Adweek writer Brian Morrissey (who i’m increasingly a fan of) backs up a dearly-held theory of ours in an article published today.
Excuse us if this strikes you as blindingly obvious but it goes like this. In the past, brands and advertising thrived on ignorance and lack of information. And one of the huge effects of the internet and interconnectivity in general is to shine a glaring megawatt spotlight into the shadows where bulls**t and dubious advertising claims once thrived. When you think back, one of the roles that advertising actually used to have was disseminating information. albeit very one-sided information. seems funny now, doesn’t it. but it wasn’t that long ago.
Interestingly, Morrissey (the journalist, not the singer, couldn’t resist) goes on to cite Zappos as an example of a brand that eschewed advertising in favor of building community. And i quote…”For Tony Hsieh, CEO at Zappos, meeting up with a customer at a bar in midtown Manhattan was perfectly natural. Most execs with 1,600 employees and doing over $1 billion in annual sales would probably pass on having drinks with an individual customer, but Hsieh is not your typical CEO. In the past week alone he had given away shoes on Twitter, sent out an open invitation to a company barbecue and solved a service problem a customer left in a blog comment…” Which is funny because that customer was…cue Hitchcockian sawing violin sounds…ME! That’s right. Me.
I went on a tirade about a bad zappos experience over at Tangerine Toad’s blog (using my nom-de-blog Toad’s Sixth Reader). And the zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh contacted me and gave me a substantial gift certificate for my trouble. Which was great. He also, apparently, sensibly took my advice about selling kitchenware on a shoe site. Winking smiley face.
Anyway, if you’re like me, you’ve probably had it up to here with the endless chatter about “transparency” and “community” and “brand conversations” and all that malarkey they talk about at expensive conferences, AKA common sense. But the internet’s biggest effect on what we do/used to do is now readily apparent. When i started out in the advertising biz it was all about creating a “brand image”, which implies untruth doesn’t it. Image is a controlled projection of how we’d like to be perceived. A half truth at best.
Which, with apologies to Stephen Colbert, brings us today’s ESCAPOLOGISM (TM). Instead of creating brand images we now have to create “brand realities”(TM). An entirely different proposition.