Issue 25 | December 2012

Given just how much technology has changed the way we do things in our day-to-day lives the marketing debates about above the line or below the line, digital, direct and social feel out of step with the true pace of change.

The place to start is by focusing on the human behaviour mainstream technologies are enabling. It has already changed the future of your and your clients businesses irreversibly.

The ask yourself, do I have a brand that people want to belong to? For it is belonging that will be a key determinant of future success or failure.

Why is this now the case more than ever? Last century, building brands to scale meant mass communications at paid for moments in time. It was the Age of Transmission. This had its challenges , moments of genius and moments of dross. But the rules and results were largely understood. The problem these days is that everyone is somewhere, but rarely in the same place at the same time.

Mass consumption has been replaced with mass opportunity for access. We are in an Age of Access with immediacy and scale unparalleled in human history: tools to create, be informed, opine, curate, and share. This has created a universe of access so vast it is like space.  Launch a message off at great expense to own a moment in time, and chances are it will boldly go where no one cares to be at that moment in time. All of which has fundamental implications not only for how we personally interact and our sense of community and society, but also how we do business, our commercial models and brand building.

When people have access to nearly everything, anywhere, at anytime why would they access your thing?

Let’s start with us. We are social animals; and being social animals we have to belong. The Age of Access is simply re-shaping how we define this. On the one hand access challenges the traditional, rigid forms of belonging: politics, press, religion etc. On the other hand, we are using emerging forms of access to seek new collective experiences, find affirmation and, to ultimately find ways to satisfy our need to belong.

This is not to be confused with lazy en-vogue chat about openness or participation. It is about values, actions, listening, trust and responding. It is not about perfection, nor is it very rational. But it is about obsessively crafting every point of access to build your vision. Because to win, your brands need to be where people spend their time, money and opinions. To do this you need to draw people to your brand across multiple platforms and channels – at any time. And it is belonging that will create the gravity you need to do this.

Belonging is a mix of old and new craft: product, brand values and messaging matter but it is so much more. It is about marrying business, customer, media and technological insights. How discoverable is your brand at any moment in time? Is the content relevant to the platform and is it an inspiring, responsive, or efficient experience? Is it intuitively navigating to a purchase, deal-clinching information, to feedback or positive advocacy or just something fun or useful that rewards time spent and is consistent with the brand?

To do all of the above requires a constantly collaborating mix of skills across media planning, creative, communications strategy, front-end technology, analytics and user experience.

But most importantly it is still about the idea. But now it has to be an idea people can belong to. Because when people belong to an idea they will not only spend more time and social currency with you – they will spend more money with you.

Which is an idea I think most businesses want to belong to.

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