The IPL and the end of the web as we know it

IPL cricketerWatching the Indian Premier League cricket the other evening (and loving how they have branded the language: a 6 is not a 6 any more but a ‘DLF maximum’ and a half-century a ‘Citibank moment of success’) I was struck, in the numerous ad breaks, by the stream of brands that drive consumers straight to Facebook, dispensing (in their advertising) with their standard URLs. Coke, Lucozade and Dulux all employ the Facebook.com/brand URL; and the Army simply suggest that one Googles ‘Army Jobs’. Though we can’t quite yet tell who will be the victor in the so-called platform wars, we know that someone will, and we can probably predict a date when the idea of a ‘corporate url’ will become anachronistic.

I am not surprised by this trend. In the 15 years I spent working with consumer brands online, the mantra (from New York to London to Mumbai to Beijing) was always ‘experience’: define moments when the consumer is open to brand communications and then create experiences that meaningfully intersect those moments with the brand.

Taking your brand to Facebook

To create these sort of experiences, and to do it well, brands have to become channel-agnostic. As a result, agencies are having to deliver solutions across web, mobile, retail and tablet. In short, modern consumers demand high quality brand experiences across a plethora of channels and consumer brands are racing to deliver them. So if the average consumer spends an hour or so on Facebook a day, take your brand to Facebook. The brand still needs to intersect with the consumer in a meaningful way and consumer brands are working this out pretty rapidly: think about all the co-creation campaigns, for example.

Digital time moves fast. Most brand owners now chuckle when they remember the (not too distant) days when their brands were afraid of social media because it exposed them to unregulated chatter. Most of them have moved on and learnt to embrace the unpredictable world in which they operate and thrive. These brands are allowing themselves to be human and reaping the rewards.

Consumers first, specialists second

The specialist publishing sector needs to get wise to this, and fast. I’m surprised how much time and energy is spent fighting battles that in the rest of the digital world have passed into history. Consumer-facing brands are leading the way in taking their brands to the consumer, delivering content and experiences in ways that consumers demand across multiple channels. All publishers and aggregators of content, from mainstream to specialists need to see their consumers as consumers first, specialists second. Then we can treat them just like everyone else and meet their expectations.

The activities of consumer brands tell us that the web as we know it is on borrowed time. If we get wise to this we’ll surely have many more ‘CitiBank moments of success’. And if we don’t? Lets not even think about that …

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