The “On-Demandification” of Popular Culture

What does the “on-demandification” of popular culture mean to marketers?

My 18-month-old daughter is the epitome of the phenomenon. If I were to ask her if she wants any juice, she would nod her head vigorously and scream for all of the 12 seconds it takes me to get a cup and pour it for her. Bottom line: She wants what she wants, when she wants it. Digital age consumers are no different.

Two parallel media contribute to on-demand culture. On one hand, the Internet universe is experiencing huge increases in broadband penetration. Broadband is growing faster than expected, as described in Jupiter Research‘s (a unit of this site’s parent corporation) “The DSL Market Opportunity: Closing the Gap with Cable Modem Providers.”

The report indicates broadband penetration surged more than 25 percent in 2003 to 21.5 million, or about one-fifth of all households. Naturally, this increase has led to a proliferation of video content (ESPN Motion, MSN Video, etc.) and video advertising (Unicast’s Video Commercial). Online consumers are learning quickly they can find on-demand video whenever they want, if they just know where to look.

Simultaneously, broadcast has its own relevant phenomena. There’s a rapid rise in digital cable households (41 million in 2003, increasing to 69 million by 2008, according to Jupiter) and an equally impressive increase in VOD households. According to Bear Stearns, 14.5 million households has VOD at the end of 2003. By the end of next year, this is expected to swell to 24.6 million. Though not technically VOD, one could argue the proliferation of PVRs (TiVo and others) is a testament to consumer desire to exert complete control over TV viewing.

All in all, the world is swiftly moving from linear information and entertainment to nonlinear, or on-demand, media consumption. What does this mean for marketers?

On the surface, it doesn’t seem good. If consumers are in greater control of their viewing, we have to rethink some fundamentals driving “connection strategies” with them. For starters:

  • Think about testing addressable advertising. One could argue in an on-demand world, consumers are more willing to accept (and even enjoy) advertising if it’s truly relevant to them. There are a number of opportunities to test this online and on TV. So start testing!

  • Think what content your business owns or could license that may be of value to your customers. Do you have content that’s valuable or entertaining? Is it so outlandish to think the future will feature channel 721, “The (insert your brand here) Channel”? This is possible to execute now, either in Web-based or TV media. Get going!
  • Own the gateways to the on-demand world. As we’ve seen with the Internet, there’s tremendous value in the companies that help us navigate and organize the wealth of online data and information (think search). These same gateways will exist in the non-Internet world. Now’s the time to predict who the winners in that space will be. I have my guesses; do you?

For media consumers, the future looks bright indeed. As marketers to those consumers, we must keep our eyes open and be prepared for the day when consumers are in complete control over the what, where, how, and when they consume content and advertising.

It’s not that far off, I assure you.

Credibility Follow-Up

Thanks for your thought-provoking feedback to my last column. It’s refreshing to hear differing points of view. To recap, we looked at the importance of maintaining credibility with peers and clients when recommending digital media as part of the overall marketing mix. As we’re always pushing for more money (and thus risking losing credibility), I asked for instances in which digital marketing doesn’t make sense.

Many believe for the following, digital marketing should play a minor (if not nonexistent) role: high-end beauty/luxury goods; legal counseling services; Costco-type goods (batteries, tires, gasoline, toilet paper, etc.); social service programs or any products/services targeting sub-$30,000 household income; and highly niched markets, including B2B sectors such as manufacturing, textiles, and chemicals.

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