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At the beginning of those “nineties”, I lived in Novi Sad and I was starting my career in direct marketing. It was the time of the wars on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and where I lived at the time, it was also the time of economic sanctions, so the main economic activity was smuggling – both on the state level, and on the individual level.
WAITING FOR GODOT
Hyperinflation was gaining momentum, and the situation was getting worse by the day. People had to adapt to more and more difficult conditions quickly, to cope and to be witty in a variety of ways to make both ends meet. Paradoxically, no matter how silly this sounds, people believed that this agony could not last long and that it would somehow pass, if not in a reasonable way, then it would just disappear. I admit I was also in some sort of “waiting for Godot” state. One of those days I went to lunch with my friend. As I entered the restaurant I did not even realize that I would remember that lunch forever, because in that place and at that time I made one of the most important decisions in my life. We sat down, a waiter came in and brought the menu, the two of us ordered food and drink, but before we continued talking to each other, the waiter asked, “How are you paying?”. I asked him: “What do you mean?” The waiter replied with a new question: “In dinars or Deutsche marks?” (For younger readers – before the euro, we used German marks as another currency). Now I understood even less, so I asked: “What does that have to do with anything?”. The waiter didn’t falter: “If you’re paying in Deutsche marks, you can pay after you’ve eaten, but if you’re paying in dinars, you have to pay as soon as you order!”. It became clear at once – inflation was already hourly, so the value of the dinar to the Deutsche mark was substantially lower at desert and coffee than it had been at appetizers! I do not remember whether we paid in dinars or Deutsche marks, I do not remember what we ate or what we talked about; I only know that it was then I realized that my idea about direct marketing in such a market was worthless and I know that I made a decision to move abroad on that day. I also remember my way back home after that lunch. A wind was blowing and strewing plastic bags and dinar bills with millions and billions written all over them, which had been circulated only the week before and which were now worthless, so no one bent down to pick them up because nothing could be bought for them anymore and they were worth less than the paper on which they had been printed. Until then, I had only read about it in history books, but it’s different once you’ve experienced it in person, once you’ve lived it.
WHO’S SELLING WHAT TO WHOM, WHO’S BUYING, AND UNDER WHICH TERMS?
Trust is key when it comes to the value of a currency.
Do I believe that I will be able to replace the banknote or coin I have in my pocket for a certain quantity of goods in the appropriate proportion? This proportion is the exchange rate, which determines the price of those goods. What kind of goods is media – television, radio, the press, the Internet – offering today and want to exchange for money at a certain price? It’s the number of people watching, listening to, or reading what they’re being shown. Who are they offering it to? To advertisers – to those who sell various products and services on the market and who want to inform interested parties about it. And what is it that advertisers want? They want as many people as possible to buy their product or service. Ok… So, the goods being offered by the first group are not what the others want! How do they trade with these other people then?! With increasing difficulty! Until recently, this was not an issue, and since these are transitional times, the problem is still not entirely visible, although it’s becoming more and more obvious. Namely, as long as the number of channels used by advertisers to inform interested parties of the existence of their product on the market was limited, they were actually purchasing general viewing and listening figures, since there was a directly proportional link between the number of people watching television, listening to the radio, reading newspapers or browsing the net, and the number of those who consequently became buyers. We could say that there was an exchange rate list defining how many viewers/listeners/readers needed to be “purchased” to get a single buyer for this “price”. But we don’t live in the world of mass media anymore but in the mass of individualized media. And because the first group is still offering, the second group is no longer demanding. And what happens then? First, the rate begins to decline, making it necessary to “purchase” more viewers/listeners/readers to get that one buyer. This leads to an unstoppable hyperinflation of ratings, shares, circulation, views… Soon, this until recently powerful media currency will be available for free, and even then no one will want it.
The money’s no good, my friends („Džaba vam novci moji sinovci“ – a popular song by Serbian singer/songwriter, Đorđe Balašević – translator’s comment) – it’s time for a new currency! And traditional media will no longer have any influence on the exchange rate of this currency. Their story is finished – The End!
In March this year, an unknown American groove band “Wolfpack” released its new album “Sleepify” and placed it on the streaming platform “Spotify”. There were 10 items on the album – they had interesting titles – “Zzz”, then “Zzzzzzz” and so … each was about 30 seconds long and you could listen the whole album in only 5 minutes.
