The fusion of the social economy and the digital communications world has created an environment from which a new generation of consumer—the Connected Protagonist—has emerged.
You know these people, and are likely one yourself. But since they are redefining the role that brands can play in the lives of their consumers, let’s have a formal introduction. Connected Protagonists are aggressive consumers who have a full quiver of content and communications tools that give them the unprecedented ability to bend their world to their wants and needs.
Certainly their connected trait is indisputable. These consumers are always on, and technology functions almost as their sixth sense and is as much a part of them as their sense of smell. Being in constant contact is intrinsic to the way they interact with the world.
Their role of protagonist is slightly more complicated but in many ways equally central in understanding how they tick. Put simply, they see themselves as the leading man or woman in their own epic narrative—the main protagonist in the unfolding drama centered on their lives.
This is not a new attribute; it’s been inherent in humans ever since we gained consciousness and self-awareness. But the fusion with hyperconnectivity has fundamentally changed the game. The internal dialogue has become one that is shared with the world. The story now has a stage and an audience.
Connected Protagonists also understand their relationship with this audience in a complex, developed way. They strategically share specific content with various audiences in order to present slightly different versions of themselves to each.
In fact, their content—the activities they participate in, the knowledge they have, the connections they make and the things that entertain them—shapes their personal story arc and defines who they are and how they are perceived by the world.
As a result, Connected Protagonists’ content management is far from arbitrary. These behaviors are curated through a well-crafted strategic lens nurtured in a world where branding and marketing is part of cultural life.
Their “Brand Me” is as well-crafted, defined and guarded as that of the brands that try to reach them with messages about what cars to buy or what detergent to use. So while they use content to present different versions of themselves to a variety of audiences, they remain true and consistent to their brand and authentic to their values—even if these are adjusted for multiple audiences.
So we have a highly strategic, content-hungry consumer. What does this mean for brands and marketing?
From a creative point of view, this is the most exciting time, as this consumption and distribution of content by Connected Protagonists is voracious and constant. They are always seeking the new, and because the value of content diminishes so quickly, it means each day starts with a blank slate. For agencies, this means the work we do has no predetermined output. The idea literally has no boundaries.
This exciting challenge also provides brands with new opportunities to build new, valued and sustainable relationships each and every day—as long as they understand a few simple things.
First, brands must understand that Connected Protagonists “own” their own audience and the right to communicate with them. Additionally, the dynamic of “brand to audience” has shifted to “brand to Connected Protagonist to audience.”
To benefit from this shift brands must also ask themselves whether they are creating something that will add true authentic value to someone’s story because that really is the new standard. To reach this and deliver truly participatory, enlightening, entertaining and connected story lines that have authentic value for the Connected Protagonists’ “Brand Me,” brands must be willing to be co-creators and inventors beyond their role as marketers.
Get this right and the opportunity for brands and marketing is immense. The role of brands may have changed from star to supporting actor, but by playing a real part in the story of people’s lives, true authentic value, and returns, will follow.