Bottles, Blogs and Bergerac

This is Dan Germain’s (of Innocent drinks) perspective on new media. I love his writing style and how simply he gets to the fundamental point about Web 2.0+ and the social revolution it has engendered – New media is not a thing. It’s just a nice place to keep having (polite) conversations in which brands are useful and interesting.

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What do I think about new media?
I like new media. Messing about on the internet, reluctantly checking facebook every fortnight, retweeting other people’s retweets, watching Wallander of an evening (I consider Wallander to be new media – it’s the new Bergerac, and it’s media, therefore it’s new media).
So it’s really good, this new media. It’s great how it eats up all of your time, creates new spaces to noodle in, prevents you from completely focusing on people’s faces while you’re having a conversation with them, because you’re waiting for them to shut up so you can check your twitter. It’s a real boon. It makes life wonderfully rich and hollow.
And now I reveal that I don’t know what I think of new media. Because I think I like it, but I know that some of it is tearing nice moments of life away from me. I’m looking at things that happen to me and working out how they would play as a piece of text measuring 140 characters, or as a chunk of text with a photo at the top. I think it might be stopping me from just being.
There is a proviso. New media, if we are defining new media to be the web, the digital places and the apps, has really helped the business that I work in. I think I extol its virtues most days, speaking positively about how it allows us to connect with our drinkers, about how we can find out what they’re thinking before they’ve told us, and about how we can have lots of little conversations with them. These conversations are important, because they’re the conversations that we can’t have in a 30 second TV advert, where we shout politely at people for a while.
So that’s a good thing. And the fact that this business (innocent) exists now and was founded in 1999 means that it has grown up with new media. All we had back in the early days was email and some stuff on our labels. They were our new media – the words we wrote on our labels were our blog before it was invented; before Typepad or WordPress or whatever made it easy for any old whoever to paste their thoughts onto the web. Our blog was hidden on the back of the bottle.
Gradually, people started phoning and emailing us, wanting to continue the conversation we’d started on our labels. And we’d continue it via email (one of my very first jobs was sitting and answering those emails every day. It was a great great job.). Then we realised that we could just email them our news every week, rather than them have to come to our site or wait for us to send them an email. We sent out our first email newsletter to 11 people in late 1999. And so the conversation continued. We still send that email, to 25,000 people each week, same old stories about nothing in particular, endeavouring to have a chat. We still talk on the labels too, in the hope of starting a conversation. And we have blogs and twitter in order to help keep the conversations going.
So you can see where this is headed. The fact that the word conversation keeps coming up…
New media isn’t a thing. It’s just a nice place to keep having the conversation. Businesses don’t need a new media strategy. They don’t need a person thinking about how all of those places and spaces merge and warp and weft together. Businesses just need a conversation strategy. They need excellent people who like having conversations to do the talking and the writing. They need to resource their words department, and listen real hard. Then they should just go and spend some time where people are having those conversations, and join in politely, always making sure that they’re being useful and interesting.
I’m not sure if that all made perfect sense. But that’s fine. Most conversations don’t.
Dan is Head of Creative at innocent.

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