Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Is Twitter helping to define brands of the future?

Unless you’re Ryan Giggs, it would seem, most celebrities are big fans of Twitter.

Many are active not only in informing their adoring followers of every new development in their lives but also in interacting in a way that previously would not have been possible. Twitter makes our celebrities (and our brands) more accessible. It has become the forum for interacting with consumers as well as the playground of the famous; the sniping and counter-sniping between VIPs in the Twittersphere are feeding the media with content in a way the previously only ‘exclusive’ interviews in a celebrity magazine might have done.

I wonder, though, if this emergent behaviour in media shows us the way that brands and marketing may begin to go generally. We are moving towards a position of sharing a brand with consumers, who will purchase on an increasingly pragmatic, needs basis. If this is the case, it places a greater onus than before on how to customise products and involve consumers in your “brand”.

In the mass-market, people are increasingly turning away from the physical to the online and this is perhaps the defining move of the new digital age. Fewer and fewer people are buying ‘physical’ music any more, books are increasingly digital and our lives are lived online. What does this mean for the consumer and the brands of tomorrow?

The music sector is already embracing this quite effectively. For their new album, Kaiser Chiefs have made 20 tracks available and when fans buy the album they can choose which ten tracks they want to be on their particular version of the album. They can set the track listing, and choose the album. If fans then sell their particular ten track album to others, they will receive a £1 commission for each one sold.

From people I’ve spoken to, I can see that many consumers are already wrestling with the implications of this and it’s not necessarily split down age lines as one might expect. The suggestion is that a book or a vinyl record has more inherent value that the digital copy of the music or the e-book which is merely reproducible content. This may be down to cost but also down to markets splitting between products of either actual or perceived high added value versus those that are seen as functional commodities.

So there seems to be an ever-growing divide between consumers who still want to own physical product and people who really don’t care anymore as long as they can access the actual content; a divide between the niche “haves” and mainstream “have nots”. Consumers battle between their heads and their hearts, where the heart says physical but head says digital. The key for brands is to learn the lessons of this development and be on the right side of that battle.

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