Brand, voice suffer in attempt to align with consumer behaviour on various platforms

By Chuck Blevins

Cox Media Group Newspapers

Atlanta, Georgia, USA


In early May, ChartBeat’s Tony Haile offered a provoking piece called “The Facebook Papers, Part 1: The great unbundling” at recode on how Facebook impacts user behaviour and the media’s control of content and monetisation of their content.

One point in particular struck me:

“When habit is lost to the platforms, what remains is brand … Each piece of content must wear its authorship like a fingerprint, distinctive not by its location or layout but by its voice and vision.”

It’s not an entirely new point, but it restates an important point about brand and voice.

Maintaining a common brand voice is difficult across multiple platforms designed for multiple purposes.
Maintaining a common brand voice is difficult across multiple platforms designed for multiple purposes.

Putting this in the shallowest of contexts: Many non-opinion news pieces speak with a similar, journalese voice. In experiential terms, any standard news item could have originated from any outlet based on the voice.

As publishers continue to retrench against falling revenue, cost changes often result in less content with localised advantage and more commoditised news. Not only are publishers competing against others offering the same content, but the voice of that content is effectively the same.

Thus the content is commoditised and it’s barely differentiated in way meaningful to the consumer, unless driven through strong geographic or topical connection to the publisher.

Mobile and post-mobile platforms further exacerbate the issue. While Facebook currently has the most weight, it’s really a broader issue. There continues to be a steady stream of new distribution opportunities that, by their very modes, disconnect brands from content even more. The Internet of Things and bots are examples.

In the current environment, it’s no longer about making another cool digital device or app and getting folks to reorder their lives around it. The demand now is for devices and services that seamlessly fit into or enhance consumers’ habits by erasing some speed bump, further streamlining their personal supply chain or pre-emptively solving something for them.

The Amazon Dash Button is an awesome example of demand-side input that reduces the personal supply chain down to one step for shopping. The button doesn’t even have Amazon’s branding on it — only the brand of the item being purchased.

The Amazon brand comes through, though, in the invisible convenience of purchase leading to a delivery. It’s a surprisingly simple idea involving a lot of technological thought working in alignment.

The Amazon Echo is a more developed virtual service on that continuum.

Maintaining a brand across new mediums is hard. New services and platforms are often contexts-in-progress, meaning publishers must experiment to learn and take lessons by observing the approach of outside-the-industry players.

The medium is the message. Understanding its context is key to aligning processes toward a great product/service that solves the consumer need and communicates brand and voice.

About Chuck Blevins

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