A rose by any other name

Zero Sum Communication


From Wikipedia:

Zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s)

From TIGS:

Zero Sum Comms: communication where there is a balanced value exchange between consumer and brand

I've been talking about brands delivering value alongside messaging for a while now. If  interruption advertising is spam, then delivering value alongside messaging is the only way to earn the right to talk to consumers.

It seems that this is an idea that's taking root - the advertools piece below came out in the same week as Anomaly's branded utility piece in Adage. So I thought I would set out my model for this new way of communicating.

Traditional communciation models focus on the transmission of a message to group of consumers, using media as a vector:


The problem here is that ultimately only the brand's needs are being considered - there is an unbalanced value exchange occuring. The individual consuming the marketing message is giving up value in the form of time and cognition: attention


This may seem trivial but it's not. Value is derived from relative scarcity and attention is increasingly scarce in today's media environment.

There has always been an implicit value exchange occuring in advertiser supported content, from the soap opera of radio to the tv spots that pay for ITV, but increasingly the value exchange needs to be explicit as content is increasingly on demand and consumers can screen out the interruption advertising.

Brands want to build relationships with consumers. Relationships are mutually re-inforcing, providing value to both parties, and dynamic, responding to the needs of each other over time via 2 way interaction.

So the zero sum model of communication would look like this:


Smart brands have already started working like this in lots of different ways - the rise of experiential communications can be seen in this light. Advertools are one way to deliver zero sum communication. Crucially, the value delivered is now an opportunity to express your brand behaviour.

Philips has been delivering value by actually stripping out advertising - getting rid of inserts in magazines and delivering paid for content from to consumer for free. As part of their "Sense and Simplicity" campaign they have created "a media plan based on a brand proposition" - delivering value and communicating their brand positioning.

So, as I've said before, a good communication strategy should start with 2 questions: what are my communication objectives AND how can I deliver them in a way that delivers value?