Brands beware: With the iPad things just got more confusing

Steve Jobs didn’t just launch the latest ‘must have’ consumer accessory last week. He unleashed the latest assault on everything we thought we knew as marketers.

Faris Yacob responded the iPad launch with a great post about its impact on languaging. Appropriately entitled ‘The Medium Isn’t the Message’, he questioned – to paraphrase him – that when you’re watching 30 Rock on Netflix, via your Xbox360, on Hulu, a laptop, screen, projector or very soon an iPad, are you still watching television? If you’re reading Brian Solis’s Engage on your Kindle or iPad, are you still reading a book? Or when someone is reading an e-newspaper on a news website or their iPad, are they still reading a newspaper? In short, what do words like television, print or newspaper mean any more?

His point is well taken. The language that media companies have used to distinguish themselves from competitors and build their empires is suddenly rendered meaningless when text, audio, video, experience, and gaming migrate seamlessly in real-time from one medium to another.

While this is a boon for consumers, it is of great concern to brands trying to keep up with new technology, social consumers, and maintain a competitive advantage. It’s is both a business and advertising problem that begs several questions.

How do media companies re-invent themselves when long standing silos like television, print and newspapers are no longer meaningful? How do content providers define or redefine themselves on an ongoing basis? How long will those definitions hold? How soon will it be before consumers migrate to new technology that shifts the media landscape again?

These questions have enormous implications for brands in terms of their internal structure, their business planning, and how they take themselves to market. They demonstrate the very real clash between the practicalities of running a business based on a top-down, tiered-structure that has been used for decades and the demands of a socially connected marketplace undulating with free-flowing conversations.

Companies need to strike a delicate balance between their internal organization and external interactions with the marketplace. This necessitates an organizational structure that is defined and undefined in the sense it has the capacity to evolve and reconstitute itself.

A critical requirement will be a clear definition of purpose, core values and contribution that serve as a compass in an environment of continual change. Not only will they give the brand a distinct personality that consumers can respond to, but such clarity offers huge upside in terms of internal decision making, strategic planning and employee retention.

As the marketplace gets more confusing (thanks, Steve!), a company must become better defined. Confused is an uncomfortable place to be in a recessive marketplace and threatens a brand’s survival. The best solution, more so today than ever, is for brands to look to themselves to find the solutions they need.

I’d love to know your thoughts on traditional media silos and what new technology means for brands?