First mover advantage without first mover risk

Capital C's Tony Chapman advocates a new ad world order.

Social media has been the governing force for shaping perception and behaviour since humans first learned to communicate. We sought out the wisdom of people within our network, which for much of our time on this planet was constrained by our physical boundaries.
Our evolution was painfully slow and at times the collective learning of an entire civilization was lost or suppressed due to natural disasters, war or governing powers that preferred to control by keeping the population ignorant.
Only through the advent of communication – the printing press, radio, movies, television, internet and wireless – and transportation did geographic boundaries collapse, and ideas were shared without borders.
Instead of seeking the advice of one or a few, we now shape our perceptions and behaviour based on the wisdom of crowds. Rotten Tomatoes tells us what moviegoers think of a film, while Web MD gives us the ability to self-diagnosis or evaluate a doctor’s recommendations for treatment.
The aggregation of human networks, opinion, recommendation and behaviour is permanently shifting power from the seller to the buyer, from hierarchy to democracy. From Groupon to Apple Genius, Trip Advisor to Google search, much of the world’s content is aggregated, ranked and offered within arm’s reach of desire.
Our insatiable appetite for socialization, connections, content and confirmation that we belong, is propelling us forward at unmanageable speed. Take, for example, the human tragedy in Tunisia where a young man lit himself on fire to protest his country’s corruption, unemployment and inflation. The situation manifested into a raging fire bomb that is igniting riots and political coups in several countries offering the same dire consequences.
To think that conventional marketing and sales strategy can survive is as preposterous as a dictator who believes he has the power to build a moat to keep content from his constituents.
The one constant that remains for anyone in the hope of persuasion is “attention,” the oxygen of brand building. Only by getting the attention of the buyer can we hope to shape perception and behaviour. The question is, how?
Humans today are interacting with multimedia like the one-man band who managed to marshal half a dozen instruments to carve out a tune. The problem, according to a Stanford University study, is that humans aren’t particularly good at multi-tasking – we are more accurate and attentive when we are more selective and focused.
So how do we get attention? By being relevant, meaningful and first.
To do so, organizations will need to adopt the finest military strategy designed for speed and return on resources deployed. Corporations will need to collapse their command and control structure, internal and external silos and cumbersome planning process.
In their place they will create flat teams that use continuous intelligence as their lifeblood, meaningful insights as their creative source, and a cohesive supply chain that includes creative, marketing, sales, finance and customer marketing acting as one with their communication agencies.
Gatorade in the U.S. is an example of a brand that has it right.
Its mission control combines intelligence gathering and a cross-discipline team of internal and external resources who can react and deploy content across any channel, and have their company’s support to adjust tactics on the fly.
Can organizations reorganize for first mover advantage without first mover risk? Apple has done it in consumer electronics, P&G is doing it in packaged goods.
Can organizations wean themselves from always buying in and instead gain attention through meaningful, relevant connections that are in turn amplified? We just did it with SunChips, where our viral and social campaign, leveraged by Fleishman-Hillard, earned millions of impressions and a five-minute rant on Bill Maher’s show.
Will organizations accept that, in a world of transparency, being relevant to some will mean being highly irrelevant to others? And therefore scrutinized and challenged by others?
We had a backlash with our Nissan Hypercube campaign, and with our Pepsi “Eh Oh Canada Go” national cheer – we also had millions on our side. You need clients that value the importance of having their brand being part of the conversation versus standing on the sidelines.
In my opinion, this isn’t a question but a marching order for every organization. You have no choice but to compete where relevance is married to speed, where amplification is based on interest not media dollars.
There is no better country in which to create and deploy these new models than Canada. We offer an extraordinary marketplace – one of the most competitive and contested in the world, with a highly networked and distracted population. Yet we are a size where the price of experimentation and failure can be absorbed, knowing that the price of success is exponential.
Fortune favours the bold.

Tony Chapman is the CEO of Toronto-based Capital C.