The number seven has never ceased to fascinate me. More so because of an urban myth that some playwright once told me, about the legend of the basic seven plots, which predates all stories ever told in the history of our civilisation, all the movies, plays, musicals or mythological masterpieces that we know.
I see some unexplained cosmic mathemagic at work here, some force much denser, deeper and uber-dimensional that governs all things at a larger level and I suppose even the future of digital, the ‘new kid on the block’ in the journey of evolution of humankind. Which is why I will try and explain my point of view within the framework of seven, without sounding like a cheesy self-help book. (Also as a tribute to your septenary status).
At first is a good story
The Internet medium required brands to ‘story-tell’ as opposed to ‘merely communicate’ thanks to the lean forward nature of its engagement. Consumers demand experiences and roles in the story-telling process that put them bang in the center of the action, only hearing what they want to hear. Good brands turn into lighthouses attracting brand lovers and enthusiasts and getting found by them, rather than pushing messages down their throats.
The second phenomenon is the seemingly increasing “internet of things”
Formed by the fusion of data and connectivity to real-worldly experiences that create a tangible ‘trust network’ for people. Where value creation and story-telling, merge into a new form of communication which is not quite advertising; or PR, direct, media innovation or activation. It’s not just social media; it’s also content, apps, search and online display advertising. Maybe not quite online or mainline or mobile media either. Or anything else we have known till now.
Content is King. Consumer is Queen
Content is the sole reason behind the immortality of the Internet. Brands need to co-create content that can inspire other content and crowd source human intelligence effectively to create a community for the people by the people.
Return of the artisan
The digital economy marks the return of the creative artisan mindset, long buried by the rigours and discipline of the era of industrialisation. They are the liberals pushing the envelope of ‘open source’ and hyper media. Though the virtual product tends to be replicable and democratic, it’s a marked change from disciplined socialist assembly line to unbridled omnipotent human ingenuity and creativity.
Every act of creativity begins with a theft. Or an existing conventional digital idea or format that has been turned on its head. This fast changing medium revels in reinventing itself. Like a hydra-headed amoeba it eternally transforms. Forcing corporations and brands to have the flexibility and a test-as-you-go mentality to make rolling adjustments. Learning, unlearning, breaking. Morphing as one goes along.
The beauty of the Internet is its ability to connect with the smallest of consumer segments no matter how fragmented or disfranchised they may be.
This ability to micro segment and to slice and dice throws up unique opportunities to sharpshoot that ‘one distilled idea’ and imprint it in the minds and hearts of that ‘one conceptual customer’ segment. This projects a democratic culture of inclusivity, further propagating the underground myth of the Internet and giving it a lot of street credo.
The 24x7, always on nature, a mere click away nature of this medium, redefines the concept of brand access. It’s an owl’s world, always active and awake where brands cannot even afford to blink. Made even more important when there are potentially thousands of people sharing stories about your brand online at any given point of time.
Which is why brands need to become ‘placeholders for ideas, which in turn will become fodder for blogs and bloggers’. Engagement that leads to sustained conversation that can lead to potential revenue.
Brands and communicators need to transfer the onus of brand building from the brand to its prosumers by moving from a culture of manipulation to that of open source collaboration.
Because finally for the first time, marketers have a real opportunity to create a relationship with someone before they even become a customer.
(Anil Nair is Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner at Law & Kenneth India.)