. The Transom .

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Consumer media goes from grade school to graduate school

I have a theory about consumer media (different than 'news' media) that goes something like this: Consumer media is slowing changing from an informer to an influencer.

Early in its lifecycle, consumer media was largely advertising. It told you things and you listened. Advertising was truth. Then public relations came more into the spotlight, advertising moved into the 'art' category and you could recognize the difference between corporate messaging and honest assessment. Today, we've moved into a consumer-generated media stage, whereby consumers are influenced by the information given to them, but they are responsible for creating the messaging, marketing, R&D and promotion of today's products. Think of it like school. In first grade, your teacher knew all the answers. She taught you that 1 + 1 = 2. That was fact. Then as you progressed through the system, you reached college or grad school where your teacher was more of a guide and less of a body of knowledge. They encouraged you to think on your own and decide for yourself whether or not what they taught was fact. (if you took the geeky advanced math classes like I did you learned that, through geometric proofs, 1 + 1 doesn't have to equal 2.)

Hollywood is a great example of this change. In the past, they put out a trailer, you watched it and decided if you wanted to see the movie. Simple enough. Today, they release a trailer on sites like YouTube and encourage you to modify it or create your own spoof of the movie. So instead of trying to create interest or buzz for the film themselves, the studios let the consumers create buzz for them. There could be 1,000 versions of the trailer out there and that leads to more interest, which leads to more ticket sales.

Of course, not everyone understands how to capitalize on the consumer-generated media phenomenon. The Diet Coke / Mentos 'chemistry set' is a good example. Mentos was thrilled with the news that thousands of videos popped up on YouTube with different versions of the Mentos Volcano. Diet Coke was horrified. Sales of Mentos spiked after the news went viral. Diet Coke's sales remained the same.

My prediction: consumers will have full access to R&D and marketing of products in the very near future and the process will be completely transparent. Companies realize that by giving consumers a stake in the outcome, you are creating loyalty and a sense of ownership. You can't spend enough on advertising to create that bond.


  • Interesting observation and speculation. It's amazing how technology can put the tools necessary for brand/message manipulation in the hands of consumers -- regardless of the brand-owner's preferences. I think companies that embrace this growing trend will be rewarded by being seen as dynamic, engaging and "user friendly" ...

    In my mind, this phenomena and its seamless dovetailing into viral marketing is the "Grassroots Campaign" model for the Y-Generation.

    By Blogger Jason Little, at Wednesday, July 05, 2006 12:35:00 PM  

  • It certainly seems to be heading that way. Thanks for your thoughts, Jason.

    By Blogger Rob Amberg, at Friday, July 07, 2006 6:36:00 AM  

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