Monday, October 25, 2004

Required Reading: "The Death of Brands" Points to Today's Content Brand Quandaries

Occasionally print has its advantages, if but to allow one to catch up with things in an unwired environment. So it was nice this past weekend to catch up with the November issue of Wired Magazine on a color-watching drive through the New England countryside. I strongly recommend the article entitled "The Death of Brands" by James Surowiecki starting on p. 205 (old-fashioned linking convention!). It's a quick read that helps to quantify what has been obvious in the content industry for quite some time: brands as assets are both more important than ever before and more challenged than ever before. Brands are tools to leverage product assets well appreciated by their markets, but to coast on brand image for a nanosecond longer than a client will be willing to consider an alternative is a death sentence for profitability. As if to underscore this point this year's Newswire Awareness Survey focusing on journalists and media outlets found that 97 percent of the respondents care about the content from a given newswire source and not the source brand and that 80 percent had no stated preference for newswire brands. Major content providers have a little more brand leverage, but in an era of search engines and workflow software it's harder than ever to distinguish content based on a well-recognized producer label. It's all about what content DOES for people that matters these days; if your content hasn't done something for its audience lately, it's in jeopardy. This is why accelerating efforts to develop vContent is so important in today's content marketplace: the brand is what the product does, and not much more these days.

Footnote: The November issue of Wired also contains a Creative Commons-licensed CD sampler of songs by major artists and an article by Lawrence Lessig on the value of new approaches to copyright law in encouraging creativity. p.188.

Update: A busy day, but not so busy that I can't point you to an interesting site that came in my spam wave today that correlates with this entry: the Lexus site on MSN that extends the Lexus brand via online music, magazine-style content and shopping experiences. Quality content is being used to build up brands in a variety of effective manners these days - not all of them requiring traditional publisher-brand models.
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