A couple of months ago I was fortunate to hear two great business leaders, Thierry Jadot, CEO of Dentsu-Aegis (France) and Lubomira Rochet, CDO of L’Oréal, speaking at a conference on ‘Digital Disruption’, organised by the HEC in Paris. Here is what I learnt from the conference…

The ‘Uberization’ of communication?

‘Collaborative Communication’ was one of the key disruptive digital trends identified by Thierry Jadot and this concept caught my attention. 

As new community-based business models are reinventing entire industries from transportation to hospitality to retailing, Thierry has suggested that brands will need to build new ways of interacting with their customers.

In a collaborative communication model, brand content would mean contextual interactive content that is shared within engaged audiences (instead of delivered to).

Lubomira identified the reinvention of communication along the concept of “love brand” as one of the three key areas of transformation of digital for l’Oreal, with ecommerce and personalisation (meaning here paid media optimisation).

Small innovative brands within L’Oréal are already embracing this approach and leading the way within the Group.

Recently acquired beauty product brand Kiehls has been extremely successful in building unique relationships with its target audience through online vloggers such as Elle Fowler and Anna6Belle.

Whilst mass media will remain important for major international brands like Garnier, at least for the scale they provide, learning from such initiatives and integrating strategic earned media models is a necessary evolution for all, in Lubomira’s opinion.

The reality behind earned media and collaborative communication still remains elusive however. Are we in fact looking at the ‘Uberization’ of communication as one of the conference attendees suggested?

Social divide as the key disruption factor

Talking about the Uberization of communication is in fact a poor analogy. As we know Uber disrupted the transportation industry by mass-connecting passengers and drivers at scale.

The reality of online conversations is very different and shaped by an altogether different logic: the social divide.

The social divide recognises that all consumer voices on social media are not equal. Quite on the contrary the reality is that social power is concentrated amongst but a few.

In fact at Traackr we estimate that 3% of individuals own a staggering 90% of the impact on conversations, and probably 0.1% deliver 60%. 

This insight has formidable impact on the way online relationships should be managed and prioritised. Put simply, investing 90% of your resources on 3% of your audience would deliver nine times the impact than investing the same amount on the remaining 97% would.

The magic 3%

Concentrating resources on less individuals also opens the door for deeper interactions and stronger brand experiences: this new paradigm is called influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing is a huge shift from traditional reach-based media campaigns. Social divide is a key driver for disruption on traditional communication models.

From survival to significance 

Such evolution of traditional communication models is highly disruptive to most marketing organisations and brands today, raising new questions and challenges around execution plans, scalability and measurement.

But the most fundamental challenge this poses to brands is about significance. Social conversations grow at an exponential rate and brands realise that they are being ignored.

Brands push their branded content out on the social space and no one pays attention. Brands are not part of the conversation: a recent Forrester study showed that on average only .07% of top brands’ Facebook fans interact with each of their posts

Axel Dauchez, CEO of Publicis Conseil was telling me: “The main challenge today for all brands is about building their legitimacy to take part in conversations”. 

The quest for significance and meaning has become a most critical element for brands looking to be relevant in conversations with their audience.

Jeremy Waite’s new book From Survival to Significance looks at the way successful brands are those that have been able to deliver value to their customers beyond their product of services.

In the new world of collaborative communication significance is about survival.

Collaborative communication: inventing a new model

The social divide and the quest for significance will change communication for ever and invite brands to invent a new model of interacting with audiences: this is collaborative communication.

A great example of collaborative communication is the relaunch of heritage wine brand Barone Ricasoli in Sweden.

For this campaign Barone Ricasoli used social media influencers and invited its community to participate in the creation of a specific new wine for the Swedish market. 

The results exceeded expectations. By letting just one person create his own wine, Barone Ricasoli successfully generated brand awareness among a younger audience and reached millions of new customers.

Barone Ricasoli

These are early days, but we see collaborative communication developing around a few key concepts

  • Communication will be participative. Brands do not create conversations, but they will intend to join relevant communities, be part of existing discussions and contribute positively.
  • Brand content will be co-created. Taking part in conversations does not mean shouting your content at the ears of your audience. Brand content will be the outcome of collaboration with content creators.
  • CMOs will lose control over the brand message. The new role of marketers will define brand messaging with their community.
  • Generating ROI will restrain brands to focus their engagement on the top voices, collaborating with a few thousands instead of pushing ads to millions.

It is obvious that such new communication models will require new talents and expertise form the marketing and communication teams. Collaborative communication will likely give birth to the new CMO.

Brand Darwinism: where do you stand on the path to evolution?

Here are the key takeaways for CMOs:

A new model of communication is emerging that will disrupt traditional models

  • Conversations will take over from delivery of media assets: communication will be collaborative.
  • Collaborative communication will leads brands to define their message and creating their assets with the community
  • The social divide shapes conversations and influencer marketing will be become a pillar of the new communication model.
  • Brands will need to collaborate to retain their significance or die. 

Collaborative communication & influencer marketing are not just another new idea or fad: they are a disruptive and fundamental change in the way we do things for existing communication and marketing teams, requiring new expertise and a new approach to brand management. 

There is now an urgency for brands to build their significance, to pre-empt legitimacy and to build authentic relationships with their key influencers as competition for the most important voices will undoubtedly be fierce.