in turn have come to expect a higher level of transparency with their favourite Brands. More involvement/engagement fosters more loyalty to the Brand VS the old broadcast model of preaching from the mountaintop.

On platforms like Alybaba, eBay, YouTube, Facebook, Wikepedia, Craigslist and flickr, people are selling their own things, sharing their photographs, writing and collaborating on articles and blogs, sharing their insights and knowledge, and broadcasting videos. “It’s a less emotional, more practical relationship” says Olins. “People don’t love eBay though they love what it allows them to do.”

The trend to watch—Co-Creating with your customers

From a business and innovation standpoint, one of the most important trends to watch is the ‘Customer-Made’ trend—Co-Creating with your customers.  Not everything will be co-created in the future, but tapping into the collective skills and ingenuity of hundreds of millions of consumers around the world is nothing short of a brilliant idea. From a practical standpoint the idea of co-creating with the customer base also is good PR and makes the Brand more accessible to consumers.

It is a complete departure from the ‘producer’ innovation model so common to corporations around the world. This is a new phenomenon, where corporations create new products and services in close cooperation with experienced and creative consumers. The company taps into their intellectual capital, and in exchange gives them a direct say in what actually gets manufactured, developed, designed or serviced, and rewards them for it.

For example, the French car Brand Peugeot now invites customers to become car designers, and Crowdspirit.com, a crowdsourcing community, gets large numbers of users to submit ideas for innovative electronic products that the community fine tunes and votes on. The best ideas and their product specifications rise to the top where investors provide financing and development partners make prototypes.

Watch out for the Networked Marketplace

Advertising and marketing are going through constant change, and while many of us continue to talk about creativity and the Big Idea, there’s a growing acceptance of the notion that the Big Idea might very well be a lot of smaller ideas with a higher level of consumer involvement. It positions the company as not just a big multi-gazillion-dollar corporation but as “friendly”, accessible, transparent and open to the voice of the consumer. All enabled by very accessible technology.

Companies have woken up to the reality of the networked world. They are viewing ‘advertising’ as one of the ways of talking to customers, but not the only way. For them, mere Brand logos and taglines won’t suffice. The networked world is one where ‘brand voice’ (how your Brand talks to your customers) will assume more significance. Brands need to be seen as humble and authentic, rather than mighty; Brands will have to understand, rather than be understood; Brands will have to listen and not talk.

It's a brand new era that is unfolding, and with it is the growing phenomenon of the “Networked Marketplace”. In the Networked Marketplace some big Brands are turning to customers and the general public to make ads for them.

Look on their websites and you will find that virtually every Brand these days is inviting their customers to contribute to their next advertising campaign—proof that co-creation is in fact an established trend.

Recent examples like this slick video now featured on YouTube, called "Sony Transformation,"— http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdaMb_LTcJs—features a stereo system that shape-shifts its way into different electronics devices using mind-bending special effects. The spot was created by an 18-year-old, self-taught animator Tyson Ibele who works in Minneapolis.

In a world where YouTube videos are as common as bumper stickers, it's no wonder marketers are looking to their customers and the general public for ideas. Meanwhile, inexpensive digital cameras, more-powerful computers, easy-to-use editing and publishing software and the proliferation of broadband makes it easy for anyone with a laptop and some imagination to express himself or herself.

CurrentTV.com posts viewer-created ads particularly for the 18- to 34-year-old market. This demographic does not respond positively to videos or commercials that are overly produced and are hard sell. Viewers can enter videos and get paid $1,000 if their spot is chosen to run on the network.

L'Oreal Paris also sponsored a "You Make the Commercial Contest" on the teen entertainment site VarsityWorld.com. The grand prize winner of that contest was a video called "Juicy," made by two students at Granite Bay High School in California. In it, a young woman's lips and love life become more colorful when she puts on L'Oreal Lip Gloss. The contest created so much excitement among high schools that the top 25 commercials posted for online voting received more than a quarter million votes in less than a month.

