Yes, it’s a Whole Foods video. Why? For many years fundraisers have known that charities have a natural affinity to the internet that commercial brands do not share. Charities have natural advantages. With internet media, charities are the leaders. This video is one tiny indication that charities are slowly losing their advantage, as commercial brands learn to adapt to internet media.
Commercial brands have a natural affinity to the mass media. Because broadcasting is expensive, it is also exclusive. As a result, you can buy attention. This suits commercial brands brilliantly because they are bigger and richer than everyone else. And the one-way messaging of broadcast media suits commercial brands too, because all they really want to do is tell YOU about their product.
But internet media is different. One big problem for commercial brands: on the internet, you can’t BUY attention! Google says it corrupts the value of useful information if people can simply buy attention and deliver poor quality content in return. (Remember what was called, The Death of Search, when all search engines turned into the yellow pages? And then Google showed up and helped switch the internet from a dollar economy to a link economy, ie. you don’t buy attention, you create things worthy of attention. Remember that? Thank you, Google, for that, at least.)
Worse, internet media tends to involve two-way messaging. It’s conversational media. The problem for commercial brands: they have nothing to talk about but insurance and pimple cream. Charities, in contrast, can talk about changing the world! The lesson for charities: commercial brands can’t do the internet. Don’t copy them. Don’t wait for them. Go forth and build communities.
That’s how the world was a few years ago. Today commercial brands have simply recognised their predicament and started acting like charities. In other words, commercial brands are finding ways to talk about changing the world! Rather than buying attention through interruptive mass media advertising, they are producing branded content about changing the world for people-like-their-customers using internet media.
Charities, hold on to your socks. Here come the commercial brands. They are challenged to create worlds, to come up with stories, about and around the world of their products. They will help us save the environment. They will tell stories that inspire us to change. Even if it’s just eating healthier.
Perhaps this explains the recent explosion of interest in storytelling. In an economy of attention, using conversational media, when the conversation never ends, marketing becomes fundamentally reliant on storytelling. Marketing x time = storytelling.
Couple this turn of events with the revolution in digital film (2009) – charities now have access to the same high quality film imagery that Hollywood has – and we have a kind of renaissance in the medium of video/film, and in the art of storytelling, and in fundraising – accompanied by a dramatic shift in competition for attention.
(Sure the commercial brands are coming, but who will tell better stories? Who will be most imaginative and inspiring? Who will move more people? Who will build the community that fundamentally changes the world?)