Ignition: The Marketing Revolution

This is an edited version of last week’s Ignition newsletter, my weekly look at a topic I believe is of interest to marketers. If you’d like to receive this in your email each Monday morning, fill out the form on the right.

Adapt or Die. Sounds like something recently uttered by any number of marketing gurus. In fact, attribution is owed to former South African Prime Minister, P.W. Botha. But South Africa’s ability to adapt is a tale for another day. Right now I want to talk about how brands are taking this lesson, as well as academia’s “publish or perish” rule, to heart. If you read Digiday, the headlines this past week told you that change was truly afoot. Here’s a sampling:

How Virgin Mobile Fell in Love with Content
Brands Cozy up to Start-Ups
The Onion’s Quest to Make Brands Funny

Or how about this one from Mashable: New York Times Launches Start-Up Incubator

Those are pretty provocative titles if you ask me. I don’t think they signal acts of desperation, but rather an acknowledgement by brands that cultural and business shifts are happening so quickly, and in ways they are ill-suited to react to, that partnerships are the only way they can maintain their footing. Smart brands are realizing that posting “like this if you think puppy dogs are cute!” as a Facebook status is not going to get the job done. As a result, partnerships with Buzzfeed, The Onion, Funny or Die and Vice make sense. Those content publishers have cracked the code. They understand culture and what type of content people want to engage in, something that the vast majority of brands don’t understand very well.

Start-Ups present brands with an opportunity to inject new ideas and perhaps a needed shot of enthusiasm into the mix. The Mashable piece notes, “The goal is to seek out new ways of creating, collecting and distributing news and information. The Times says it’s primarily seeking startups focused on mobile, social, video, ad technology, analytics or e-commerce who have raised “at least” seed-stage funding.”

Of course this brings up its own set up problems. Which content providers do I partner with? How do I identify which start-ups to engage? What’s a hackathon?

Great questions and no easy answers. So much of this is still new territory, with numerous players and myriad options. This is where a trusted agency partner can play a vital role. With an intimate understanding of the brand, a history of crafting compelling stories and a knowledge of how to engage with culture (that’s my bit), an agency can identify the right opportunity, collaborate and leverage the partnership for maximum effect.

At Y&R we understand the need for this type of thinking, and the process behind it. Through our Spark Plug program we’ve partnered with a variety of small, innovative companies that create some of the most cutting edge technologies around. We work with them in all sorts of ways to create new and compelling communications solutions for our client partners.

I don’t think you have to be an “edgy” brand to benefit from this sort of thinking either. The key is in understanding things like the media consumption habits of your intended audience or how technology could unlock new functionality in your brand. If the articles linked above and this note have got you thinking, give me a shout and let’s talk about how to find a content partner or host a hackathon.