“The new Brands have many ways of doing things, many ways of speaking.” says Olins. “They experiment and change over time. The Brand is not a perfect blueprint, and Brand creators are less architects and more inventors, learning by adapting. What unites the organisation (or constellation) isn’t the surface logo but the underlying idea.”

Alan Blose, EVP, Chief Creative Officer at BKV, one of the largest Direct Response agencies in the USA, cites Brands and consumers “sharing common passions and beliefs”. “Brands,” he says, “are adopting a cause and then using that affinity for the cause to help differentiate their Brand from their competitors. There’s greater propensity for consumers to be involved or passionate about a charity or a cause these days (and of course there are more causes and more ways to become involved). This is a generational shift too”.

While getting some of your customers involved at a tactical marketing level has its rewards, it doesn’t touch upon the truly massive opportunities that the Customer-Made trend has to offer when you move beyond advertising: from product development to open-conversation feedback schemes.

What’s happening to the Newspaper?

At first, traditional newspaper people ridiculed the internet. It was populated by a bunch of “disgruntled soreheads” and “resentful”, “inept crazies”–and was no real competitor. As it grew, the internet swooped up readers of all ages, particularly younger ones. Today, the younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. Most of them certainly don't subscribe or buy the daily print edition. Why should they? They were weaned on computers and it’s free.

Eventually the newspaper industry changed gears, from disdain of the internet to a “must have” obsession.  Newspapers with their own web site were proud that they still dominated the news in their own communities, a mind-set that still controls the industry. They all came to agreed that ad revenue from the web sites would eventually take the place of print advertising. But it didn’t. For awhile, it rose rapidly, then it declined.

Put all of these hits together: the current state of the global economy and the possibilities of recession, shrinking of the former customer base, shift of much advertising to other media, and disappointment in ad revenues from newspaper-owned web sites – and what you have is a newspaper industry in a free-fall.

As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.

What’s happening to the Book?

A good number of us say we will never give up the physical book that we hold in our hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I continue to want my hard copy CD. But I do know that there will come a time when I too will change my mind. Yes, I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing is happening with books.

Hundreds of books sit inside one small and light device with integrated video clips, interactive quizzes, search functionality and full web browsing. It all seems like a dream come true for avid readers, doesn’t it? You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a book from the book store.

Think of the convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.

Consider the "Things" that you own.

We are great collectors of "stuff". Today, we own many of our possessions, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud." Your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system.

So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider. In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device. That's the good news. But, will you actually own any of this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment because you clicked the wrong command?

Consumers don’t behave like they use to.

The Internet has made niche marketing more viable. As trust in companies, services  and Brands declines, the availability of instant information expands. The Internet has transformed our ability to find information on any conceivable topic. As busy consumers we need to take shortcuts. We need to find the most reliable ways of making Brand choices.

Thanks in a large part to Google, we’ve become experts in cutting through trivia to get to the facts. We’ve also become experts in finding sources of reliable information—through friends, family and the Internet. Consumers believe they are all more trustworthy than advertising messages. We want to see samples, we want to know the benefits, and we want effective ways of reducing the risk of making the wrong choice. Because reducing risk in Brand choice is a major force-fitting customer behaviour.

More and more, I wonder whether we are forgetting the basics when we try to create integrated marketing and advertising campaigns. The basics lay in the insight of how and why consumers make purchasing decisions, and of what and who are the best sources of information and influence to reassure and inspire consumers to try and buy.

The “big idea” is being replaced by a “network of ideas”.

In the old days a creative team was made up of primarily a copywriter and an art director.  With the creative directors input and blessings, the campaign would then go on air and the job would be done.

The world of advertising however, has become significantly more complex.  Campaigns don’t end when they go “off air” any more.  We can no longer think in terms of marketing programs with a distinct start and finish. They are ongoing. They live on as consumers praise them, trash them, mash them up and discuss them online.

