Brands beware: With the iPad things just got more confusing

Simon Mainwaring / Brands / 9 years ago

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?


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  1. Avatar carlabobka says:

    Interesting post, it really comes down to which box your consumer is using at a given moment. Perhaps the answer best lies in your target market and how they digest. Are your target markets visual–use video and image. Then decide where to display those based on your target market's entertainment patterns–TV ads or Twitpic. Depends on their habits. Mktrs have been inside the heads of target mkts for decades, now they may need to reorder how they prioritize the demographics. Just my 2 cents.

  2. Thanks Carla, Agree. Marketers simply need to be targeted. The only challenge is tracking the mobility of consumers and predicting their next move. It almost feels as if you need intuitive rather than data driven tools as consumer attention is getting increasingly “predictably irrational”. It's a little scary and darn exciting too. Thanks so much, Simon

  3. Avatar Iconic88 says:

    Another fantastic post Simon.

    This post really does infer the necessary requirement to unlearn what we know & to approach things as marketers differently. New tools requires new mindsets with new methodologies. This does not mean you through the baby out with the bath-tub as they say.

    Just because Apple, Google and Microsoft are changing the technology we use day to day, we must not lose sight of our target audience. The question is one of prioritizing connectivity.

    Not everyone uses all of these or some of these or any of these companies products/services. Brands have to understand how their audience is connecting with them. Know this and brands will need to know how to adapt the message for the customer and the medium. This is not a mutually exclusive solution.

    For example, if you wanted to target babyboomers who are looking for future security in the form of health and life insurance. Who's to say, that a digital solution is best when there's a possibility this segment prefers a more integrated and bundled tactile solution? In this scenario, a digital solution would not be the lead connector but a peripheral one to reinforce the initial connection.

    The world today is not as segregated and boxed up in little John Donne islands unto themselves. The medium is not the message. The message is the message. How the message is delivered is where the battle for standards and communication platforms will reside. The medium is a commodity.

    You asked: “How do media companies re-invent themselves when long standing silos like television, print and newspapers are no longer meaningful?”

    There in itself is a dilemma Simon. What is a media company today? The definition of a media company is getting squeezed with more efficient communication mediums. No wonder their services are severely disintermediated when their channels of communication are being challenged at the individual level by tweeters and facebookers.

    Evolution of the media industry is happening today as we speak. In my opinion, advertisements as we know it today has to change for media companies to survive. Transparency, the 'TiVo effect' and a lack of Time are powerful forces that are driving this. I can foresee the rise of the product placement industry. Why watch ads on TV when products/services can be easily integrated into it's natural state within a show? movie? especially now when people can stop shows, see what's being used and have the ability to purchase what they desire online.

    I feel media companies will need to work more closely with the Agencies to integrate brands into the shows we watch. There's a reason why Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey get rewarded well for promoting the things they love. Everyone knows the purpose, core values and contribution these two smart businesswomen have. They have history with their audience. Historical bonds with brands equals trust and reliability.

    Question: “How soon will it be before consumers migrate to new technology that shifts the media landscape again?”

    Faster than the adoption of television.

    The world for blanketed advertising seeking impressions is dying. It's an efficient form of connecting with people. It's not connecting, it's broadcasting like shouting into a black hole and hearing no reply. Connecting is akin to fishing. Know your fish first, then know your bait, line, and weather patterns.

    There's a lot of fish in the sea but only the fish that loves what you have will bite.

    Sorry for the long post Simon 😉


  4. Thanks so much for the fantastic reply. Especially the answer to the third question. I agree media and advertisements need to re-invent themselves and that is a tall order for existing companies.To me the most effective approach would be to view yourself as a start-up and see how you would invent yourself today to engage the social space and best guesses as to its future. Start with consumers and how they are relating. See yourself as a service provider not a brand manager. And accept, like old fisherman, that it takes time to earn the knowledge of where to throw your line on what day and in which water. Urgent patience is required. Yet another skill to master. Thanks for the great comment, simon

  5. Avatar Iconic88 says:

    Fully agree Simon. The most effective approach would be to view themselves as a start-up and see how you would invent themselves today to engage the social space and best practice it.

