Brands in 2009

November 21st, 2008
Author: John Ratcliffe-Lee

Looking ahead, as many are laying out plans and budgets for the year in front of us, I thought it’d be important to revisit two major realities of today’s digital world:  the big-picture role brands play online and the truth behind engagement, participation, etc.

One “old” post I constantly find myself going back to is David Armano talking about brands being facilitators online instead of, traditionally, broadcasters.  Using this thinking often during brainstorms and client meetings, the point here is that as the communication landscape changes – so must a brand and how they react, participate and work with their audiences.  From David’s post:


Brand As Facilitator

This means that like any good facilitator, they get off center stage, move over to the side and let others do the talking. But just like any good facilitator, the brands who succeed in this direction need to master it as an both and art and science. Good facilitators know how to actively listen, how to create environments which stimulate productive conversations and interactions and most importantly they add incredible value even though they may come across as the least vocal in the group.

Another truth to be mindful of in 2009 is the reality behind participation. As marketers, we like to think every audience we try to reach is 100% engaged and digitally active. Sadly, as Jake points out, that isn’t so.


Most of today’s web community falls into those three buckets.  The large majority being an audience who never really engages themslves, taking content and moving on.  A small percentage of people actually mold and adust what is out there  - but only what is out there, nothing comes from them directly.  Finally, the 1% who actually create and drive activity.

A great stat that Jake provides to back-up the 90-9-1 principle:

Just 0.16% of all visitors to YouTube upload videos to it, and 0.2% of visitors to Flickr upload photos.

Even if you’re a “creator,” think about how many photos or videos you upload in a day vs. the amount you passively digest from links found online or passed on from friends.  I’d bet that ratio supports the principle behind Jake’s great single-serving site.

In 2009, we should focus on changing both of these realities for the better. The opportunity is there to level the playing field and for brands to become better transparent, active participants with not just the media but their customers and the digital world as a whole. In doing so, hopefully we’ll see the facilitator model be more popular and the 90-9-1 percentages begin to adjust themselves, moving closer and closer to the 100% “participation nirvana” we’re all seeking.

What do you want to see happen in 2009 for the world of PR, interactive marketing, etc.?

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