If you have seen Weeds, the opening credits on the show lays bare our cookie-cutter culture quite brilliantly. Our mass production and consumption cycle, which has been a staple for generations, is transforming in today’s on-demand and dare-to-be-different empowered world.
For years large corporations and machine driven factories have knocked out
the same items at low cost, stocking stores and shelves and satiating our ever increasing
societal desires to consume whatever our neighbours are consuming. If you have ever watched the James Burke series Connections, you will understand what I mean when I say we are in a struggle to escape the trappings of the industrialized world we created and have grown accustomed to.
Our media was not any different – it too was industrialized. Our TV’s and radios were stocked with the same content produced for the masses from the same factories. We all had what each other had. We all watched what each other watched. We did not have a chance or means to effect choice. We could not exert control over what was produced. For a long time we called that progress and settled in convinced it was the only way. We had driven ourselves into a homogeneous state and were, unfortunately, left felling a little less than unique individuals along the way.
I believe things have changed for good. We now covet those items that serve to individualize us more, not less. As an example, the iPod does this brilliantly. Yes, it is trendy in form/design and, yes, it is mass produced in a factory. However, it changes the game fundamentally in terms of how it functions. They (Apple) managed to take a mass produced item geared Joe Public and turn it into a device that is a reflection of who we are and want to be as individuals – disrupting how we interact with music and media in our lives. Its core function facilitates being more individual than ever before.
But more so, Apple is a disrupter through and through. They went deep into the end zone by disrupting how media is actually produced (podcasts, vcasts), distributed (iTunes, feeds) and created a masterful vision for how the device would transcend being just another device in a world full of devices. And, it is all situated and centred around you and I as unique entities – knowing we will each use it differently.
The rise of Social Media and controlling our Personal Media is where it is all going and
there really is no looking back. It is not about changing channels or rudimentary time-
shifting our TV watching anymore, it is about designing and creating our own streams of
content. We are the artist and the audience all at the same time.
Playing with media, selecting, customizing and mashing it up every which way to suit our
unique tastes, situations and needs is a wonderful leap we have taken together. It is not
only about the iPod, it is about the digital culture and the creativity that
is being unleashed everywhere.
And, because of this, marketers will need to go well beyond the old advertising models as they simply won’t work. Platforms and methods of communication designed for the masses will not work at the individual level today. (This is so much more than User Generated Content in the form of a Super Bowl ad. In my opinion that is a lame duck and there is so much more going on worth discussing.)
To be successful we will need new thinking to match the change as society diverges away from mainstream controls into unique cliques and communities. We will need to take heroic risks in order to acquire, retain and grow customer relationships that once, comparatively, seemed so easy.
So, where are we at today? Well, we have already seen the foundations of big media begin to deteriorate while they contemplate what’s next and jockey for position. Consumers are increasingly inattentive to our interruptive tactics. We now know of the concepts like “The Long Tail” and “Slivercasting” and have come to grips with the reality that broadcast audiences are dwindling. Looked at another way, we have been at the buffet for a long time getting fat without exercising. We need to think more about nutritional micro-meals appropriate for each unique taste palate, and board-up the drive-though which never satisfies anyone.
Just as in 16th Century England, the Reformation put wheels into motion and effected change we can still see and feel today, hundreds of years later. In terms of a marketing reformation, the usurping of big media by the individual is not the first domino to fall, nor will it be the last. It is, however, a very significant one that will be viewed historically as a fundamental game-changing event. To witness this on our watch is to witness history.