In fact, they were not exactly songs, because the album was full of – nothing! No sound or music. Blank… Then the band suggested to its fans through social networks that it the best way to listen to the album is to press “repeat” before they go to sleep. The listeners will not be bothered to sleep, and the band that earns by the number of strings gets the chance for more. If we take into account the production costs of such an album, we can easily calculate that the profit from the project is more or less 100%, which, you’ll agree, is not so bad. But, this is not the point. At the same time „Wolfpack“ announced that all the money will be invested in the concert tour, and that the tickets will be free! What is more, they will play in the places from where the most streams came! Although the “Spotify” album was removed from “Sleepify” after only a month without explanation, the band collected some 20 thousand dollars and had been preparing since September for gigs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago… What actually happened here? The band offered its fans a deal – they pay concert tickets by personal involvement, in this case, by streaming. People from „Wolfpack“ belived and started to act. And that is the point. In this way, the “Wolfpack” practically established a new currency for this specific project – the “stream”, and all the participants in this action established its worth through the extent of their involvement. A year ago, the „1888 Hotel“, tailored to Instagram lovers, was opened in Sidney. The hotel’s hall was done with interesting details, including the real wood placed in it and . the rooms were designed to be inspirational for instagrammers. There’s even a special selfie area with mirrors and frames making it easy to take a selfie.
The two large screens at the reception constantly change the photos that guests made at the hotel. The hotel also offers the “insta-walk” map of Sydney, where the best places for photos are marked. Each room is equipped with a media centre through which you can connect your phone to a 40-inch LED screen in the room where you can view the all the photos you have made before posting them on Instagram. Every Instagram user with 10 thousand followers gets one night in the hotel for free. In addition to this, the best photo made at the hotel is chosen every month and its author also gets one night’s stay for free.
Generally, the hotel is a place that offers you a place to sleep with a wide range of accompanying amenities. The level and quality of service are standardized and are provided to all guests equally, all being measured by those famous stars, on the basis of which the price is determined. And this Sydney “1888 Hotel” offers all this, anyone can come and pay a stay in it as well as in any other hotel. But this hotel has enabled one of its potential customers to pay that stay in another currency called “number of followers on Instagram“. In addition, those potential users are additionally motivated by the design of the entire hotel which provides a completely different experience of staying.
As a guest you become an integral part of the whole experience and contribute to the experience of others with your activity, you are stimulated to leave a personal mark and share all this with others. You have the opportunity to turn your hobby, love or passion for photography into a currency which you can use to pay your stay. Or, to put it differently, let me ask you this – if you saw a photo on Instagram taken at the “1888 Hotel” by someone you follow and you somehow found yourself in Sydney, would you seriously consider trying out this “1888 Hotel” while scrolling through Booking.com in search of Sydney hotels? Let alone remember “that” hotel whose cool ad you saw while flipping through a travel magazine, but you can’t quite remember its name anymore, and now you’re kicking yourself for not tearing out that page and keeping it. That’s what I’m talking about…
There are more examples, such as – Airbin, Uber… In business models of each of these companies, growth no longer depends primarily on how many customers of their product or service will be generated at a certain time, but how many people will recognize themselves in this idea and wish to join. If the critical mass of individuals who accept this idea is reached, they create a movement and become followers. And followers demonstrate their affiliation by contributing to their activities to make this story better and spread it further. It can have different forms – from a like, a photo, a post, a status, a share… but all have the same goal – to demonstrate affilation. This desire for belonging is human and is not new, but now, thanks to the new information technology, which, among other things, has enabled the explosion of social networks, this potential becomes practically unlimited and as such relevant. Now this personal engagement of people and their mutual interaction establish an “influence” as a new currency through which the price of a particular product or service is increasingly expressed. The potential level of “influence” reached in this way directly determines the value of the brand. Only brands which base their communication strategy primarily on attracting followers, not customers will survive and grow. In order for a brand to grow and increase its value measured by this new future currency, it needs to change and establish itself more and more as a platform for amassing followers and interacting with them, instead of remaining on the level of an all-knowing prophet who doesn’t care what you think because he already knows what’s best for you and expects nothing more from you than to pay the price he has so generously offered, and all of this has already been shown to you in countless commercials and should have already enlightened you.
The Instagram „Hotel 1888“ was named after the year in which Kodak patented the roll of film, initiating the commercialization of photography. Kodak was also the first to patent digital photography; however, in Kodak they failed to understand the tectonic movement in their business caused by this innovation, fast enough. They failed to change and adapt and this is the reason why Kodak does not exist today as a company. The glory and long traditions that many brands were boasting about do not matter in today’s world of constant radical changes. It would be better to call it a burden because it lulls you in the feeling that all of these novelties are a fad and that this too will pass and the good old days will return. A piece of advice for all those who agree with the above – instead of waiting for Godot, better forget all that you know, right away. Start learning from the beginning again all the things about marketing, including all the things you taught you knew about it and keep checking if what you have learned makes sense at all. It’s no longer a matter of success but survival.
Well, I wish you the happy beginning of a new school year!
Source: Media Marketing