You thought you were selling products? You are broadcasting content.
Until recently, the digital presence was a support for sales, and it was regarded as an advertising channel almost like any other. Only a little faster, a little less predictable, a little younger, with a lot more hype; but definitely not treated much differently from the rest.
In the luxury industry, for example, the brand’s universe was embodied by its products, a muse was its advocate, and then the world of ‘influence’ came along simultaneously with a decrease in the number of contact points forcing brands to integrate a media mindset. Here, they come, the ‘Brandia.’
Why such a change?
1/ From now on, the war for attention is waged on a reduced number of media and contact points: to put it bluntly, five platforms at the most monopolise the attention of 4.5 billion people at a rate of 2.5 hours per day.
2/ ‘Push’ had already shown its limits for a long time, competition is now no longer between peers (for example, brands in the same sector) but between all brands and digital media combined: entertainment and shopping activities are broken down between the same scrolls times.
3/ Targeting is becoming increasingly precise, particularly based on professional criteria, and continues to blur the limits between personal and professional lives. B2B players are therefore entering as well into the attention sphere.
4/ Social network engagement is directly translated into a ROI calculation with a higher margin thanks to direct sales.
5/ The user experience can be controlled all the way from A to Z, thereby increasing the levers of consumer loyalty and profitability.
6/ An immediate consequence is that the old saying “content is king” has never been so true as today. Any product, as good as it may be, is no longer enough to create such ‘king’ or great content.
Ten years ago, Simon Sinek taught in his Golden Circle: “Start with Why”, such company’s ‘higher purpose’ (the why) induced consumers to buy its products (the ‘what’). The rationale of the company’s existence was then integrated and displayed in one balanced ecosystem composed of a website, magazine ads, blog articles and finally, products.
Today, these values are still conveyed in a 360-degree ecosystem, but its access has been reduced to a few platforms.
It is this ‘higher purpose’ that will create the adhesion of its community and it expresses itself directly in the content created by brands.
Potentially, the brand editorial line and the content created become so core that historical business models now only play supporting roles, and the products are only attributed the “Reason to believe”.
Brands hence become media. Their business is media. Their competitors are other media as wells as other companies in their historical business sectors. Traditionally, media provided its audience with content and financed themselves through advertising.
Today, brands are playing in the same playground thereby communicating their values through a more than ever qualitative and engaged content. Here, brands are financing themselves thanks to the sales of products which implicitly follow the same values.
In a polarised world, where every opinion is visible, a brand must ask itself what it has to say, what it stands for, what it believes in, what vision of the world it adheres to, in what format and with what tone. That could become a priority over what the brand in earnest sells.
The product becomes a means to an end, not an end in itself, while its quality and craftsmanship are taken for granted.
To be natural, or organic, or carbon neutral is becoming a norm. To brag about it is not enough to persuade, but it is impossible to convince without it.
Which content strategy to truly become “more interesting rather than interested”?
It is fair to ask oneself the following questions…
What proportion of posts should include products?
How are my values translated into content?
Which formats are most representative?
What tone of voice should I use?
What piece should curation take?
Which user journey should be created?
Which KPIs should I track?
Which budget should be committed to production of content given the new competitive landscape?
The matter at stake is to add to the ‘what we do,’ the question of ‘what we believe in; to add to’ ‘how we do it,’ our vision of the world; and the added value we bring, our commitments.
So, what is the consequence on the brand organisation itself?
The time when the “digital managers”, placed at the very end of the marketing department chain, oversaw ‘feeding the beast’ with products promotions or special price animations is seems to be behind. They have now taken centre stage!
The roles of marketing, communication and brand managers have been respectively reshuffled into traffic generation managers, editors in chief, and media directors.
The value chain is the first lever impacted by this major media orientation impacting organisations: which structural changes must be made now that media is no longer a cost to support sales but instead sales subsidise media budgets?
How to redesign your organisation if you consider yourself a media player?
Which team meetings would you set up every week?
What kind of agenda?
What fact-checking to setup?
Which responsibilities should be assigned to the marketing team?
How would you judge the resources at hand?
Where would you look for new themes to be tackled?
What setting would you put in place to be fit to quickly react to daily events?
What is at stake when reshaping an organisation?
The ‘How’ of Simon Sinek Golden Circle (how are products created) is now in the centre and essential to answer to the big question of the reason why, the “Why.”
At a time when transparency rules, each component of the organisation value chain becomes a change virtuous lever as well as a topic to share and create content.
Such excessive focus on the ‘how’ coupled with an urge for transparency creates an immediate questioning phase: processes to be adapted, problem solving procedures to be expedited- cannot wait anymore- and even business models to be altered.
However, the audience has a limited attention time span and industrial issues are complex.
How not be simplistic and caricatural while communicating on one’s value chain? How to manage production transparency with short formats? How to combine simple explanations, complex themes and at times simple expectations? How to justify unavoidable visible paradoxes of an industrial activity? How to aim for a positive impact when the best packaging does not exist?
The era when boasting about one’s sustainable development actions to appear irreproachable also seems to be behind us. Many brands have understood that and guided by an authentic desire for transparency and improvement, are now committed to communicating on the progress of issues that still need to be adjusted: transport optimisation, plastic limitation, sustainable sourcing production. In one way, implicitly, all the other elements seem to be resolved.
“And whether or not there is a willingness to communicate on these very internal structural and industrial elements does not change the need to be accountable for it!’
If one organisation has embraced and initiated change, it applies to all the others.
Comparisons are easily made, and as our short time perspective leads de facto to increasingly simplistic visions, no brand is safe from being questioned about what its neighbour claims and from having to respond in the name of transparency.
Amongst other things, and to give some additional food for thought, many other questions arise in the need to transform the value chain in the era of media brands:
How to reorganise R&D and product development to also transform them into sources of content and make them compatible with the news imposed by the media?
How can we tell the story of our transformations, in a transparent fashion and in a live report, while maintaining sufficient hindsight on their merits?
How can we capture consumer expectations and what piece should we give them?
What model of society do we want to convey?
In a world of excess, the ultimate brave question that sums up all the previous ones is perhaps: “What should we give up?”
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