Axe the Evolution

Unilever is a huge company with many impressive brands under its control. 

It’s got a firm grasp of alternative and interactive marketing techniques – in fact its Dove brand is currently basking in the limelight for its Evolution and Onslaught campaigns for Real Beauty.

What’s interesting is those same techniques are being applied to another Unilever brand – Axe – whose brand message couldn’t be more opposed to the Dove message as the attached video shows.

Don’t get me wrong Unilever is a superb marketer. Its products have such strong brand identity, and that their marketing efforts so in tune with the intended market that they can create new categories as they did with Axe, or redefine them as they did with Dove.

What is going to be interesting to see how consumers react to the cognitive dissonance between the brand messages!

My guess is that Dove will lose some of its luster – and that Unilever will learn that interactive marketing cuts across brands, and therefore has to me managed with that in mind. 

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Do Sensory Channels Matter?

In writing about audio books Seth Godin observes that people who listen to his audio books are 10 times more likely to contact him than book readers. His hypothesis for this difference is:

“Part of it is the entertaining nature of the presentation, I think (I probably talk better than I write) and part of it is the nature of the experience–it’s going into a different part of your brain. (Bolding mine)

As we know different sensory channels not only process information in different ways – but have strikingly different parts of the brain associated with their primary analysis and different connections for emotional, logical and social associations. Increasingly it will be important for marketing and media companies to understand how people perceive process and engage around different mediums.

This connection between sensory channels and media relates to peoples attention preferences, learning styles and ultimately their psycho-demographic profile. As McLuhan observed a “the message of any medium is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs”. It is here that we will see the most profound effects – because the ability to re-purpose content across multiple media allows organizations to both serve narrower segments but also engage segments that may have been overlooked or not fully engaged – because the format didn’t match their psychological style. 

It’s possible the rise of internet video for purposes such as recruiting may be the latest example of a medium, targeting a new sensory channel, changing the pattern of human affairs – by connecting with individuals that are more visual than the readers that traditional HR ads target. 

Getting back to Seth’s observation – if audio book listeners are more likely to contact authors, do they also engage in other social behaviors more as well – like talking up the book to their friends more? If they do can this be used to build buzz in advance of a print release – potentially moving an ok seller to onto the best seller lists.

Understanding how people behave when they consume media in specific formats opens the potential for more that reaching niche audiences – it may also enable specific promotional outcomes.

Remixing Audience Participation

It’s an interesting time – as it always is when business models are in flux.

 You can’t give up on the old model – because it pays the bills – but it’s hard to believe it’s a winning strategy. To make matters worse the new model conflicts with tenants designed to protect the old model.

So it is with audience participation and remix culture.  You can embrace it, try to stop it – or do a bit of both.

danah boyd has just released her speaking notes from her Cannes presentation – “Cinema: The Audiences of Tomorrow”. Really interesting stuff! She outlines the changing cultural and social factors that are driving teens online (towards social software and digital media) and then delves into online profiles and role media / remix play in communicating identity. The motivation is not financial – it’s personal. In most cases all teens gain by remixing is “street cred and kudos”.

While she (and I) would argue that this type of engagement should be a marketer’s nirvana. Often it’s not – likely because legally it’s so difficult to discriminate between fans use and use for profit. Partly it’s the result of a legal framework where failure to enforce can be used to broaden permitted uses – and partly it a result a failure of imagination and a fear of not knowing what uses are out there.

It may have just gotten easier to track those uses. Erick Schonfeld reviews Attributor – a company that scours the web for fingerprints of any publisher’s content. Even here the role of re-mix as a promotional tool is highlighted – as the software claims to be able to sort out “commercial versus non-commercial uses”.  The goal of the company is to allow media to be able to set content free – separating uses that are promotion from uses that are infringement. Erick isn’t so sure that’s how it will be used – and neither am I – but it’s a step in the right direction – as it allows content owners to track use making it possible for them to be more comfortable taking a softer approach to re-mix.

Hopefully that’s the case as it apparent from reading Joseph Thornley’s review of “The Future of Entertainment” session at Mesh that even the record industry is starting to think about content in new ways. Ethan Kaplan, the Head of Technology at Warner Bros. Records says it best when he said something similar to

We’re to the point where we have to embrace the notion that the duplicability of the content and the ready availability of the content has made it necessary to think creatively about how to market the content.

Not an endorsement of re-mix to be sure but recognition is the first step to a new business model and relationship to the audience.

Just in time for tomorrow’s teens.