CULTURE IS THE NEW COMMERCE.
There are endless conversations going on right now about brands moving from 'saying' (making ads) to 'doing' (making services e.g. Nike +). Naturally it wasn't one individual who came up with that trend or shift, lots of marketers and particularly those of us in new media noticed this early on. Personally the first time I've written about this in presentations and articles was as far back as 2001. However, I wanted to re-fresh my own thinking as well as current mood in this area. I am of-course indebted to John Grant for the original chart in his new book (pg: 134) as well as various others who are championing the doing e.g. Stuart. There are multiple ideas that I tried to summaries in one chart which is ambitious but most of it is above. I will not go into the full discourse of what everything means but I will attempt a brief summary. Yesterday: Brands used to operate in a universe of commerce and communication meant to say & sell products and emotions to consumers with an end goal of making money. Today: Brands are more like social movements who operate in a universe of culture and society they no longer just say&sell but they do & share either a passion or an enemy with perhaps a bigger end goal of making meaning rather than just money. (see previous post on credibility v commitment). A lot of stuff goes into this newish framework: The role of the brand is no longer to release the consumer from the tyranny of conscious choice but a bigger one of instigating a social reformation either by sharing a passion or fighting a joint enemy. Brands have to play more of a cultural role rather than a commercial one. If a brand or company is not helping culture or society move forward somehow it will appear as just trying to use clever stuff to sell stuff. Brands have to stop sitting on an aspiration pedestal and stand next to a new type of consumer who is truly not stupid. The role of consumer has changed. They are no longer consumers and particularly online. They behave more like citizen activists, journalists, pirates, producers, protagonists in the brand story and most importantly their buying decisions are more like voting with their wallets for things they believe in rather than buying stuff. The mode of communication was about showing, selling, spinning stories and creating illusions - sorry bran image - around perfectly mundane products. But that's clearly no longer enough. A brand that does what it says and stands next to its citizens in either a fight against a cultural enemy (Thank you ignorance / Nike) or shares a passion with consumers is far more likely to be seen as credible, committed and a contributor to a greater cultural meaning. In a way I think what I am saying is this the nature of commerce itself needs to be re-visited. Is really the pursuit of above average profit such a brilliant goal for companies or brands? Or, could they pursue a greater good that extends beyond selling stuff. Consider your average global brand: probably has more revenue than the GDP of a small country, a better infrastructure than most governments, a better handle on resources than most charities and better democracy than most countries because their consumers vote with their wallets not with any misguided loyalty. Just imagine if global brands started using their immense power to try and make an above average culture instead of above average profit...we may just have a planet worth saving then instead of this pointless mess.