Joseph Jaffe, author of Life After the 30-second spot, offered the keynote presentation for the first of four tracks at Picnic ’06. His talk, which revolved around the topics covered in his book and was directed towards marketers, encouraged the audience to look beyond the 30-second spot in order to provide consumers with a story of their brand. The marketing world has changed and the ad industry needs to change with it or they will be left behind. It’s time to move from the linear one-way communication and towards conversations with the consumers.

With so many options available to marketers, there is no longer a single choice on how to reach and connect with today’s elusive disenfranchised consumer. Consumers have begun to outgrow marketing as they can easily access information about the products as well as when and where to buy. That along with the clutter (so many ads), the lack of creativity (what’s the last TV commercial that you *really* remember), consumer awareness (knowledgeable about products and marketing), and unacceptable levels of wastage (broad appeals weaken the message) is killing the 30-second spot. Add in the fact that it’s now more expensive than it ever has been to advertise on television to a “potential” audience and it’s time to rethink the process. It’s time to rethink branding, consumers, advertising, and advertising agencies.

Branding is a contact sport. Despite what companies may want, the brand is in the hands of the consumer. For example, frustrated with consumers referring to their brand as “Legos”, Lego included a bold message on their website telling consumers to be proud of the Lego brand and to not refer to them or their product as Legos. It was a one way conversation very much like a parent telling a child what they could or could not do. Today’s consumer is fickle and uninterested in traditional branding. Though they may change their loyalties, everyone in the audience agreed that it was the consumers that know the brand better than the marketer. If they see Legos, let them. And treat them as the first, last, and only customer that you will ever have.

The solution, Jaffe proposes, is greater integration. Integration is not sameness, mediocrity, or redundancy. It’s sharing, listening, respecting, and investing time. It’s taking a look at the old ways used in old media and combining them in new ways with new media. The customer doesn’t care about the exact pantone color that you’ve used in each of your print and television ads. Give them a story, one that spans media and contacts and connects with the consumers in a variety of places. Give them a story that they can remember and feel a part of.

The new marketing blueprint is broadband, wireless, search, and network. Consumers are always on, wherever they might be, able to initiate their own interest, and connected to the conversation. Consumers are just as capable of generating content and it’s time to experiment on the audience will experiment on you.