As digital tectonic plates continue to shift and once separate media sectors merge onto a single global platform, the terrain for brands and marketing definitions remain in a state of flux. Just take a few recent examples. Last week Facebook indicated it’s no longer a social network but a 'platform', while Twitter reconfirmed it’s dropping the social tag in favour of a new guise as an 'information network'. Leaving some questioning, if even Facebook and Twitter are dropping the label, what ‘social’ actually means in context of marketing; other than the constant buzz of a global bazaar. Additionally, big technology players are constantly redefining themselves and their markets. Amazon, the one-time online book shop, confirmed it is going into direct competition with Apple, the one-time desktop computing manufacturer, with the launch of the Fire tablet. The reason being that both increasingly seek to extend their credentials as global media players offering music, TV and films. Meanwhile, Google, the one-time search business, has bought Motorola, the one-time handset manufacturer, to bolster its own planned entry into the world's TV markets; whilst simultaneously becoming an alternative to a credit card provider by launching Google Wallet. Elsewhere, Hulu, an online television service that was established by the US TV networks as a defensive strategy to see off Google’s YouTube, is being sold off because it success is undermining the revenue model of the owners' traditional businesses. (Ironically, the possible buyers include Google, Amazon and Yahoo). Even the idea of images and photographs is being redefined as demonstrated by the plight of Kodak, one of the...
...world’s best-known brands. Today, the company continues its descent into an abyss that appeared when its main product was added as a feature on the iPhone. A problem that was compounded by Facebook creating a distribution platform to which people will upload seventy billion images this year alone.
Welcome to the world of networked media, where definitions no longer apply. Struggling CMOs, and increasingly CIOs, attempt to keep track of what’s happening, possibly hoping for a slowdown in the rate of change so they can pause for breath. However, there’s no sign of that occurring as the speed at which all media is drawn onto a single digital platform continues.
Just consider TV. Everyone still loves the goggle-box and there’s no doubt its popularity endures. However, as the variety of offerings within the TV ecosystem grows, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to talk about TV as a single entity. In August, Ofcom reported that one million connected TVs were sold in the UK last year, with Samsung being the main innovator in the area. Meanwhile, the new YouView platform is being prepared for a launch during 2012. The service will supercede the hugely popular Freeview and make smartphone-style applications on TV sets the standard.
As traditional definitions creak, many big brands seek solace in better media metrics. However, the very nature of such information is being redefined. Media delivered over the web and through new digital channels is less about working out what people have done and more about what they are doing, or going to do. Networked media means individuals are providing more real-time signals about their lives through their interaction online with one another and with digital media in its kaleidoscope of forms. This tsunami of information, much of which is being collected and responded to in real-time bears no resemblance to the world of rearview-looking data panels such as BARB. Technology companies are focusing on aggregated user behaviour patterns in the real-world to predict individuals next steps and guide their purchases. And it's working. Netflix, the US streaming video service, reports that sixty per cent of its sales are generated by algorithms while Amazon states that twenty to thirty per cent of its colossal revenues are driven in the same manner.
As the networked media world continues to drive this dizzying pace of change, brands become more important for individuals seeking value, quality and service. However, for marketing folk trying to keep themselves in front of bargain-hungry consumers the job isn't made easier by definitions being in a constant state of flux. Media-planning becomes less like the strategic battleground of old where the biggest guns win and more like a digital garden where traditional vines blend to create strange new fruit that quickly take grip blurring expectations and the best laid plans. However, those who pay attention, avoid following the latest fads and resist lazy thinking will find these new species provide plenty of opportunity, even if they are a little hard to define.