We have all heard the news. The marketing trade press writes and speaks of it incessantly. Books written about it appear almost weekly.
And if you are giving a speech to a major trade organisation, you had better be prepared to top that pronouncement with something even more daring or outrageous.
The 30-second commercial is dead. Thank God.
No more new car models driving off cliffs to the accompaniment of classical music, with an offering of free airbags and a Bose stereo speaker system, this weekend only! No more chocolate melting over crisp ingredients with deep-throated voiceovers talking about how good it makes you feel. No more consumers pleasantly involved with the "product". No more bright, perky supermodels playing to their "happy family" of other models at the breakfast table, at the supermarket or on the beach. No more B-list actors in white coats pretending to be your dentist.
No more of that. It's over. Isn't that good news?
The 30-second commercial as we have known it since the end of World War II is done. It is of no use any more. Actually, I wonder if it ever was.
Maybe straight after the war it was important to let people who were happy to get back to normal and who needed new stuff know that it was all available. And that it was affordable. But since then, I don't know.
The commercial was there to replace the salesman who came to your door and demonstrated his product. The commercial was there on your very small black-and-white television to replace the salesman's sales talk.
It had to have a big logo and a telephone number that appeared quite often to help you make that call and close the deal.
It had to do so many things, while all you wanted to do was lean back after a hard day at the office. Lean back and be entertained. Laugh and cry a little. Dream away. See the dangerous world from in front of that safe, cool-blue TV window. The commercials were intrusive, but they worked.
But that era is over and marketers all over the world are cutting their television advertising budgets in favour of the new marketing services disciplines. If all your advertising dollars are going into television, you are either advertising only very late at night or you are about to attend your retirement party.
Marketers are exploring and investing in a world of new marketing trends.
Event marketing. Guerrilla marketing. Branded entertainment and branded content. The brand activation market. Product placement in scripted productions on television, on the stage and in video games. Viral marketing. Marketing via text, SMS and iPodcasting followed soon by iPodvideo marketing. You will be doing and seeing everything from your new mini-mobile phone.
They have rediscovered the importance of getting closer to the customer.
The customer has taken charge of what they view, what entertains them and how marketers reach them.
Marketers will be excited about how much you can find out about the customer if you get out there and reach them personally.
The technology is new, exciting and embraced by youth. Marketers are having a wonderful time dating all these new toys, but I think they'll be back soon. Not with the same cliched TV ads they created before. They will come back with flowers and candy and the enormous, sobering knowledge of experiencing something new.
But, at the same time, they will be frustrated because the loyal audience that was there when they left will still be watching television. And if you are not on television, it's like you never happened.
So they will toss the gifts into the dustbin and come back with a new kind of commercial. Not one to sell stuff or to convince us about ingredients or lifestyles. They will come with a commercial that creates a thing we call "brand momentum".
And what will really matter will be to be the brand of the moment.
Some companies are already putting this knowledge to use in the successful marketing of their brands and their products. Some, such as Virgin, have been doing it from their very first day in business. Ikea has become a global cult brand like Nike, Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson and Starbucks. Others, such as Nokia, are looking for it to happen again, and companies such as Adidas and Bugaboo are making it happen.
Being the brand of the moment can be dangerous. You must take risks.
Abandon the old ways and make it happen.
It may be tough to change, but here are the ingredients suggested for success:
- Choose the right moment.
- Choose an exciting proposition - align it with the overall brand promise.
- Create a "climax" event on- or offline.
- Dominate a mass medium.
- Be entertaining.
"Brand momentum" can be very much like a hurricane. Cruel, true, but very impactful. If you look at recent history and events, here are some examples of the hurricane effect.
The most obvious example is Katrina, the largest, most destructive storm to ever hit North America. The impact is still being felt on both a human and economic scale.
Brand momentum can be felt and seen in the ongoing Harry Potter dreadnaught of print, film, licensed partnerships and video. It is "shock and awe" political developments around the world.
It is the continuing fascination of reality-television programming; it is Apple and the iPod world which we all live in and the visual impact of the amazing, heart-stopping and jaw-dropping things that we witness daily on CNN.
And do not forget. If something impactful hadn't been on CNN, it is as if it never happened.
That is how marketing in the future will happen. It will hit hurricane-hard, get your attention and appeal to your innermost consumer needs.
No more wishy-washy talk about some vague product promotion or supposedly new product feature. Be the brand. Make waves. Make a change in people's lives.
The role of the marketing company will be: set the tone, create momentum and spread the brand message.
- Guillaume Van der Stighelen is the co-founder and creative director of Duval Guillaume.
AT A GLANCE
Name: Duval Guillaume
Principals: Andre Duval, co-founder; Guillaume Van der Stighelen, co-founder
Location: Brussels, Antwerp, New York
Mission statement: Duval Guillaume is driven to bringing people from all marketing disciplines together in a creative and productive marketing environment and putting the focus back on achieving superior results for client partners
Describe your agency in three words: Independent, idea-centric, full-service.