From the past collapses of big box retailers like Blockbuster Video, to the growth of wearable technology, one thing is clear: The business landscape is changed, and for some brands, changed forever.
Brian Solis has written a lot about how communication is evolving. We're living first-time in history stuff as social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and more have turned civilians into publishers--and experts, and given them a voice and the ability to grow an audience. Solis points out that these groups share one-to-one-to-many. That is, people whose people have influencers have the ability to spread word exponentially further now as audiences amplify the content.
This has also opened up opportunities for smart brands to: a.) have a voice. b.) connect with their customers one-on-one. c.) pull people in via content, not push out ads (more on this below)
One of the best public examples of how brands can and should be connecting one-on-one with customers is Pete Shankman's story of the greatest (customer service) story ever told, featuring Morton's Steakhouse.
Basically, Pete is an influencer with a significant audience and tweeted from an airplane how much he craved a Morton's steak. Morton's had its ear to the ground, rallied the troops and shuttled a hot steak to Pete as he landed. Well done Morton's for using social media to listen and take action. I'm not sure how many thousands or millions of people have heard this story, but Pete is likely a (paying) customer for life.
Another example is what happened to me last month when GM reached out and offered to send me a new Buick Regal to test drive.
They found me through my show, Behind the Brand and I assume GM did its research to determine that my content and channels of distribution aligned with the kinds of people it hopes will buy its cars.
To be honest, I was hoping GM would send me one of the sporty new Cadillacs -- but I agreed to try out the Regal to give them my opinion. I was pleasantly surprised. Although I did see other Regals on the road with old guys wearing bright shirts and ball caps, presumably with golf clubs in the trunk, it was super smooth and luxurious.
What's the lesson here for brands? Does "white-gloving" cool products to influencer's work? You bet it does. But this is only the beginning and there's so much more upside if brands will dig a little deeper and collaborate.
It is indeed the end of business as usual as Solis writes. How much does Ford (a direct competitor to GM) shell out to sponsor American Idol and twenty other shows? Millions and millions... and they do a phenomenal job on the grand scale as well as grass roots (thanks to my friend Scott Monty).
But what if you don't have the biggest budget on the block like Ford? What if you're not as savvy or have an army of people and agencies at your beckon call to execute marketing strategy? What if all this "new media" stuff is new?
A great place to start, whether you're a big guy or little guy, is to find the influencers. When you know who you'd like to reach, then all you have to do is figure out where they hang out -- and find the ring leader.
I'm a ring leader in my very small piece of the universe. What's the cost of sending me a Buick Regal for a week? A month? A year? Now compare that to the average ad buy and you can see pretty quickly how this style of guerrilla marketing has huge potential.
The next level of opportunity for brands might be to collaborate with content creators to develop original video content. "Content as a Strategy" is surprisingly underutilized and affordable. Branded Entertainment as it is sometimes called is a "pull" not "push" style that can yield huge benefits. This content can be aired in places like the creator's YouTube page to cross pollinate the brand with their community or on the brands' site or social outlets. There are wide open possibilities here to get creative and strategic about getting eyeballs and possibly new customers and revenue.
The smart marketers will listen to their audience, and stop pushing out ads, banners, billboards and more when we are conditioned to ignore them.