In Honor of MLK: Thoughts on the Unmarketing of Our Media #transmedia #MLK
The famous screenwriter William Goldman has often said that “No one knows anything.”
Then there was the illustrious Walker Evans, who once said, “Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”
Somewhere in between these truths lies the definition of our actions. And to borrow from a colleague, the need for definition is at once limiting, and a subjugation.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent a lifetime empowering us in the fight to see the purity of human truth, and to understand the value of our actions as communities of people. Naturally, like many transformational figures, Dr. King saw a special dynamic in which meaning could be realized through the relationship between language and focused activity (what one might consider to be the manifestation of persistence).
Now, of course, the world has changed. We have more access to each other. We have achieved greatness and overcome many of our social ills. We still have quite a ways to go. Yet we are often at a loss for something meaningful to say or do.
Here’s the real truth about social communication: while our lifestreams are overflowing, most of the web is still hidden from us. All that we don’t know that we don’t know renders us as fools chasing our own gold. We often mistake hubris for humility, and the redactive for redemption.
For decades, we’ve spoken about the practice of media as if it were a gateway to the truth (and perhaps it has been), and yet, today, we have not fully embraced it as something that is transformative. 21st century branding is teaching us that relevance can only be attained through personalization and the inherent need to connect. It has also proven to us that all forms of media are inherently social, and that storytelling is a celebration of culture, of what’s possible.
We can blend our interests into new forms of entertainment...
We can use everyday life to help us discover our individual roles in the world...
... And we can socialize our media in profound ways.
Google just changed the billboard business irrevocably and is using social technology to do it.
Mobile is a social, app-driven platform.
Print uses social content to establish a brand's personality.
Magazines have gone digital and are preference-based.
Display ads are becoming publishing units.
Brands are publishers.
People are media.
The media world — and media’s relationship to the world — is transforming everyday through social means and social memes.
The democratization of media, however, leaves us with a curious challenge. Convergence and participatory culture can contribute significantly to the advancement and formalization of great ideas, but all media interests must be taken into careful consideration. We must also consider aligning these interests with those who share differing opinions, much in the same way Dr. King did. Conformity will soon be a thing of the past, but balance, inspiration and openness are mainstays... They are critical to our survival as consumers, and more importantly, as people.
As Jane McGonigal brilliantly put it: “The economy of engagement is also an economy of feelings, in which positive emotions — pride, curiosity, love, and feeling smart — are the ultimate reward for participation.”
The frustrating irony is that offline and online, traditional and non-traditional are just terms to delineate experiences we already share in full. They certainly don’t mean anything to consumers. Nor do best practices. Or most messages. But feelings do.
So the real question we must ask ourselves is “What now?”
Now means that disruption is just another tactic to grab attention without engendering conversation.
Now looks at the realization of self and interconnectivity for exactly what they are — emotive (and spiritual) states.
Now dictates that normative identities and serial segmentation are no longer real.
Now means that we have to move with markets, not be confined by inventory or real estate, and think through adaptive means.
Now no longer makes media morally prescriptive, or manipulative, but the ultimate forms of self-expression.
Now demands that we do this with the highest sense of shared responsibility.
Now is what will culminate in the synthesis of ideas that inspire action, and create meaning... With very little effort given to defining it.
Causes become a common form of outreach.
Communities become publishing exchanges.
Publishers recalibrate the new media model.
New media is no longer a new practice, or even ambiguous. It just is.
Old thinking goes back to where it belongs – in the past. Nonetheless, it provides us with context.
Brands recontextualize themselves and become the primary conduits for improving the world.
And consumers can access it all, as well as create it all, through a single dashboard... Metaphorically, or not.
But here’s the catch. All of this happens with brands in the background or alongside of us, working tirelessly behind the scenes.
We now must accept that media transformation isn’t a function of marketing, it’s a function of being.
You don’t need to believe it, because it’s already happening.
Welcome to now. It’s nice to meet you. And thank you, Dr. King, for opening our eyes to what’s possible.