The Urgency Of Innovation


Baldwin Cunningham, Under 30

February 18, 2016

Marketers ruin everything.

So says Gary Vaynerchuk, a marketer & content creator extraordinaire who has over the last few years become one of the most listened to voices at the intersection of brands and technology.

For someone who thinks marketers ruin everything, though, Gary is a pretty good marketer himself. Founded in just 2009, his agency VaynerMedia has grown to more than 600 employees, with net revenues growing 63% between 2014 and 2015.

VayerMedia’s success comes in part from a deep understanding that what technology represents isn’t bits and bytes, apps and fads, but shifts in consumer attention. When we talk about the imperative to innovate as articulated by Canvas CEO Paul Woolmington in the video above, much of what we’re talking about is understanding changes in where people are consuming content and media, and why they prefer the channels they do.

Consumer attention has always been a moving target. What’s changed in the internet age is two things:

Velocity — how fast consumer attention changes.
Breadth — how so many different options fragment that attention as consumers find the channels and platforms that resonate most with them.

On a corporate strategic scale, tech innovation means far more than just shifts in marketing. For example, on-demand companies like Uber have changed what consumers expect about how fast they can get the things they want, and have specific implications for specific industries. Why buy frozen food when it’s faster to order from Postmates than to heat something up?

But when our industry speaks about innovation, often what they are talking about is the rise of new channels and new social platforms coming to dominate people’s attention.

Marketing speaks more about innovation than some other parts of the enterprise because it’s the first where not innovating can get you fired. And that goes not just for individuals but for agencies.

Last summer at Cannes Lions, the talk of the town wasn’t just the record ~$25 billion up for agency review, but the fact that going forward, flux in agency relationships was likely to be the norm, not the exception.

One of the reasons for this is the increasing blurriness between content production and content distribution, which is in and of itself a product of the blurriness between platforms and publishers.

In the pre-social era, publishers were the means of distribution and hired the content producers. In the post social era, every person on every social platform is a content producer and a content distributor. When platforms tend towards an open model that allow people to follow others that they don’t know in real life, it enables them to develop a class of influencers who master the medium and grow their own audiences.

Today, these influencers are becoming a more and more standard part of the marketers toolkit. And for good reason: YouTubers like Pew Die Pie are more famous among teens than are movie stars, and have more distribution power than most television channels.

It’s not just the individual influencers however who are new partners for brands. The platforms themselves are taking a much stronger hand in the creation of the advertising content that hits their ecosystems than ever before.

Instagram spent more than a year restricting access and being extremely hands on with advertisers to ensure that the ads hit the network met the aesthetic quality they believed users would expect. Companies like Snapchat emerging into the advertising mainstream are following a similar pattern, with stronger creative direction and more involvement in branded content production than even their immediate predecessor platforms.

What’s more, every promising startup using our Partnered platform to connect to brands assumes that they need to be the best at creating the content that will resonate with their audiences. In other words, the idea of a third-party agency doing the content creation makes very little sense to them.

The reason young platforms are so much more involved relates to the sentiment that opened this piece: marketers ruin everything. What Vaynerchuk means is that as soon as marketers discover a new place where consumers are putting their attention, they swarm. Often, the new influx of people with an agenda to sell, often through interrupting what people were doing before, changes the experience of the new platform enough that consumers simply decide to move on.

Startups are working hard to make sure that the branded content that flows into their system adds value (or at least doesn’t extract it) for the simple reason that they don’t want to lose their users devotion.

Added together, it creates an urgency for today’s brands and agencies to adapt new skills and capacities. This is the urgency reflected in the video clip above. In a world of rapidly shifting, ultra fragmented consumer attention, everything is up for grabs.

Disclosure: Gary Vaynerchuk and Paul Woolmington are both shareholders in Partnered.

This article was written by Baldwin Cunningham from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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