See, they're not crazy.

February 28th, 2007

Earlier this month, Viacom flexed its media muscle by demanding YouTube take down more than 100,000 videos created by Viacom properties like MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central — and YouTube complied. Copyright infringement was the “official” grounds for the mandate, but Viacom execs added that they wouldn’t reach content deal with YouTube was that ignoring the law just wasn’t worth the sacrifice. That the monetary value of buzz generated by YouTube is just overvalued hype.

Well, for those of you who thought Viacom was committing online suicide, guess again. Turns out you don’t get to be one of the most powerful corporations in the world for nothing. This week, Viacom announced it would launch its own video blitz, sidestepping YouTube by enabling users (read: bloggers) to embed content directly from its own sites. While they’d originally said buzz generated by a YouTube presence wasn’t worth the cost of a content deal, Viacom’s plan to invest millions in its own online capabilities shows exactly how valuable it thinks that online buzz is. (In fact, the company is actually laying off 250 of its television staff and hiring 500 for online properties.)

Dollars or no dollars, one thing is clear: Viacom respects the power of the user. By enabling bloggers to share their work legally, the company’s extended an olive branch to an influential group of consumers. It’s made an

Which brings me to a broader point — building successful brands is no longer about mass awareness but rather mass advocacy. Companies are beginning to see that pushing ads might generate brand recognition from afar, but pulling consumers gives users a sense of ownership, and thus deeper loyalty.

If you think about how you feel about brands, there are varying levels of your engagement. From the most basic awareness to undying loyalty, it’s that deeper investment that really fuels your choices, doesn’t it?

In the past, marketers have followed the AIDA model, a framework to geared at dissecting how consumers make choices.

A – Attention (Awareness): attract the attention of the customer.

I – Interest: raise customer interest by demonstrating features, advantages, and benefits.

D – Desire: convince customers that they want and desire the product or service and that it will satisfy their needs.

A – Action: lead customers towards taking action and/or purchasing.

But in a world cluttered with choices and competition, AIDA is no longer enough to build a successful brand.

We as marketers need to think beyond the single consumer in a vacuum and instead consider how they’ll affect the behavior of other consumers. We tell our clients our job isn’t just to get press – it’s to create evangelists. Evangelists preach the word of your brand to anyone who’ll listen, giving ringing, credible endorsement.

Now, conversation between consumers is nothing new – but it’s the power of the blogger that’s given it limitless scope. And by putting its content in the hands of bloggers, Viacom is making an aggressive attempt to harness their power as evangelists. The company’s certainly taken a page from YouTube’s book, could this signify a new model for content sharing and leveraging user-generated evangelism.

Posted Under: Digital & Social Media, Media & Journalism
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