We live in a transformative time, one that has given marketers the power to disseminate, influence, and guide through new methods and channels. In the midst of such exponential growth, however, it is often wise to pause and reflect. We continue to move forward with great speed, but in what manner? How are agencies, brands, and people applying their attention and energies in this always-on world?
Throughout SapientNitro’s Idea Exchange events, provocative answers to these questions were seen sprouting from the work of game changers across industries. We’ve witnessed the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee; Academy Award winning actor and content innovator, Kevin Spacey; and renowned athlete and social media maverick, LeBron James, share how this transformational change continues to impact technology, media, and sports alike.
When combined, their insights highlight the symphony of technology, storytelling, and humanity.
For Tim Berners-Lee, the focus of the original http protocol was to build an open system – a system with few rules and stipulations – where there are “few other asks.”
“The web was designed using open protocols, which impose minimal constraints on what can be built on top of them. The Web is a platform, which itself sits on top of the Internet platform.” - Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Today, we are still building on this layer, albeit with a complexity that Sir Tim Berners-Lee could not have anticipated. Marketers should keep his original vision in mind – marketing platforms, products, and services are layers of added value, meeting user needs and/or wants. Our platforms today should also be open, giving users the freedom to integrate these platforms into their daily lives, to allow the technology to become a part of their stories – their experiences – rather than the other way around.
The power of data is not in isolation, but rather occurs when blended and personalized, matched and combined. Sir Tim Berners-Lee noted that machine-readable data is an essential trend for businesses, governments, and consumers. Citing personal health as a particular area of opportunity, he foresees a strong shift in consumers’ desires for data control.
“There will be huge demand from people to get data from hospitals, government, from everyone they deal with. The business-to-consumer relationship will have a continuous flow…” - Sir Tim Berners-Lee
This perspective suggests that consumers will increasingly dictate the terms and demand not just personalized, innovative experiences, but also access to the raw data for major aspects of their lives. For marketers and agencies, trying to match the functional needs of the customer with storytelling and branding goals – all on the same platform – can be an uncomfortable and, at times, challenging shift.
“…we must make no assumptions about what viewers want or how they want to experience things. We must observe, adapt, try new things in order to discover appetites that we didn’t even know were there.” - Kevin Spacey
The power of data-based innovation is also depicted by the success of another game changer, Kevin Spacey, and his work with Netflix. Data-based decisions, for example, were the reasons as to why it picked up House of Cards.
Netflix looked at its data (around Spacey and other factors) and made a decision: They offered to pick it up, and not just for the pilot episode, but for two full seasons. As a result, the team was able to deliberately introduce and craft storylines over a much longer timeline. And this made all the difference.
Some may call it risky, but the knowledge base supporting it makes the move more akin to bravery.
During the very early days of TV, it was all about bravery. TV was the emerging medium and you could do anything you wanted – it was innovative. As Jack Lemmon described it, TV “was made with a sense of total abandon.”
Kevin Spacey shows a similar commitment to bravery with many of his recent projects and emphasizes the importance of continuing Lemmon’s sense of total abandon in all of our work.
“As storytellers and content creators, our biggest challenge is, in storyscaping, how do we break through the gridlock?… How do we cut through the noise?” - Kevin Spacey
The unification of experience in our audience's’ lives is borne out of the alignment of our innovations and their stories. By comprehending and anticipating their stories, we as marketers can use a Storyscaping approach – to imbue our outputs with qualities that connect us and our audiences in one, integrated world.
It may sound simple enough, but considering the proliferation of technology mentioned above, the ease of losing one’s way comes to the foreground. For brands to succeed, they must balance metrics with sensible demonstrations of coherent stories in order for the audience’s experiences to relate harmoniously.
As is true for all content producers, Kevin Spacey is competing with more channels, more writers, and more actors than ever before.
“It’s no longer about having the biggest studio or the richest network or the loudest microphone. It is and always will be, and always has been, about having a great story to tell.” - Kevin Spacey
And with everyone producing content, the narrative and skill used to create the stories is paramount because contemporary marketers simply have less control over what an audience sees. Audiences don’t always pay attention to the platform or length, and there might not be any real difference for them between film, webisode, or video game.
This supports the marketing trends that we have seen around generating large numbers of multiple-formats (across lengths and platforms) to drive the brand story. And it goes a long way to explaining the increasing quality of storytelling over the past decade.
Expectations continue to rise in terms of the human element. Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, perhaps the most followed U.S. athlete on social media, recognizes the importance of communicating honestly with his fans and delivers to them a consistent stream of sincere content portraying his qualities and experiences.
“[I’m not afraid to weigh in on] things that I feel passionate about, things that I feel my power and my voice could get some attention… but I won’t speak unless I know what’s going on, I’m knowledgeable about it.” - LeBron James
For brands, the ability and even expectation to have a human voice that comments on world events represents both an opportunity and a challenge. To be accepted into their audiences’ stories, brands must not only exhibit personality, but also act and react with purpose. Marketers, in turn, are presented with the task of delivering content (across platforms, media, and borders) that not only speaks for the brand, but also acts in coherence with that purpose.
This is how brands – just like LeBron – build and adhere to a personality. With his wealth of fan experiences, LeBron believes deeply in this notion and the advantages of thinking of brands as people.
For marketers, such consumer-centric approaches allow for the targeted introduction of brands into audiences’ moments – without disturbing them. Technology may provide an infrastructure, but storytelling is what paints the context. And, similar to an artist, a brand’s story must remain consistent and recognizable throughout variations in form and depiction. Together, these model a personality, a voice that is innately human. Consumers do desire humanity.
Whether it’s LeBron James with fans, Kevin Spacey with audiences, or Sir Tim Berners-Lee with users, all three game changers showcase the importance of these relationships – of brand partnerships based on quality as much as (or even more than) quantity, based on a long-term commitment and vision more than short-term returns. These are the compounds that build worlds by linking together to generate comprehensive and captivating experiences.
To read more about the marketing intelligence presented by these three game changers and the benefits of its diversity, download the full article PDF below.