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Brands and Meaning in the Age of Disruption

There is a viewpoint that what we  call media disruption is "actually a series of technological events, with each step opening more hours in a person’s consciousness for access to the world’s information.” (“After Media Disruption: Human Behaviour In The Age of Knowing Everything”, Steve Gray, Disruption Innovation blog, INMA)

At its end is a time when every person has access to infinite information on every subject at every moment of the day, leading to a change in behavior. We are seeing this change of behavior already, but what do we do with it?

Creating meaning for brands means creating news

There is no question that brands have become aware of the role of digital media in this techie, digital age. As early as the turn of the 21st century, brands have already been studying how best to harness this new technology to their advantage. Advertisers have been rushing to use (and own) the internet, except back then, no one was really sure just how.

In this environment, advertisers look back to one function of the internet: delivering the news.

Historically, creating news has been a vital task of the communications and PR agencies of brands, even well before the digital age. At present, however, with the digital, social, mobile, multi-screen, multi-platform and sharing environment at present, the way news is created has evolved.

It is not enough to just hammer single messages about what they stand for– putting that in a tagline and constantly repeating it in different placements is not enough. Even more importantly, just managing and influencing perceptions of the target consumers with regards to the brand isn’t enough. The brand has to create content– the brand has to generate the news and establish its own media platforms.

What kind of content?

At first glance, it’s still the same old marketing communications rule– communicate what’s in it for the consumer. The requirement to look at their own brand’s benefits– functionally, emotionally and socially– and find the ones that are important to the consumer then use them to connect the consumer to the brand still holds true.

In an age where consumers have access to the information they seek and have a choice about when and where to access it, brands must create content that motivates participation– the proof of engagement. It is simply naïve to keep believing that it is possible to attract, connect and engage with self (brand) focused repetitive messaging. 

What is the difference then? The first step is in the process– rather than connecting the brand to the consumer, it is being where the consumer can connect to the brand. Take a cue from the news. In 2013,  “selfie” was listed as the word of the year by the Collins English Dictionary. In 2014, it’s “overshare” and “photobomb.”  Connecting to the ongoing conversations among consumers and stories must be part of creating its own engaging content in that conversation. 

The prescription seems simple– consider what gets shared. Feel-good narratives. Narratives that make the reader feel special. Recognition. Affirmation. Belonging.

All while redefining the brand news in a way that communicates what the brand stands for without losing the consumer engagement.

Corporation as Media Company

The second step is to consider that in this age of democratized communications, all companies are wielding the power of media. What and how you communicate is just as important as the products you create. Here, the communicator’s prime rule hasn’t changed as well.

“Write what you know.”  Share your expertise in all channels across all media. Be the news, in the news, and help with the news. Remember that technology is your tool– and the force driving this always-on, connected culture. And that there is always news– if there is none, create it yourself.

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