Right now, there's a massive shift taking place - it's being discussed online, in agencies and with clients. As the media channels fragment and the internet provides the forum for debate, the messages about every brand being discussed by the general public can begin to seriously outnumber those 'paid for' by the brand itself. A Harvard Business Review blog article written by Andrew McAfee described it as shedding the "illusion of brand control" which I like as a way of thinking about it.
This call for brands to become comfortable with this loss of control - to release the draconian grip on 'the brand' and let it go - is a good call. Allowed free reign, we can then provide events, engagement and more for people to become attached to our brands and they will go forth and spread the good word far and wide. Hopefully.
The simple premise is that positive engagement will lead to positive commentary. And it comes with a realisation that relying on outbound messages alone won't build a brand like it used to. But it isn't a shift from one to the other - it's a merging of the two (or more) different forms of brand communication. As ever, reality is far more complex and muddled.
And, within this muddled world, brands need to keep their heads. I fear that too often the baby has gone with the bathwater - if we can call strategy a baby and traditional creative campaigns the bathwater, that is! But, so much of the interactive work out there seems to lack a sense of purpose, some consistency of behaviour and a degree of stated belief. In other words, it lacks strategy.
All this change should mean that strategy is more important than ever - the more promiscuous and varied we have to become in order to connect people with our brands, the more crucial it is that we do so with direction.
We're not looking for a message, though - we're looking for an organising principle by which the brand behaves. That can be applied to all activities.
The point is that strategic purpose is crucial to getting all these connections right. And being consistent and recognisable. Which means that strategists and the surrounding companies that aid with strategic direction should become more important than ever. Bring it on!