Wednesday, January 13, 2016
*Photo taken of the mural by James Cochran in London, England that became a memorial to David Bowie after his death
Since his death on Sunday, our television and social media news feeds have been filled with posts that celebrate David Bowie, his talent, creativity and contributions to music. His expression and artistry have intrigued and entertained us for decades. However, Bowie demonstrated understanding and vision far beyond the medium of music.
During a BBC interview with Jeremy Paxman in 1990, Bowie predicted how the Internet would be much more than a delivery mechanism and shared many insights into the way we consume all media today. His eloquent and entertaining description is as accurate as many of the marketing books that I’ve read lately. Although his comments were made sixteen years ago, his perspectives ring true and provide valuable lessons for artists, content creators and marketers today.
In this video interview, Bowie spoke about his life, interest in music, overcoming alcoholism and addiction, and the importance of family and friends. Then (beginning at 6:08) he shared his thoughts about the impact and importance of the Internet on music, culture and all content.
(Clip most relevant to this article begins at 6:08)
When describing the Internet and the significance of its impact on our culture, Bowie said, “it’s an alien life form” as he so accurately predicted indescribably dramatic changes in the way we communicate, access and experience media. He understood how the Internet would continue to change and empower us - that content providers would have to shift their thinking and that their audiences would not find, consume or experience content in the same way. Marketers can learn from Bowie and be inspired by the shifts and opportunities that he described. Bowie was talking about engagement, community and relationship nurturing and said this culture would be essential for communication and art of any kind.
Connect and Market through Community Building and Audience Segmentation
Even though Internet momentum was just beginning to build, Bowie understood its potential and described the many subgroups and genres of music as a “communal thing”. He explains how excited he was by the power of the Internet and said, “It’s about the community. It’s becoming more and more about the audience.”
Marketers have been talking about this kind of strategy for years but many still blast more sales pitch messages. When we take time to consider our audiences we can develop content that attracts, provides value and engages more interested leads. Communities of influencers, prospects and qualified buyers are created and valuable, productive relationships are forged.
Bowie describes how in prior generations, we lacked duplicity or pluralism about the things that we believed and how that began breaking down rapidly in our culture during the 1970s. When singularity began to disappear culturally, the Internet emerged and opened our eyes to fragmentation in the world. He points out that, “There are always 2,3,4, 5 sides to every question”.
As Bowie predicted, Internet technologies make it possible for marketers to observe and measure the interests of different audiences. When we respond to specific interests and create content that is more relevant, entertaining and useful to them we can engage prospects, customers and influencers in ongoing meaningful and productive interactions.
The Internet is Much More than a Delivery System –
It’s a Cultural Shift
Even 16 years ago, Bowie realized the cultural changes and impacts to media production and consumption that were happening. Bowie was a musician, artist, writer, change agent and communicator. He was inspired and his message still rings true, “We haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg – the potential of what the Internet is going to do to society - both good and bad, is absolutely unimaginable. We are on the cusp of something both exhilarating and terrifying.”
Bowie understood that along with the inevitable cultural changes and expectations, content (not just music) would have to evolve. He described how the experience between the content provider and user may become more important than the content itself, saying, “The actual context and state of content is going to be so different to anything that we can envisage at the moment, where the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in simpatico that it is going to crush our ideas about what mediums are all about.”
We Can’t Ignore Audience Expectations
Bowie referenced breakthroughs of artists in the early part of the century like Marcel Duchamp, who conveyed that a piece of work is not finished until the audience comes to it and adds their own interpretation – and “what the piece of art is about is the gray space in the middle”.
Bowie described that this type of connection and communication was happening in every form and predicted that the 21st century will be all about that "gray space in the middle".
David Bowie was absolutely right. The Internet has made it possible for us to focus on the connection and experience – and to share it with others. Our audiences have come to expect access and engagement with more relevant and interesting content. Their options seem limitless through the Internet and choices are made with a click. Like David Bowie and the artists he describes, all communicators and marketers must make this cultural shift, find that “gray space in the middle”, and remember that the audience is as important as the message itself.
Marketers who aren’t changing to more relational strategies along with the expectations of our culture are falling behind. When we approach marketing with the audience perspective in mind we will attract, engage, build and nurture more interested communities. Then we can all enjoy more productive relationships and have greater impact. Whether we call it Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Social Marketing, Relationship Marketing, Permission-Based Marketing, PR or Public Relations, we will all enjoy more productive relationships and greater impact when we consider our audiences first.
Thank you David Bowie for your vision, creative expression and inspiration.
*Photo taken of the mural by James Cochran in London, England that became a memorial to David Bowie this week. Cochran painted the mural in 2013 in conjunction with 2 London exhibitions; "David Bowie is..." at the V&A Museum and "The Many Faces of David Bowie" at the Oprah Gallery. You can read more about it in the Evening Standard here.
Copyright ©2016 Laurie Wakefield