Brands are trying to become more relevant than they ever have before. A big part of this is the fact that in order for them to acquire and maintain customers, they need to sustain markets. How are they doing this? By building systems. Systems are connected through APIs (application programming interfaces). APIs connect people, products and entire networks.
Think of a system as one that has a bunch of interrelated and interchangeable parts. That system may contain traditional branding elements and ad campaigns and social media content and PR stunts and all that, but more importantly, it is comprised of tools and platforms and utilities that allow people and companies to connect, learn and transact more meaningfully. Further, these dynamics call for communications to be multi-dimensional, such that push messaging is being replaced by emerging disciplines like participatory storytelling, data journalism and other forms of ânew mediaâ which break through the boundaries imposed by traditional media gatekeepers. Therefore, a system is much more than the sum of its parts -- it is at once a means to educate, inform, entertain, prospect and experiment in âperpetual betaâ.
For those corporate stakeholders who are fearful, consider this: Systems are not only sustainable, but they are scalable. In other words, thereâs real money at stake.
Leading brands like Nike, for example, are capitalizing on social movements to better understand market behaviors and sources for new inventions, and are even accelerating business ideas that are extensible with utilities theyâve successfully built (like Fuelband). Nike still makes beautiful ads, but its real stocktaking has come in the way it builds products and services with its customers. Others, like Target, are using social platforms to crowdsource design. Others, like P&G, have created joint-venture funds to build up local economies through entrepreneurship. Even more interesting are the efforts of smaller brands like Dermalogica, that benefit from outsourcing infrastructure and by building up value in the supply chain itself. And where government or educational institutions are slow to task, new co-ops and special interest programs expedite development and allow more people and more entities to fail forward, or more productively, to learn by doing.
The key to measuring value in a system? Data (obviously). But not just any kind of data. Data that reflect the entirety of the system. This is where we turn the data culled from APIs into actionable insights from which a brand can make critical business decisions.
The impetus for us founders at Heardable in building a holistic measurement tool -- one that measures hundreds of online interactions -- was to show how online performance provides context for what a brand system does. That system isn't just the content a brand publishes, its social media conversations, website visits, or aggregate product purchases, but how the entire system competes against others in the category. Our score reflects that competitive edge (or lack thereof), and our subscores reflect how a brand can optimize its position in the marketplace or category. Our category reports go a step further: They show correlations between brand performance and market performance. Our own API gives brand developers opportunities to build intelligence around all of it, in myriad ways and through many creative applications.
As brand managers, marketers and technologists, what are you doing to build sustainable systems (and therefore sustainable brands?)
We'd love to hear from you!
Heardable co-founder Gunther Sonnenfeld is a serial entrepreneur, social technologist, and ex-Omnicom strategist who works with leading companies in the digital media and Big Data space. Gunther is based in L.A.