Who is fit to lead your brand?

Its a question worth asking and the subject of my chat on the Internet economy on Friday, January 15, 2010.

Brand stewardship/ custodianship has traditionally been a space that has been claimed by the advertising agency, althjough we are seldom in a conversation in digital circles that we don’t hear the view that the “agencies just don’t get it”  so if they dont who does. Are the digital agencies ready to lead the brand?

My fellow The Beancastpanel member Ana Adejelic wrote about this in Advertising Age and was ridiculed by both agency and digital groups. In her view digital are in exploratory mode and ad agencies focused on exploiting a tried and tested approach, in essence this means digital will shoot the lights out but generally cant be trusted with the whole brand, whereas the ad agency are so locked replicating a “safe” formula that they have forgotten whats good for the brand.

Traditional agencies and marketers are stuck in a marketing model which is hopelessly out of date, it is based on the idea that homogeneous groups of consumers exist which are called target markets, and that loyalty can be built in these groups by repeatedly interrupting them with brand messages until they listen and when they do they will believe what they see and read.

Digital agencies are often built around the concept of search engine marketing and the techniques of SEO. They drive the “direct marketing” concepts of measurability and conversions, turning interaction into sales.

Is either of them right?

The Internet has been alive for years with the view that Advertising is dead, and more and more we are hearing the view that SEO is dead. In the words of Mark Twain in both cases “The report of my death has been grossly exaggerated” although in both these cases there is a whole lot of truth tied up in those reports.

Lets propose a different set of views:

These thoughts fundamentally change the way we think about brands, branding and marketing.

New marketing is essentially understanding that the game has changed, that the connection created by the internet, however it is accessed, by computer or mobile phone has fundamentally changed the way that society operates in a way that will never be rolled back. Because brands no longer have control of the information that customers can access. Brands will be built in new and different ways. They will use all the traditional tools but in a totally different way. Brands will be built by experiences and interactions.

Modern marketing was only invented in the 60s to understand the use of the most important communications tools of the era. The character of the new tools are fundamentally different. Although paradoxically when we read the early ad men it seems they got it.

Marketing has always been about making stuff and creating experiences that people want, making it available to them and getting them to talk about it. Branding in the final analysis is what people believe about stuff, what they talk about.

Ad agencies don’t get it and will never get it because the agency model and the way they work does not fit the social interaction model; agencies were invented to solve a different problem and to use one way communications channels. The new boys, digital agencies will battle as the Internet becomes more and more a way to connect ideas and people and less like a catalogue, a searchable database and so the role of the search engine changes dramatically.

Brands are built around storytelling, there is a legend that surrounds every brand, that story was being told by brands about themselves, now the story is being told by customers, about their experiences. Customers who have the ability to connect to anyone, anywhere, now have the capacity to share and collaborate on a scale never before thought possible, to share and spread ideas and stories around the world almost instantaneously.

Although the fundamentals of marketing have not changed, because customers have the approach also needs to. Brands are still important and marketing now becomes more than just a box on the organogram, it becomes the entire business as seen from the point of view of the customer who don’t care where they interact with the brand as its all part of the same experience, an experience they tell their friends about.

The story that becomes the brand.

I see a totally new type of agency, one that understands the new customer that will guide its clients through the process of building the customers total experience and of engagement. An agency that has a fundamental understanding of how people buy, of all the communications channels and how to use them not to attempt to overpower customers into brand loyalty but assist them to spread the idea. The idea that is the brand.

This is part of the vision behind PiKE | The New Marketing Agency

Listen to what we spoke about Podcast Link Here