Nowadays, in addition to copywriters and art directors, there are web developers, event specialists, social media experts and on and on. The “big idea” has been replaced by a network of ideas that includes input from consumers and clients. This new reality requires different competencies than the old one. A vast array of skill sets need to be integrated.

While broadcasting messages will continue to play a central part, consumers themselves are sharing Brands as well. While consumers can’t be controlled, they can be encouraged. Creative directors native to digital know this instinctively. Mechanisms of interaction have been designed to empower consumers, but care must be taken not to intrude or offend.  This is still an emerging area and we still have a lot to learn.

“It’s also increasingly easy to address nuances in the marketplace, adds Alan Blose. “Customisation and tailoring messages to segments of the market is easier because the technology to do so is more accessible and cheaper. In many ways it wasn’t practical before. Now it‘s far more efficient to reach niche customers—more Millenials, X’s, Y’s and fewer Boomers”.

Strategy can no longer pick out one point on the continuum, but needs to develop and adapt in real-time.  Most of all, the new creativity will no longer revolve around one “big idea,” but hinge on the combined talents of diverse network of teams.

Without disparaging the great accomplishments of the past, or the genius of those from whom they sprung, I think it’s fair to say that the future of advertising, marketing and creativity will be more rich, nuanced and immersive than anything we’ve seen before.

Recession should be good for advertising.

In a curious way, a recession should be a force for good, improving advertising’s creative output – necessity quite literally being the mother of invention.

But how odd and depressing, then, that the knee-jerk reaction to an economic downturn by clients is to either cut budgets, reduce staff, halt hiring activities, or produce "low-risk creative"—a euphemism for boring, pointless advertising.

In today’s marketing and media environment only the naive and foolish confuse presence with impact. Gaining presence in the market is easy. Impact is hard. Impact requires creative ideas that bring entertainment value to Brands. To win over today’s consumer, we have to create ideas that elicit emotion and create connections.

In the world of creativity, the real ROI is not the Return On Investment, but the Return On Imagination. Sales results behind the now famous Apple “I’m a Mac” campaign featuring John Hodgman as PC and Justin Long as Mac, had little to do with it’s financial investment and everything to do with its creative investment, aided and abetted by millions and millions of online viewings. The campaign was also ripped off and satirised by Microsoft too, which I suppose is its own form of flattery.

Nobody can predict the future of the advertising industry.

Some people predict the advertising business will have to get smaller before it gets better. Others see it having to get simpler rather than remain complex and inflexible. I believe we are only at the beginning of a creative revolution—a time of positive disruption filled with new possibilities.

No doubt about it, there is a new advertising ecosystem forming, one made of startups: collaboratives, crowdsourcing agencies, innovation labs, and independent talent that can thrive on minimum overhead. We are seeing big time agency talent jumping ship, starting their own nimble agencies that are ideas-led, media-neutral, integrated, and multi-disciplinary. Along the way they are picking up talent best suited for each creative project. Now it’s much more like the Hollywood Production Company Model, casting the team for the project and then keeping the overhead low.

With markets and media fragmenting, and the consumer becoming more individualistic, choosy and demanding, clients are also having to adapt to a new marketing environment. Their Brands must become more multi-faceted, and appeal to a more diverse set of consumer needs and attitudes, if they are to develop or maintain significant franchises.

Brands guarantee consistency and offer an easy choice, but in a world where there are too many choices available and too little time to waste on choosing, one can not argue the importance of customisation and tailoring messages to the needs and the demands of a widely diverging group of consumers.

Could all of the above be the vision for the industry moving forward?

If it is, it could make the ‘new’ advertising industry a fraction of the size of the current one. It could, on the other hand, create amazing opportunities for the inventor, the innovator, the most talented of creative people, and for the client. More and more, clients seem open and accepting of this new model. It ultimately benefits them.

In conclusion:

“When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” — John M. Richardson, Jr.

P.S. Please let me know what you predict for the future of advertising and marketing. Thanks.

Mike Fromowitz



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