I have wanted to write an article for some time about this now common idea that brands must become media. When we speak about media, the comparison is generally made to TV channels, whose role is to entertain and / or inform.
This is not a strictly technological issue, even though once the contents are produced they do have to be circulated and their performance measured. It’s from the perspective of digital strategy that I want to share with you today.
if the future of brands is that they become media, developing a direct relationship with their audiences, producing and disseminating entertaining and original content like a TV channel, this view neglects two important things:
- The need for advertising space in the media
Media, consider TV channels, thrives by selling advertising space (in addition to potentially charging a fee to access the right to buy it). Its challenge is to attract and retain an audience, in order to enable brands to gain exposure to this audience. And, as a rebound, to allow these brands to sell their products.
For a brand, the problem is completely different as its number one goal is to sell its own products. Today, what brand would be ready to welcome a competitor to its communication plan? To take a French example, Canal + (a TV subscription channel) buys advertising space on TF1 (TV channel accessible to all), its competitor, to sell subscriptions. Now, if RedBull sells advertising space to Tag Heuer, Garmin and Suzuki in its RedBulletin magazine, I think we’re not going to see Coca-Cola buying space there (or RedBull agreeing to sell it).
- The subjective dimension of the brand
The second fundamental element: a brand is, as a matter of principle, subjective, whereas it is expected that media be objective, even if that’s never really completely the case.
This objectivity of media is based on ethical or legal rules (supervision of product placement for example) and are not viable for a brand-centered publication. Try to prevent Samsung from discussing its products on its website, or as in the previous example, go tell RedBull that it’s forbidden to show a can when they report on one of their football teams or during the X‑Games! I also think about that international energy player that replaced the term “nuclear” in all its communications with “carbon-free energy”: cleaner, but also a way to mask the reality … A journalist would probably not do it.
Brands need to convey a message
Creating and distributing content is all about offering a perspective on the world, building a vision of the world and brands have to use a language chosen in accordance with their values and the messages they want to convey within these contents. It is even a necessity in order to achieve their objectives of visibility, reputation, and commitment.
This is why the idea that Brand = Media today seems far too fast and wrong. If a brand can and must become a content producer to develop its reputation and maintain its relationship with its targets, I maintain that using the term brand-media is a strategic error as well as an error in communications.