I’m always impressed by the ideas from Valeria Maltoni of Conversation Agent. Yesterday, she wrote a piece on conversation. The title sums it up: “Change the Conversation, Change the Game.”
As marketers, we are used to owning the conversation. Brand standard guides exist to ensure every level of communication is uniform and pushes the right levers. Experiential brands remain experiential. Time savers focus on time.
The challenge with digital media has been gaining an understanding on how to own the conversation in new channels. Most brands have retained tried and true methods of communicating while only shifting channels. Print and broadcast are ported to digital channels whether or not they fit the destination. Banner ads have been forced on the web even though they do not fit the medium – doubt it, check out conversion rates.
Digital mediums are prime marketing tools. You have users with expressed intent devoting their sole attention to your brand. They have the ability to take action immediately. Users are able to interact in ways television, radio and print never allowed. It’s now conversation and not messaging.
I expect 2009 to be a turning point in the way marketers interact with consumers online. They will adapt to the conversational nature of the medium and begin to own the conversation again. The biggest hurdle I expect to be overcome is the ability to react to existing content rather than to create.
While consumers have long discussed products and brands in their own circles, a true authoritative voice has been missing. We have already seen the extent a connected voice can have with Dell, Zappos and Starbucks. We have seen the impact of a lack of that voice with Motrin.
Brands will begin to retake ownership again in 2009. However, this will not be done through messaging – it will be dependent on reaction. The ability to respond to niche markets and disparate voices with one unified and authoritative voice will again shift ownership of the conversation from consumers to brands.
Consumers will welcome this shift as participation provides a win-win scenario where consumers retain their voice and gain clarity. Brands retain and win consumers in addition to controlling expectations.
In the end, consumers can learn to refine their expectations while brands can learn to better serve their markets. This will be done by owning the conversation and not the message.