I love when people claim that brands should learn to think like media companies online. You know, because media companies' cost-and-revenues structure fares so well in digital.
The argument "you should turn your brand in the media company" is, in a nutshell, based on the overused quote that "we are not in the business of keeping media companies alive, we are in the business of connecting with consumers," by Trevor Edwards.
On the surface, it may seem that the best way to avoid dealing with media companies is indeed to become one. Something like, let's not rent anymore now that we can own.
But, operative word here is "on the surface."
By behaving like a media company online, brands unfortunately replicate the way that media cos' costs and revenues are (mis)aligned in digital media. Or as Michael Wolff recently put it, online "costs are out of whack even with the most optimistic revenue expectations."
And indeed. Just look at the YouTube viewership of the Chanel videos that the article I linked about uses as "success stories." Chanel produced several videos (including a silent movie and a short movie made by Karl Lagerfeld, which, one can only suspect, cost way more than an ordinary YouTube video) that drew 3,901; 13,626, and 37,884 views. This is a bit more than 50K altogether.
Even a failing magazine can guarantee any fashion brand a larger audience than that.
This reality does not stop the author from concluding that, "in this new reality, forward-thinking fashion brands like Chanel are learning to think like media companies, creating and publishing original editorial content to earn attention and attract fans who will carry their message across the internet." Well, darling, it seems to me that "the fans" are not too hot for the Chanel content online after all.
Basically, the problem here is one of replicating an old media model in the new media space. Just because brands CAN produce content themselves, this does not mean that they should. There are a few reasons:
First, why original content? There is so much content on the web, especially about fashion, and especially about Chanel. Can you do something with it? Instead of creating "all-original editorial" as seen on Chanel News online destination that the author lauds as "forward-thinking," why not employ Gawker's or Mashable's model where you have a large variety of contributors? Besides reducing costs of content production, this also means that a fashion brand is co-creating their "news" with its industry, which seems to me as a super-suitable model for the fashion biz, now that all the fashion bloggers are around and everything.
Second, why spend money on building a full-blown original destination? Listen to this: "The idea is to give all these social networks a location where they can have genuine information about Chanel," said the president of Chanel fashion. Um, do people in "all these social networks" want another location to go to? They can already get all the "genuine information" right where there are (live-streaming of Luis Vuitton's show on Facebook being just one example). Sometimes it is just cheaper to rent.
Third, and this may come as a surprise, but people online want from their brands way more than "inspiring content to talk about and spread across the internet, driving recognition, desire and conversion." Aside of the fact that people online love mostly to talk about themselves (and not about some brand), they also want their brands to be of some service, or be helpful, or offer expertise, or craft, or information that consumers really can't get anywhere else (and no, a silent movie does not belong to this category). If the high-end fashion consumers really strive for exclusivity and status, then fashion brands should start experimenting with enhancing fashion products with complementary service, which the web is just perfect for.
Back to the Trevor Edwards quote. If brands are really in the business of "connecting with consumers", then they (along with the people who advise them) should understand that in digital there is a variety of ways to make this connection happen. Creating your own content is only one of them, and in that, often the most expensive option. Why would you ever want to advise it to your client??