Commentary

An A-HA! Moment from SXSWi: Release Control And Start Collaborating

This year at SXSW, marketers are readying for a critical shift in the way we leverage content in brand strategies. Historically, marketers would identify the cornerstones of a brand, and then drive those cornerstone messages into the market, relentlessly until the market echoed them back to us.

Social media, however, has changed the way that people engage with everything online, and marketers have embraced this dynamic and varied brand building tool. Social media demands a two-way dialogue – and that doesn’t necessarily jive with the traditional rinse-wash-repeat brand building model.  

Social activities have become ubiquitous, causing the models of engagement created on Facebook and Twitter to leak into other channels.

Here at SXSWi, Matthew May, author of "The Laws of Subtraction. Rules to Innovate," focused the marketer lens on the critical shift in the way content is used in branding strategies. He delivered a reading from his book and took a game changing deep-dive into the tenets of subtraction that marketers could apply to their brands.
May’s Theory is: “marketers, release control and start collaborating.”

As he read from his book, I was struck by how May celebrated the use of literal and figurative white space in order to create room for dialogue with customers.

Subtraction is defined simply as the art of removing anything excessive, confusing, wasteful, unnatural, hazardous, hard to use, or ugly . . . or the discipline to refrain from adding it in the first place. And if subtraction is the new skill to be acquired, we need a guide to developing it.

He reminds us marketers that rather than complete every sentence and direct every conversation, to leave something to the imagination. Collaboration is key. When you allow your customers to apply their imagination to your brand, you may actually discover opportunities that were not previously on your radar.

This is a major shift in thinking, as marketer no longer have to be controlling about messaging in which branding is “required.” In order to excel in today’s socially-driven marketplace, it’s critical to stop making statements and start creating conversations.

By treating customers as collaborators, marketers are going to have a stronger understanding of their product or service’s relationship with its users, and will also build relations that can transcend transactions. There must be a tolerance for risk in this approach -- marketers need to be at ease accepting critical feedback on public forums.

Further, brands need to operate with a greater sense of transparency so that the conversations can be trustworthy.
By subtracting extraneous content and leaving room for dialogue, brands can increase customer loyalty and investment in your brand.

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