Are Brands Becoming the Media?

They say that a psychologist’s favorite answer to most any question is “It depends.” It applies here as well.

For starters, it’s important to remember the primary purpose of the media and how much it differs from that of a brand. If we assume that “the media” refers to a means of mass communication, then their main objective is spreading information to a very large audience. Another thing is the wide range of possible communication tools now available. For years, we’ve been hearing about the coming end to television, radio or newspapers. These traditional instruments, because of their design and the way they work, simply can’t keep up with the amount of information we get from the Internet. But can everyone who shares information with broad social groups be considered a mass medium?

Brands, on the other hand, are products or services whose sale should bring profits. Of course, there are those that make money, while, or maybe because, they convey their system of values that is supported by the product or service they make. As a rule though, brands do not exist to inform, but increasingly more often they have become the go to place for some selected topics.

Thanks to the evolution of the Internet, everyone can now publish their content and, in this sense, brands along with their audiences become the media – “carriers of information.”

Can Brands (Corporate, Product, Personal, Etc.) Replace the Media? It Depends.

What separates mass media from other “carriers of information”? First and foremost, it should be credibility. Credibility built on many levels. If for the media, the main aim is to spread information, for the brand, it is a peripheral function aimed at supporting sales, building engagement and creating its image. The information given by mass media is, or at least should be, much more trustworthy because it’s not intended to sell anything. As history proves time and again, it’s not always as it should be, and mass media is often used to “sell” an ideology. That doesn’t really go well with the assumption of credible unbiased news, but oh well. What’s more, mass media, while focusing on the aim of their activity, often forgets about the audience, which often results in less than newsworthy content.

Brands, although seemingly less credible, today are putting a lot of effort in creating useful content for their audience. This causes engagement and a higher level of trust, but it rarely means lack of bias.

We must not forget about the fact that mass media has a vastly greater audience than most brands. This will not change for quite some time, although both sides are doing their fair share for just that to happen.

A very important piece of the puzzle is the range of topics covered by the media and brands. There are brands that have some social or political involvement deeply ingrained in their DNA, but they are few and have a limited reach. It’s hard to imagine a situation when they take the role of informing on such topics over from the media.

From the perspective of the audience, it’s important to realize that communication in the traditional David – Goliath context is no longer effective. Brands that look to broaden their audience, engage them and finally achieve market success, must adjust to the needs of the modern public.

Providing valuable, useful and engaging content is one, but offering it in a way that doesn’t make the audience feel that they’re being advertised to is something entirely different. This is where brands have increasingly more often drawn from mass media, and it doesn’t only refer to the different forms of narratives. Brands are starting to create separate spaces that are meant to function as the media, yet they convey the same values in their DNA as their parent brand.

Do Mass Media and Brands Imitate Each Other and Learn From One Another? It Depends.

Brands that have understood the essence of their operation (the audience) and have learned the media-like approach to creating content are beginning to see a rise in their audience’s interest and loyalty. What characterizes this approach?

1. content is a resource that should be managed
2. content should be credible, useful and engaging
3. real-time is the only time
4. good content requires good content makers
5. testing, science, publishing and consistency
6. reinforcing long term vision with systematic content conveying the brand’s mission
7. measuring the effects of published content

In the battle for the attention of the public, it is not only the brands that play the role of a student. Mass media can and should also take notice of an increasingly more apparent trend toward aiming at the real needs of the public. Another thing for them to learn is flexibility in accepting challenges associated with new technologies. Information will always find the quickest outlet – it is the media and brands that must keep up with it.

Can the Media Feel safe? It Depends.

Every medium is a brand and as such must build its credibility. It is this credibility that constitutes the basic value of the media.

Brands, which do not include “producing content” as part of their core operations, often do this much better and with greater diligence than the traditional press. It only happens, because in order to keep their audience, the brands have to care about its real needs and not only those directly related to the use of a specific product.

It’s about time the media began thinking like the brands, putting their audience and its needs squarely in the center of their efforts. Because this audience is aware and seeks credible news and valuable content. It is an audience that knows how to find what it’s looking for regardless if the information is provided by mass media, brands or other market participants.

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Agnieszka Walczak-Skałecka

Believes that strong brands are changing the world. For the last ten years she has been helping companies and individuals communicate better. She designs and implements PR and marketing strategies, and takes care of personal, product, and corporate brand communication. She advises and teaches as well as supports local communities in various initiatives, mainly educational.