Over the past 10 years or so the digital powershift, the proliferation of media and saturation of content have redefined the role of brands and moved the trend towards content marketing and brands as publishers. It’s been about great storytelling, about knowing where brands can effectively and with credibility define a space to play and own a conversation.
The next era of content marketing will still be driven by storytelling. It will still be built on the recognition of fundamental human needs that drive desires and trigger reactions; but the role is changing yet again and the purpose of the brand is no longer mainly to provide relevant information.
It’s to demonstrate value through meaningful action and enable consumer-owned experiences; allowing them to tell the brand story they feel should be told.
The Action Consumer
Driven by Generation Z – the generation born into a fully connected world, and with no real concept of the time before the digital age; Action Consumers live their lives seamlessly between worlds, across borders, through platforms – and do not separate a digital reality from a physical one.
Every interaction with brands as well as people is deliberate and chosen, they control not only the information they receive, they control what that information means and what purpose it is meant to fulfil.
This generation is active on different platforms and through different channels than the generations that came before. Socially, politically, environmentally – they are using their connectivity and their access to information and resources to actively shape the world around them.
They are not passive receivers of data, they are collective creators and makers of ideas and trends, and they expect brands and companies to demonstrate who they are and the value they offer in the same manner.
Action Consumers do things, create things, build things – and they look to brands as they do to people; to help participate, facilitate or enable the things they want to do.
How a behaviour brand is born
So the Action Consumer is already changing the role and value of brands, products and services; because their interactions and movements are completely liquid across all arenas, they do not differentiate between different sources of information and inspiration. They relate to brands the same way they relate to people.
This means brands must stop asserting beliefs and start demonstrating values, stop offering declarations and start being useful.
Becoming a behaviour brand means taking on the behavioural traits of a person. Do something real. Show people what you’ve done. Adapt and Evolve. Repeat.
However, the demand for authenticity and credibility means becoming a behaviour brand is not something you just decide to do; it needs to be reflective of your actions in the world – your brand’s values, promises, ideals and how these are activated through your archetype and throughout your eco-system.
This means your brand identity needs to be strong and it needs to be honest. Understand your purpose and your place in your world and define what values you want to convey.
And then you act accordingly, consistently, truthfully – and over time. Your actions become your content; your behaviour becomes your brand currency.
Democratization of content
This attitude shift requires a significant behavioural change across a brand’s ecosystem – away from traditional storytelling and towards active brand participation and democratisation of content. No longer staging influencers, stunting demonstrations of personality or dictating attitudes and behaviour.
By opening up the brand experience to the mercy of the consumer, a behaviour brand will simply provide the stimulus and enable the experiences and interactions – but not try to control the behaviour or the outcome.
It creates an experience not between brand and consumer but between consumers, around the brand. It’s moving the brand experience outside of the controlled platforms and parameters of traditional paid, earned owned, and fully democratizing the content to be created from the audience experience with your brand.
So it’s not just user generated content, but user-experienced and shaped content. This, I believe, is really what H2H influencer marketing was meant to become all along.
Being a behaviour brand really means allowing consumers to create your purpose and shape your role in their lives through action – giving you the information and behavioural data you need to keep evolving, optimising and strengthening your offering.