Monday, March 13, 2006

How to Grapple with "Gapple"

I had a couple of interesting conversations last week with clients around coming to grips with what's going on in the Digital Services Space. The last couple of weeks have seen some very interesting activities around the world and a little closer to home. We have seen Google come under some pressure to "grow up," the Apple "innovation factory" continue to turn up the heat on music / video publishing and locally we've seen a major Newspaper publisher pay 3/4 of a billion dollars for a Kiwi auction site, just to name a few of the events of the last week or two.

In one of these discussions we were joking around and I suggested that the big challenge for our clients for the next couple of years was working out how to "grapple with the Gapple" - learning to achieve their corporate objectives in a world where major players have caused structural shifts in the way advertising, media and publishing are done. The Gapple (Google - Apple and others like them) world is one where new players, or non-traditional players are either creating new niches for themselves or "eating the lunch" of traditional players in existing markets.

In thinking about this, it has become clear to me what successful businesses will need to do in order to survive and thrive in this new environment. The simplest message for me is that brand owners have REALLY got to start behaving like just that - start behaving like you OWN THE BRAND!

What does this mean? It means that brand owners have had a pretty formulaic run to date - leveraging a brand in traditional media markets has pretty much been about money (with some exceptions of course). With limited distribution channels and a fairly ologopolistic market, the guy with the most bucks buys the most air-time and gets the greatest attention. Essentially brand owners got to "lease the creativity" of the content providers (and in some cases this term is VERY generous) and then hang on for the ride. The brand owners looked for content and channels which were likely to attract their target customers..... a sort of "one step removed" relationship between the brand and the medium....

But what happens in a world of infinite distribution channels and of infinite choice for consumers? Despite network rhetoric to the contrary, consumers with discretionary income (the ones ALL brand owners want) are switching to the new channels - you ARE going to reach them through search strategies and integration to downloaded content and all of the other opportunities the new Digital Services world brings.

So the first step in winning in this environment? Take OWNERSHIP of your brand - it is time for brand owners to start thinking about greater control of the content, services and messages that you associate with your brands and to look for strategies which get out of being that "one step removed" from your customers. You can now publish, broadcast and distribute your own content - the concept of Brand Owners as Broadcasters is an important strategy for 2006 and beyond. You can create direct, ongoing and high-value relationships with individual customers as the foundation of your marketing my colleague Megan Hales say, you can "entertain to engage" and create multi-iteration points of commuication with your customers. You can take CONTROL!

This isn't about the technology any more (but good technology well implemented is at the core of success in this new age) - it is about integrated strategies which continue to evolve and develop as you learn more and determine how to get more out of the channels....

Our company is right in the middle of all this change. Our extraordinary team is really getting some momentum and we are seeing the results of our innovation for our clients. Rich media content, mobile video (for the Commonwealth Games for Telstra - VERY COOL!), adver-gaming and other integrated strategies using Digital Services are proving up for us a lot of the theory, and providing opportunities to learn and evolve those theories even more...... it is very exciting times ....

I really do love this stuff, because we ARE changing the world.... so it is time to Grapple with the Gapple and embrace this outstanding opportunity!