    Anchoring is vital in a fluid and dynamic environment. Anchoring in the form of 'a clear definition of purpose, core values and contribution that serve as a compass' to safely guide brands away from the 'rocks'.

    Service is an absolute must. Amazing huh Simon? Change the language, change the perspective. Brand management seems more mechanistic, controlled and reactive. A service provider is proactive, open, empathetic and solutions based.

    Best, Mahei

  6. Thanks, Mahei. Hopefully our work with brands can help this shift in perspective, not because its right, but because its in their best interests. Thanks again, Simon

  7. Avatar Rusty Speidel says:

    If I'm a print publication, I'd be pretty excited. I still believe that editorial point of view, quality content, and customer-focused approaches will allow brands like the NYT, WSJ, and Newsweek thrive in this new medium. We buy content, not platform, but so many folks in the digital department have forgotten that. As Sports Illustrated's iPad demo shows, the content is still the king, as it always has been. Now is NOT the time to get all territorial and top-down, but to embrace the synergies across departments and assets, including the customer's point of view, to create something totally new and fantastic.

  8. Hi Rusty, and thanks. I totally agree that what we sell is content. And we should focus on across platform strategies rather than top down ones. The question is how individual companies that create content within pre-exsiting silos can reframe themselves and their offering to respond in the way. There a fundamental tension between the us against them competitive business mentality and the everything for everyone capacity of technology and expectations of consumers. I think you're completely right. Getting there will be hard. Thanks so much for the great feedback. Simon

  9. Thanks and I agree, Patricia. Consumer experience and not content creator channels should drive planning in the future. I think content and media owners need to think in terms of horizontal matrices (with several channel touch points) rather than vertical silos. I like your example of the Mag plus.Tools that map consumer daily experience and media interactions will also be critical and I'm not sure those exist yet. Hopefully media and content providers will recognize this period for what it is – full of enormous potential and scope for reinvention. Best, simon

  10. Avatar mikescheiner says:

    Great questions Simon. I agree with Patricia's comment regarding how the user will want to engage and interact with the content. The idea of a digital publication/magazine is where I see some incredibly exciting things. No longer a glorified e-book or pdf that you can flip through. But “live” pages that have links, videos, and real time sm feeds and AR interaction. Content in some cases will also be customized based on the users previous buying habits.
    The iPad is in fact a new a delivery channel for bringing brands to life due to it being a marketing aggregator for all things digital and social.
    Just as brands were beginning to get acclimated in the social media space, here's something yet again, they'll need to figure out.

  11. I know. Thank God we're not in marketing. oh, wait. It is a constantly moving target and exhausting for brands (not to mention consumers). And as you say, consumers are moving in the social space while content is being aggregator in endless new ways. I feel the best way to approach this is listen to your customers more attentively and, as a brand, stay true to who you are. That way the more things change the more they can stay the same. Thx, Mike. Simon

  12. Avatar basicmarketing1 says:

    Good ideas. The upside to this trend is that content, I believe, becomes more valuable as there becomes more ways to use it: book, blog, text message, Website, game, movie, etc., etc. The challenge for most companies is that they view themselves as product marketers, not content providers. They are unprepared for the unending demands for content that social media demands. Additionally, in a very liberal sense, isn't a brand just another word for content? A brand like Nike depends on a variety of associations that have little to do with the exact specifications of athletic shoes.

  13. True, and thanks. Brands are increasingly becoming content providers just as consumers are becoming distributors or advertisers. Though I do think that content must always be grounded in the truth of the brand that is borne out in their products. Random associations between a brand and content may work once or twice but after that it seems disingenuous and the brand suffers. But moving forward brands must become content providers and media outlets to hold consumers attention for sure. Thanks so much for the feedback.