Leading from behind

Jay Stevens of MySpace

There were two really strong themes from the Forrester Conference last week in Barcelona. For Financial Services, it was experience based differentiation. From the point of view of consumer brands, it was all about sharing your brand, about bringing your customers inside your marketing and product efforts, and from that building a network of vocal advocates.

Good stuff, although some of the thinking seemed a little wishful. And we are, it seems, yet to find something positive for which Dove Evolution cannot take credit, although I would be highly surprised if the success of this campaign was really as planned as Ogilvy might now be saying.

We also saw some fabulously precarious positions taken by some of the speakers. In particular, a rather faltering response from Mark Taylor at Wunderman when he was asked if the rise of social media interaction meant that one of the audience members could now give up their CRM strategy which had never really started working in the first place. Taylor started with ‘No’ and then tried ‘Yes’ before realising that he wasn’t meant to have acknowledged the premise of the question!

And headline sponsor Blast Radius (big in Canada) were talking a lot to companies about, ‘the opportunity for a billion people to build your brand’. It took me a whole day to realise the fault with this slick marketing formula, even after sitting through the whole presentation which, if you’ll excuse the play on words, smelled rather too much of brand onion.

What will 1 billion people build? Will they build your brand? Nope, they’ll build their brand. And at some point it must come back down to leadership again. It reminds me of a quote from Joey Lucas in West Wing, describing the cautionary tale of ‘leaders’ in the French revolution, following a mob and saying ‘I must find out which way they are heading so that I may lead them’.

MySpace were along for the last major presentation with a very confident Jay Stevens acting much more like the owner of a major media property than the co-inventor of a new social phenomonen. A good quote though, allegedly from a MySpace user in Europe:

‘I don’t want brands to advertise to me, I want them to be my friend’

There were also lots of interesting insights too into the new typographies of ‘digital natives’ which MySpace has been researching heavily. Conveniently, for advertisers at least, we hear that MySpace’s users are there to find new and exciting things.

 I think by that he means discovering new music and new films. But maybe there’s room for discovering new toothpaste brands too.