Nightcap: Day One

By Joe Maceda, Managing Director, Invention Studio, Mindshare

In five years, the line dividing brands and content producers will have completely dissolved.

Okay, five years might be an exaggeration. But judging by many of the discussions taking place during the opening day of SXSW Interactive, brands and content producers are moving towards increasingly common ground in how and where they engage their audiences.

The most striking evidence was two panels, both exploring the self-identity of two industries, that were mirror images of each other. Both touched on the struggle to redefine their businesses in the face of technological change, the hope that those new technologies bring with them, and the truth that only those willing to adapt would thrive in the new consumer-first world.

First, in an engaging panel hosted by MediaPost, brand builders from Mazda, 7-Eleven, and TD Bank pondered what it even means to be a brand in 2015. The common theme was the importance of building a brand's activities on the needs and desires of consumers. This means starting all activity based on the people already participating in the brand. Whether they’re roadster drivers or Slurpee drinkers, these consumers are providing valuable data that helps clarify a brand's place in the world. This means placing less emphasis on pre-determined brand positioning statements, and more emphasis on finding ways to positively impact consumers’ lives, either locally, culturally, or altruistically (based on the signals that they provide through data).

Just an hour later, content producers from The Tonight Show and HLN discussed similar themes around audience engagement for their properties. HLN has re-branded itself to be a "social news network," with stories derived from social media trends and conversations. Its on-air product launched digitally months before it hit the airwaves, with content organized by the emotion of its reader or viewer.

Tonight Show producer Gavin Purcell believes that analytics are increasingly important for content creators, and places a particular importance on HOW people are using his content. His team studies the performance of, and conversation around, digital content to influence on-air segments, much the same way that brands vigorously analyze and optimize their media performance.

So...

  • The future of brands is participating with consumers on their terms by using data to identify their needs.
  • The future of content is providing entertainment or information to consumers on their terms using data to identify their needs.

Ultimately, consumers won't differentiate between brands and content - they'll just care that those needs are being filled.