Here's your starter for ten. Which non-music brand is fast becoming a major music retailer?
If you answered Apple - once known as a computer manufacturer but now equally famous for its slick, sleek, iconic music downloader ipod - you would be right; and on the ball as to how new technology is revolutionising the way we consume content.
A decade ago, music retailing and personal computing were separate businesses and separate consumer activities. Today, convergence is changing all that. And convergence is everywhere.
Did you think SONY PlayStation was a toy for young boys? It is, of course. But nowadays it also incorporates a TV tuner, a Personal Video Recorder (PVR), a DVD player and a broadband link. Likewise, mobile phones are now also cameras and video recorders, electronic purses, portable games machines, personal organisers and web-enabled office productivity devices.
Such accelerating convergence is transforming the communications landscape. Its impact on consumer brands and the media industry will be huge, as Steven Hayer recognised when he was COO of Coca-Cola. "We need a new model for a new era," he said last year. "An era of co-creation - a convergence of the marketing trinity: brands, media and content."
But what will this new model look like? Two interconnected imperatives are emerging to shape it. First, intensifying competition for consumers' attention generated by increasing message overload. Second, consumers' increasing ability to actively edit which content they pay attention to, from whom, via which channel.
Converged devices aren't only important for the havoc they play with traditional distribution channels. They do something else too. By acting as editors and filters they put consumers in control of the messages they receive. Whether it's on the Internet, the mobile phone, or the TV, increasingly, consumers only need to be exposed to, and consume, the content they actively demand. The old "interruptive" model of marketing communications is being replaced by an "attractive" model where consumers pull the content they want, to the device of their own choice.
In this emerging world, marketers can no longer simply purchase consumers' attention from traditional media owners. They have to earn it from consumers themselves. This means that far-reaching communication innovation is now vital.
Some brands are seeking to bypass traditional media by delivering brand-related events and experiences in the real world, such as Red Bull hosting numerous mountain bike and stunt events around the globe as well as having their very own Flying Bulls Aerobatics team to name but a few of their initiatives, or by touching consumers directly via retail outlets.
Others are seeking to earn consumer attention by beating content providers at their own game: entertainment. Back in 2001, for example, BMW created a series of films made by Guy Ritchie. The films delivered compelling content in their own right - as well as a powerful brand message. In the UK, Renault produced a series of 16 short films (shown on targeted satellite TV channels such as UK Gold, UK Style and UK History) for its Scenic brand. Thomas Cook has gone one step further and created its own TV channel. Audi is rumoured to be moving in the same direction.
Perhaps Coca-Cola has been even smarter. By creating a music download service they are leveraging themselves into a world of organic and ever growing content which people will share with others.
Yet other marketers will be intrigued by the potential of the information converged devices to automatically collect data about their users. When we use a device such as a mobile phone or PVR to access and edit content, it automatically builds a unique profile of our personal transactions, preferences, interests, and habits. The resulting personal knowledge or data banks will become the focal point of rich exchange and trade of information between consumers and marketers.
To build their brands, 21st century marketers will need to create 'marketing worth buying': creating content (both real and virtual) and using information in ways that people actively demand. As Apple has so perfectly demonstrated, this is definitely not business as usual.
"Dancing to the itune" is Volume 6 of Issues - a free publication from Enterprise IG for brand and identity decision makers.
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Convergence and Apple-
I refer to your story highlighting the new iPod from Apple. I don't know how you can use the iPod as an example of convergence. The iPod is a new category that Apple created called MP3 player, its not a computer that plays music, its a MP3 player called iPod. Convergence is a very bad idea and any marketer or marketing agency that supports this idea is for ever going to be the quick on the scene and quick to fade and be forgotten.