Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Message Has Become the Medium

Comment to an AdAge article by Cathy Collier of Zig's new "X" media planning agency titled: Why Your Agency Should Embrace Connection Planning.

Here's a revolutionary suggestion:
The Medium is No Longer The Message,
The Message is The Medium.
Marshall McLuhan analyzed and conceptualized "the medium is the message" back in 1964 at a time when marketing messages that were revolutionary in their impact on consumers had just barely come into their own on truly mass media. TV, an audio + video medium that captivated audiences and remains the dominant form of entertainment to this day (regardless if the distribution channel is analog, cable, or wireless Internet on a computer or smartphone), had finally reached critical mass.

Over the past 10-15 years (the WWW debuted in 1989) everything has changed. Yes, TV is still here, but we've seen a deluge in new technologies and content/programming (my 14 year old nephew spends hours watching homemade, 8 min. long video productions about a war being fought between two 'armies' using Airsoft weapons, he now watches on a smartphone). There are simply too many new ways of reaching consumers for most marketing people to keep track of, let alone exploit effectively in any given campaign.

What Cathy is talking about is a revolutionary way of re-imagining the planning process that is long overdue. To the point of many contributors above, yes, many people 'get' that a media neutral approach is the new starting point, but it will take a long time for a global marketing process to transform, these are still early days and there will be a plethora of new catchwords/phrases/"processes".

The key point is that the starting point for an impactful marketing plan is no longer selecting which medium we'll focus on, but rather 'people as a medium' (coined by Aidan Tracey then of Mosaic) -- or more pointedly, the consumer/customer/user/buyer's initial experience/interaction with any given product, whether it's via Word Of Mouth, or an experience in-store, on the street, in their own or a friend's home. If we begin thinking about how to make CONNECTIONS between buyers and sellers of brands in a real, hands-on way, it simply means we walk away from the old model of media and planning and begin with the team thinking from the consumers' perspective and then working backward to create the most effective, impactful campaign that brand can afford.

I'd suggest that experiential marketing is the place to work backwards from. As a reminder medium, versus just a few years ago, TV is now the last link in the chain.

What this heated discourse is about is evolution: the medium is no longer the message, per se (although McLuhan's insight still holds true in creating messaging for any given medium) -- each brand's message must become a medium unto itself that gets communicated in a flexible, adaptable but consistent way. By MONITORING 'social media' (NOT marketing via social media) we can measure our success.

It's the Brand Experience, stupid.

You might also like:

Four Simple Insights From The Past Few Years That Tell Us Where Marketing is Going Next

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
Upton Sinclair (from: I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked, 1933)

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