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Brands as reality TV... coming soon

Our appetite for reality TV could lead the way for brands to exploit this genre of entertainment, predicts brand and legal guru Ardi Kolah.

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Brand values, embedded in the content rather than delivered as interruption to viewers' favourite programmes (known as advertising) could be a winning formula in the future.

Brandcasting -- with its roots in sponsorship -- takes brand communication to a new art form.

In this brand-centric world, brand owners own their own channels of communication which gives them total control over the message and its delivery.

At this point, entertainment meets brand communication. Not so much about push. Rather more about the power of attraction (pull).

Why am I right? Three reasons:

  • fragmentation of channels

  • fragmentation of audience

  • brand owners' competitive strategies just borrowed from each other rather than creating a step change advantage.

    What's wrong with so much of today's marketing is that there's no real innovation. Product and service differentiation has been reduced to its lowest common denominator.

    Yet audiences are getting harder to please.

    For one thing they want to be treated differently. Forget mass customisation. We need to start to talk from the perspective of a market of segment of one. We need to treat customers as if they're individuals -- not as market segments.

    Interactivity may hold the key to this audience -- particularly where the audience can choose what it wants to watch, when it wants, as well as enjoy a level of personalisation that analogue broadcasting or communication just can't deliver.

    As little or as much interactivity as the audience wants PBB (post-'Big Brother') will be the order of the day.

    And brand owners need to start making plans now. There's a growing appetite for the lean back or sit forward type of interactivity, depending on whether the audience consumes content from the TV, mobile phone or PDA simultaneously.

    Reality TV isn't a fad. It's here to stay. So where are the brand owners?

    What many brand owners haven't realised is that much of what they do is counter productive. When asked to build competitive advantages, many managers typically rate themselves against competitors, assess what they do and strive to do better. The standards and actions of the competition implicitly guide what brand owners do.

    But the net effect is no more than incremental benefits for tremendous amounts of effort involved. This is wastage on a phenomenal scale.

    Consumers don't want to be sold to. So having a bigger advertising budget doesn't always equate with market share (for example, BA versus Virgin).

    And spending more on communication doesn't lead to trusting the brand owner -- in fact the reverse NLE ('No Logo' effect) is true.

    To achieve high growth in the future, brand owners will need to break free from this vicious circle. Competitive benchmarking isn't the answer. And neither is imitation or pursuit.

    Turning the telescope the other way may sound nuts but it's going to be the way of the future.

    It's the audience, not the competition, that we need to have in vision.

    Reality TV for brands may hold the answer.

    Happy Christmas and see you in 2005.

    Ardi Kolah is one of the top 50 thinkers in marketing in the world today, according to Shape the Agenda, published by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. He is a marketing, sponsorship and public relations practitioner. Email: ardi@kolah.com.

    © Ardi Kolah 2004. All rights reserved.

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