The Convergence Culture and its Effects on You and Me
Today’s marketing landscape is hyper-fragmented. The advent of the Internet segmented audiences into niches previously unseen in marketing. However, the Internet, much like TV, required a fixed location to access content.
Now, with mobile pushing our boundaries, it combines the access of Internet content with the portability of newspapers or magazines. Thus the boundaries — time and location — that defined when consumers absorbed marketing messages have been vanquished.
At first glance, this appears daunting to traditional marketers and media buyers. How can one place media on all of the different channels and outlets and get a respectable ROI? Instead of the lens on the channel, the focus should be the audience and how you reach the intended audience agnostic of the channel.
CONVERGENCE = the FLOW of CONTENT ACROSS MULTIPLE MEDIA PLATFORMS
Henry Jenkins, Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT and leading thinker on convergence theory, describes convergence as “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of experiences they want.”
The first part of Jenkins’ definition, “the flow of content across multiple media platforms,” gives marketers plenty to address. The arrival of Apple TV, the adoption of the iPad and Kindle, and the growth of mobile are just a few items on the marketing action list. Convergence applications — like threadsy, Ping.fm and FriendFeed — that manage social networks and information flow are additional considerations for buyers who need their messages to punch through the clutter. Marketers must stay on top of the many messaging and functional implications that result from such rapid developments. CMOs need teams of in-house and outsourced specialists ready with the resources to support what should be a dynamic, flexible tactical plan.
So, how can the concept of media convergence offer a marketer solace? Because, when convergence really 24 QUARTER TWO 2011 takes hold, when people can freely select information without choosing channels or worrying about bandwidth, marketers can rise above this sandstorm and become real social constructionists. Those of us who have been charged with visioning, creating brand strategies, or gathering consumer insights need to prepare ourselves because the future of marketing will borrow much of the psychology of the past. Convergence does not really occur through media appliances, no matter how sophisticated they become. Convergence occurs within the brains of individual consumers and through their social interactions with one another. Media convergence has less to do with devices and much more to do with dialogue — it’s me, it’s you, it’s what we have to say, and it’s happening right now.
True convergence and access to one big network will exponentially excel the pace of our participatory culture. And it’s here — in what Henry Jenkins calls the Convergence Culture — that a marketer’s love of culture, society, and all facets of human nature come into play.
The convergence culture will be anything but simple. Because it is global in nature and has political and economic influences, understanding how to navigate this ecosystem is a highly complex task. What it boils down to is acknowledging the need to reaffirm identity in a shared informational and linguistic framework. That means re-thinking your conceptual understanding of the marketplace, your own organization, and how they will blend together under a collective focus.
With cloud computing, everyone will have access to the same information anytime, anywhere and in any format they want. Forget reaching out through channels and think more about how your customers define themselves. Then, explore those items they deem important.
To really know your customers, to honor and understand where they’re coming from, you have to be a great observer of economics, culture, politics and spirituality. Customers will still have one-on- one relationships with brands, but we have to begin thinking about these relationships differently. We shouldn’t fixate on the brand position and loyalty; instead, we should understand that with convergence, people will move quickly and will not be especially loyal unless the brand helps support individual self-images, specific causes, or movements that evoke emotion.
A recent Nielsen survey of more than 800,000 Facebook users and 125 individual campaigns from 70 brands found that based on consumer purchase intent, Facebook ads that contained social context were four times as effective as standard Facebook ads. Additionally, earned ads exceeded paid, as purchase intent was bolstered by a friend’s recommendation.
Your business more than likely falls somewhere in between “we’re using some new media to see what happens” and “we have a solid digital strategy.” If you’re tending toward the latter category, more than likely you’re staying ahead of the curve fairly well. But, in preparation of convergence, the next question to ask is, “Does our comprehensive digital strategy support our corporate business strategy?”
Many brands are building strong online customer communities, but unless this effort is supported by the entire organization — from the CEO to customer service to logistics — the brands will never realize the full benefit. You can’t develop an effective corporate social strategy unless you care about and engage in social culture.
You should draw ongoing connections between your corporate culture and the social wants of your customers. What are you trying to achieve? How does this intersect with the self-statements and social movements going on in the conversational ecosystem?
KEY GUIDING PRINCIPALS
This type of cultural assessment is all well and good — but what does it all mean at the end of the day? What can we do today to lead our brands to a stronger position tomorrow? Let’s take a look at some real moves that can keep us on the right track.
1) If you’re going to say something, make it meaningful. If you haven’t already, begin to value creativity, art and a narrative approach within your organization and your brand community. It will be increasingly difficult to shine in a sea of global chatter, so put your best writers and designers in the right seat on the corporate bus. sitting at.
2) Remember to pull marketing principals. With all the insight that data provides and all the power of customer relationship management (CRM), it’s tempting to continually push out offers and information. While this is good, you should equally focus on pulling together a community through things that matter to them, before leveraging self-selected community members to do the pushing.
3) Prepare for the closing of the digital divide and keep an eye out for new customers. One of the major tipping points for convergence will be the widespread disbursement of a single high-speed network. This opens up all kinds of opportunities to digitally market to underserved areas in the United States and abroad.
4) Be straightforward. With an open network, agendas and power plays will emerge. Take a stance on what’s right, just and good for society — there’s nowhere to hide. You should also revisit your identity all the time. It’s not self- indulgent; it’s the only way to keep your teams on track and relevant.
These are the ways to weather and even excel in what many view as the coming storm. So don’t fret — celebrate! Here’s to the return of storytelling and romance in marketing. Here’s to the future! What an exciting time to be alive and participating in the post-information age with so much opportunity ahead. Our efforts today will truly shape the ideas of tomorrow — and that’s a table you definitely want to be sitting at.