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Swarm Theory / This article appeared in Contagous issue Fifteen. Contagous is a global intelligence resource for Non-Tradiional Media and Emerging Technologies. www.contagiousmagazine.com For more information please contac Harry Gayner on +44 (0) 20 575 1822 or harry@contagiousmagazine.com


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opinion / swarm theory /

Swarm Theory / Modern Human Communiies and the Power of Influence / By Chuck Brymer /

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atch a school of fish swim. They have no leader. No one is telling them what to do. Instead they are paying close attention to the fish next to them, in order to move at exactly the same time in exactly the same direction. This type of swarm behaviour defies convention. Animal groups moving together without ever being told what to do. Community voice The comparison of swarm behaviour to human interaction has become increasingly relevant. Digital technology has made it possible for human communities to behave like swarms of our own. In social networking communities the voice of one can quickly become the voice of one hundred or the voice of one million. These communities – and how they form, interact, and disperse – are irrevocably changing the landscape for marketers and how we communicate. Increasingly we are being charged with delivering ideas that engage and influence swarms – a world of living, breathing, and highly responsive human communities. Such manifold power has made all of us the new new media and, just as certainly, has made the community the new consumer. This new consumer wields tremendous influence and is most influenced by other trusted members of the community. As a recent study from Ketchum and The University of Southern California found: advice from family and friends is the most relevant source consumers turn to when making decisions on everything from buying a home entertainment system to planning a vacation. Yet, the survey also found that only 24% of communicators have any kind of


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word-of-mouth programme in place. This at a time when consumers are carrying on a nonstop gab fest about companies, brands and services in the more than 75m blogs and roughly 15m discussion boards that are out there, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers. And that's just in English and doesn't include what is being said by phone, email, or text. Make no mistake about it, the rising digital swarm combined with high levels of trust in family and friends is changing the nature of what we as marketers do to build brands and sell products because human swarms, our modern day communities that are formed out of common interest and shared demographics, will not be told what to do. They seek out long-term conversations in engaged relationships, and they shrink from anything that smacks of intrusion. Connected conversation The connected consumer has made the connected brand and therefore the connected agency a marketing imperative, calling for far more than posting viral videos on YouTube. This connected triad demands an understanding of how to organise our business anew with the creation of new business practices, community-focused positions, and ultimately the recreation of the ad agency, at least in part, as a conversationalist, friend and creator of communities. At DDB, we are building the creation of a movement and communities into all briefs and include each at the start of brand and media planning. Moreover, we have formed Radar DDB, our prototype for inserting relevant brand dialogue into the daily lives of consumers. By giving brands a seat at the dinner table, Radar DDB recaptures some of the influence lost in a world of consumer-generated content. Operating out of an integrated 'engine room' to reach the right community and its individual members at the right time, Radar DDB uses Web 2.0 channels to ensure brands are in market 24x7 to take advantage of communications

opportunities as they happen. Radar DDB also helps to break down marketer resistance to using swarm tools, providing educational information and experiences with Twitter, RSS feeds, Google Labs, wikis and the like, thereby creating a competitive advantage for those willing to play. As a total industry, including brands, advertisers and agencies, we have done a fair job of providing original content to the web, although not at the pace in which the social media can crunch through it. And, as an industry, we get passing grades on our ability to identify communities (what we once called target markets). But, we are only just beginning to provide the tools and platforms to facilitate conversations and the formation of new communities. In a world where overnight is not fast enough anymore and time is always of the essence, speed is the new big, rapid content creation and facilitation of community will be our big challenge. Enhancing understanding That challenge also calls for the creation of a new skill set within the agency; a Chief Community Officer who combines the influence of a Hollywood agent, the stealthiness of a guerilla marketer and the expertise of a digital programmer. In France, where we are seeing an exceptionally large expansion of web communities, we have hired our first Chief Community Officer who has begun exploring new ways to reach these communities and drive brand success. We are looking at filling a similar position in Amsterdam and have charged all of our top 10 offices with the same brief. Without exception, the mission of these Chief Community Officers will be to develop an influence strategy for the brand that will set in seamlessly and continuously, one day at a time, in these communities. All of which are formed and motivated in three ways: through conviction, collaboration and creativity.

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Human influence The most influential brands, just like the most influential people around us, always stand for something. They are always authentic and consistent. Brands must do the same thing by believing in something that is relevant to their audiences. Too often, people in our business hear this and think that means simply aligning with a cause or practising good corporate citizenship. It's more than that. Think of Nike. Throughout its history, Nike has always stood for ‘just do it’, a theme that extends today on the Nike+ website, where runners make friends with fellow runners from all over the globe while trading information and inspiration. Nike also demonstrates the two other hallmarks of influential brands: collaboration and creativity. As does McDonald's, which has allowed consumers to challenge the quality of its ingredients and demand proof of their quality through makeupyourownmind.com. They also recruited 'Quality Scouts,' consumers who are taken behind the scenes of the McDonald's supply chain and given a firsthand look at operations. In the case of McDonald's in China, the community has helped create a 'Cheer for China' campaign for the Olympic Games that includes videos of their swarm cheering 'I'm lovin' it when China wins'. The results to date: more than 100m clicks on the website, and 25m visitors. Certainly, those brands that have influence are best able to recruit and sustain brand advocates. These loyalists are essential for creating exponential demand as well as TalkValue™ for the brand. Our goal is to understand the most effective way to reach and influence these advocates through more insightful and inventive communications. Chuck Brymer is president and CEO of DDB Worldwide. www.ddb.com Illustration / Melissa Kao / DDB New York

Contagious- Swarm Theory / Modern Human Communities and the Power of Influence  

DDB Worldwide CEO Chuck Brymer contributed an article on swarm theory and modern human comunities to the latest issue of Contagious. In his...

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