Last year I wrote a speech on The Future of Communication – Communication in the sense of the Communication Industries – which I gave a number of times in Sydney and London. I have pulled this out of my pocket recently when faced with certain questions and the topics have generated some interest. The speech outlined four key themes for the future of communication:
The Full Speech:
Tonight I am going to talk to you about the future of communication.
To do this I am going to take you through the 4 key trends that will define the future of your business.
My first trend relates to one of the fastest growing activities in the world – talking.
My first trend for the future is:
The ability to hold a conversation is the access point to modern society.
This applies to every member of society, including us as communicators and our clients.
In the UK people now spend an average of 3 hours and 45 minutes communicating everyday – just using a phone or PC – this figure doesn’t even include face to face communication. i
Half a century ago talking about your feelings was unacceptable; now it is encouraged at every opportunity.
So how is this feeding through to the commercial environment? Well the message for corporations and brands is:
‘Talk with me, not at me’.
The impact of this trend is already here with declining TVC expenditure and a growing focus on interactions over impressions.
But when I talk of conversation, I am not talking about interactivity alone. Interactivity will be a hygiene factor for the future consumer:
True conversation is interaction with character, or, more literally, interaction with a character.
One of the best examples of this is Innocent in the UK.
Being ‘innocent’ runs through every brand communication they undertake as we can see: [VIDEO]
How should your client’s brand talk?
How should it listen?
What is the true character of its communication?
For me this is the battlefield of future communications.
As one cartoonist has put it:
“On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”
(Peter Steiner, The New Yorker, July 5, 1993, pg 61)
In 2010, how you talk and how you listen will define who you are.
But what if your client isn’t involved in consumer conversations or isn’t the subject of them, what do you do?
The answer to this question brings me on to our next key trend:
‘The future belongs to marketers who ignite consumer networks and then get out of the way and let them talk’.
(Seth Godin, Unleashing the Ideas Virus, 2001.)
We are only just beginning to witness the true power of social networks and at this point I’d like to give a prediction:
Within a years time you will be competing for attention within social networks, as opposed to just across them.
Last year the social networking website myspace displaced eBay as the fourth busiest site on the Internet and recorded twice as many page views as Google.
Myspace is now adding a million new users a week and it is only one of many social networking sites that are exploding at present.
Social networks are bottom up systems and feeding ground level swells to the top of management structures means using these very
networks within and across our own companies.
The lessons from the corporate sector then are about relinquishing control and providing ‘spaces of possibility’. IBM is using blogs, wikis and podcasts as communication tools in its day-to-day business and, if clients are, we should be to…
To return to our consumer trends: Facilitating virtual networks is only one route in and the second leads to my third trend for the evening:
Participation is facilitation in practice. On the street’s of Sydney, the hottest place to be is the Beck’s Bar and destinies are being forged there as I speak.
In 2030, a child will be asking ‘Daddy, where did you meet mummy? At the Beck’s bar son, it was love at first sight’ and you just can’t argue with that.
Participation has many facets and ‘communication through context’ is only one.
The Beastie Boys have released a fan created film in the US that is being tipped for major awards. At one of their concerts they gave out a load of camcorders and asked their fans to record their experience.
The result is an energetic anarchic collage that speaks the language of their brand and presents the event completely from the audience’s perspective.
For me participation is a much more useful concept than ‘experience’, which has been in vogue for some time, in reality we experience everything and yet we only participate if we are ready and willing.
I am sure you have all heard of the growing number of professional resellers on eBay?
Well the same rules apply to the transfer of communication messages as they do to the goods sold on eBay.
People will only pass on marketing messages or sell goods on eBay, when there is capital to be gained by doing so. For the latter this is economic capital, for the former, cultural capital – a much harder concept to tie down.
Understanding the cultural capital of your consumers and applying this right through the line requires unique thinking that is essential for igniting participation.
So how do foster cultural capital for a client, beyond wrapping their logo around a humorous mpeg?
Ultimately by creating culture itself.
The most successful companies of the future will be what I term ‘the creators’ and my final theme for tonight is just that:
A brand that creates is a brand that thinks, a brand that is in touch, and a brand that is leading change.
The ipod is the greatest example of brand creation to date.
Apple took a complicated technology – MP3 file formats and made them invisible. The ipod re-communicated the technology in both a literal and visual way. We no longer talk of MP3’s we talk of ‘my tunes’ or ‘itunes’ and grey headphones are definitely out.
So how did Apple do this? Well, they engineered the ipod from the user’s perspective. Steve Jobs produced a mock-up of the casing, complete with interface, and said to his engineers ‘make me the technology to go inside’.
An ipod is just an accessible hard-drive and yet it has completely redefined our relationship with music, through a user lead communications framework.
Other brand creators include Coke, which through its live and local events, has given under 18’s a chance to see their favorite bands, where previously they were excluded by age.
The opportunities for brand creation are essentially limitless.
At the root of these executions though is affinity of interest, which has moved these brands from being preachers to trusted partners.
So there is our last key trend for the evening, creation, and now its time to wrap-up:
All the trends I have spoken about are part of a single, much larger shift. This shift is the closing gap between culture and commerce.
All these trends mean moving closer to the consumer in the short-term and in the long term could mean that the division between corporation and consumer will no longer exist.
The successful companies of the future will be those that have a strong affinity of interest with their consumers and push mutual agendas to the advantage of both.
The trends I have discussed tonight will put you in prime position to be in the right space when this time comes.
To summarize then, the future communications landscape will be defined by companies who:
Converse with character
Facilitate social interaction
Deliver active participation
Create new cultural realities.
The challenge is there. Thank you for your time. Any questions?
- BBC News, 20 May, 2004