I helped a colleague of mine write a keynote speech at the Hollywood IT Summit this winter. The basis of the presentation is that we now live in the world of the “connected consumer”. Consumers are plugged in at all times, and as a result have the ability to buy and consume content anywhere they want, anyway they want. Being connected, consumers also have the ability instantly spread word about what they like and dislike about a particular piece of content. People turn to their social networks for advice on what to listen to, watch, wear, etc. This is a fundamental shift for the media industry which is used to controlling the distribution and consumption of its content. With the power shifting to the consumer, media companies need to put consumer insight at the center of their strategy.
In short, they need to start thinking like the Proctor & Gambles and Unilevers of the world. These companies have made brand management and consumer insight their core capabilities. Now, a film studio should never think of its product like a bar of soap, but tomorrow’s successful media companies will know exactly who their customers are, what they want, how they want it, and how to get it to them better and quicker than the competition. To do this, companies need to place the consumer at the center of every decision they make: pricing, marketing, distribution, even production.
With nearly unlimited choice, consumers expect content that is tailored and relevant. The days of tuning in to NBC at 9pm on Thursdays, simply because it is 9pm on Thursday, are over. Everything has to start with exactly what a particular market segment wants and then build production, marketing and distribution from there. That sounds basic and logical, but has never really been a core capability of the media industry. The focus has been on creating great content, throwing marketing dollars at that content, and maintaining a strong hold on the distributing that content. That’s a simplified and unfair description, but I don’t think many would argue too much with it. Customer understanding has always been important, but not at the same level as the CPG companies.
Don’t misunderstand this as saying all content should only be produced with a particular market in mind or shouldn’t be supported if it can’t find a market. There will always be those great pieces of art that are too original to fit nicely into an established audience. On the contrary, a media company should have such a good understanding of what those micro-segments of a market are that they can laser target their marketing and distribution to that exact audience.
The good news is that the connected consumer era provides all the data one needs to thoroughly segment, understand and reach your audience, and to do it in near real time. Every click, every download, every tweet is an opportunity to better understand your consumer and tailor your business around them. Successful media companies have to not only tap into that information source, but integrate that understanding into every step of the value chain.