Consumer-controlled content is reshaping the nature of brand communications.
DVR services are expected to reach some 30 million homes in the next five years, with video-on-demand services expected to reach nearly 43 million by 2008. And some 8 million videos and TV shows were downloaded for iPod TV in just the second half of 2005.
Add to the mix blogs, consumer-generated content, text messaging, RSS feeds, the swapping of music files, podcasts, etc., and it is apparent that tech-savvy consumers are exerting control over content like never before.
This movement is worrying marketers who believe that such technology will eventually enable consumers to avoid virtually all commercial messages.
But consumer-controlled content should generate excitement, not concern. It holds the potential for ushering in a new age of brand communications.
This technology enables marketers to communicate directly with consumers in more intimate and personal ways than ever.
It can help marketers realize greater efficiency in delivering promotional messages. Because consumers select the content they access, they self-identify as an audience, making it easier to locate desired demographics.
Promotional messages delivered via consumer-controlled content might also be more relevant to consumers than messages delivered through mass media.
Consider that consumers perceive content acquired through DVRs or iTunes as superior in quality to that on DVDs or CDs, despite the fact that, technically, the quality is inferior. The reason: Consumers feel "ownership" of this content and thus perceive it as more relevant. The same might be true of promotional messages "acquired" in the same manner.
The challenge, however, is how to best integrate a brand message into content.
Entertainment integration has been touted as a possible solution. But an item is often placed within an entertainment property with insufficient regard to that environment's relevance to the brand.
Some marketers have looked to develop their own content. Those that have done so successfully have created content promoting a brand's equity while creating valid entertainment that enriches the lives of their consumers.
But "content" need not be limited to film or video production. It can also be realized through distribution of content produced by others, creation of a live brand experience, or by doing something of importance to an audience. Marketing in this new age is not just about delivering information, it's about doing something of tangible benefit for consumers.
Once it is realized that traditional marketing tactics are insufficient in the age of consumer- controlled content, marketers will see the huge opportunity before them. As views on marketing adapt to meet this new age, marketers will understand that a meaningful, ongoing dialogue and relationship with consumers, made possible by the technology of consumer-controlled content, is finally truly possible.
William Daddi is president of Daddi Brand Communications.