"The Kinetic Quality": All products are information. The molecules are secondary.
The future of brands is interaction, not commodity. It's not something you buy, but something you paticipate in.
i.e. a brand is not a thing, but a place.
Here's an example: My former agency was pitching Gerber ( the US baby food company) a few years ago. During the pitch I told them "you don't know a lot about babies because you make great products. You make great products because you know a lot about babies."
Think about it. The average 22-year-old new mom doesn't go into a Kentucky Wal-Mart looking for baby food. She goes into Wal-Mart looking for information. She wants any information she can get about how to be a better mother, and she's willing to spend money to get it.
After she has the information, then she wants products that are credible extensions of the information. A good baby-food brand is merely an extension of good paediatric nutrition.... i.e. put the information first, and the products and sales will follow.
So what we pitched was turning their Wal-Mart shelf space into miniature "information centers". We'd sell the products, obviously, but there would be other things as well- books, leaflets, CD-Roms etc etc. Basically, a young mother would leave Wal-Mart a lot more informed about babies than when she entered... and her shopping bags full of Gerber products. This is what I mean about "the kinetic quality" of a brand. A good brand offers immediate and obvious transformation.
If Mom doesn't leave Wal-Mart a better informed mom than when she entered, then somewhere along the line Gerber isn't doing its job.
Of course a good Gerber website/blog would enhance this process. The TV and magazine campaigns would be more informative than 'selling'. All under the umbrella concept of "Healthy Happiness Hints". Giving little parcels of managable information, communicated as "hints".
My point is: the kinetic quality applies as much to package goods (baby food) as it does to media brands (The Economist, The Wall Street Journal etc). A good marketer understands this, and tries to tap into it.
In the old days, the three most important words in advertising were "Unique Selling Proposition". To me, the three most important words are "By Interacting With..."
-By interacting with Gerber, she becomes a better-informed mom.A good brand is a two-way conversation.
-By interacting with The Wall Street Journal, she becomes more tuned into the world of capitalism.
-By interacting with Apple, she brings her entrepreneurial dreams closer to reality.
-By interacting with McDonald's, her busy schedule is made slightly easier by avoiding a lot of fuss over lunch.
-By interacting with Ralston Purina, she becomes more attached to her canine friend.
-By interacting with your brand, she becomes...?
What we bloggers know about the nature of information (a great deal) can be applied far beyond our usual diet of media, politics and journalism. Because all products are information. The molecules are secondary.
Which is why I believe this is a very exciting time for all of us.
Jeff Jarvis (at Buzzmachine.com) has started blogging about the very same subject and mentioned this very post. Thanks, Jeff :)
btw: I left the following thought in his comment section:
"My advice to clients vis-a-vis the internet is: the infrastructure is not here yet, but it's coming. In the meantime, just start the conversation and keep it going. Make your mistakes and push yourself up the learning curve as fast as you can while the baby is still in its infancy. Believe me, when the next big wave begins (1-4 years?) you'll be glad you did."Posted by hugh macleod at February 24, 2004 3:07 PM