May 8 2013
Since the dawn of time, human beings have attempted to accumulate assets in their quest for happiness. Yet, this fundamental principle of an ownership-based economy is currently being challenged and redefined, as one of the numerous side-effects of the digital revolution. For the first time in history, we marketers are expected to attract consumers who have everything and nothing at all. Confused? This article is for you.
Does matter still matter?
Throughout the entire human (pre)history, transactions were based on a simple principle: we pay for gaining ownership over certain merchandise. Whether the payment was done with goats, gold coins, government-issued bills, or modern credit cards – this principle remained the same. In other words, the fundamental logic of commerce was based on a (now obsolete) reasoning: that enjoying a product depends on owning it; that resources are limited and thus so are their end-products; and that because of the two previous principles – ownership is expensive.
This logic held until the digital revolution taught us otherwise. Suddenly, in order to enjoy a new song, book, film, and often services – there is no longer need to purchase any physical material (i.e., paper books, vinyl records, magnetic tape cassettes, metal CDs, etc.). The physical matter no longer matters; it is the digital encoding that we’re after – now available to all for very little money. For example, with a simple internet connection and a symbolic monthly fee, any individual could buy access to more music than she or he could ever listen to in an entire lifetime. This new understanding is the exact opposite of the previous one: ownership is no longer necessary for consumption; resources are infinite; and because of the two former principles, access to services is now accessible to all!
But there’s more! It’s not only that we’ve all won the “digital lottery” and can afford any source of digital services we want. The fact that we now experience, rather than own, means there is no need to go all the way to the ‘right’ store (to find your indie artist), to stock them (in your over-crowded attic), protect them (from bad weather, thieves, and your own senility), or (re)package them every time you move. Welcome to the world of zero-maintenance! And we haven’t even mentioned the creative industry which can now directly access its audience, free of any economic, political, cultural, or even logistic barriers. But the biggest winner of it all is the environment, where so many down-stream effects can now be eliminated.
“What’s the name of the game?”
The abolishment of ownership over a whole range of products turned entire fields of consumer’s goods irrelevant in this new economy, whereas new (digital) ones have emerged. It is no longer about manufacturing the best product and convincing consumers to buy it. It is rather about developing the most significant added-value experience and making consumers acknowledge it (and eventually gain access to it).
This transformation has re-defined the nature of brands’ relationship with their consumers, affecting everything we’ve known about branding, marketing, communication, and sales. In our new reality, abundant with services, content, and entertainment – the new challenge for brands is gaining their customers’ attention. At a time when consumers are constantly one click away from their favourite entertainment, it is simply not enough to build a funky website or an original TV commercial. In order to make a real impact, brands need campaigns which can stand out in the blizzard of information.
A effective campaign must offer consumers a new holistic experience through multiple parallel platforms and technologies. What do these new techniques consist of? Well, the answer is that there is no answer. The new formula is non-stop innovation. There are no longer ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions or generic answers. Marketers are now obliged to re-invent the wheel over and over again if they don’t want to go unnoticed. How? ‘Inter-disciplinary collisions’ are the best recipe for success in this ever-changing environment. They are also the topic of my next column. Stay tuned!