Archive for December, 2023

Breakthrough in the New Communications Economy: Culture and Communities

Tuesday, December 12th, 2023

The final week of November saw a week of breakthrough presentations at EssenceMediacom and EssenceMediacomX from our partners, our teams and a wide set of inspirational people.

Everyone was asked to come and deliver their view on how brands can breakthrough in the New Communications Economy (NCE).

One clear theme stood out from many amazing sessions.  Culture has undergone a transformation in the last decade. 

It used to be that there was a dominant mono-culture.  This would either be dictated by or amplified by established media platforms.  The glossy magazines would set an agenda for the season, or TV shows would create the buzz for the season.  A new release by a band or the latest hit musical might fuel that theme.

Now there is no mono-culture but a set of overlapping and contrasting multi-cultures.  And these are not dictated from above but formed by micro-communities.  Everyone can contribute to and might contribute to, or even star in, the zeitgeist of the moment.

From the thousands of communities on Reddit, to the explosion of fan communities on YouTube, and everything in between, it is micro-creators, geeky communities and their weird and wonderful points of view that make culture real now.

This isn’t new, but now it is properly widespread.  In 2012 in my co-authored book Tell the Truth, honesty is your most powerful marketing tool, we published a case study about an innovation in magazine publishing, a new phenomenon that at the time was very successful in leading the way.  We wrote: “Magazines have always traded on knowing what their readers want.  From Cosmopolitan’s vision of the young single woman to Good Housekeeping’s soothing of the household matriarch, a wide offering of publications produce images and words to satisfy readers dreams and aspirations.  This is the classic model and it is traditionally left to the instinct of the editor to pronounce and deliver it… A new model of journalism is evolving now that is based on audience behaviour online.  Goodtoknow has transformed from a top down editor’s opinion led publication to a bottom up reader-enlisted model.” 

It’s editor, and pioneer of community fed editorial, was Jolene Akehust, and she led the way, 20 years ago, by flipping the model. She informed content from what was trending in online forums, and she aimed for the tone of voice of shared experiences in supermarket carparks between busy mums.  She confided in me at the time that she didn’t really fit the gang of the other women’s mags editors who (supposedly) dictated culture.

Even earlier, in the 1990s, I was really intrigued to work with Converse’s ad agency who employed a “cool hunter”, Jane Buckingham, who travelled the world looking for the new hottest fashion passions to feed back to our comms strategy.  The plans weren’t driven by what the media considered trendy, but by micro communities in far flung cities. 

This week our EMX ceo Clare Chapman interviewed Adam Baidawi, GQ’s Deputy Global Editorial Director and Editor in Chief of British GQ.  He explained that GQ had transformed, from a publication that dictated how one homogenous cohort of men should look, behave and buy, to a title that reflects and adds to different pockets of culture.  It’s no longer about looking for the biggest audiences as an editorial focus, but instead finding the biggest enthusiasms (however niche) and putting them in the spotlight. 

In the New Communications Economy, where user generated content is now the dominant content in young people’s lives, you can breakthrough if you put people, their passions and their communities first.

Now we’re all cool hunters, and there’s millions of communities to seek out for the next (for the moment) big thing in the zeitgeist.