The Nine Inch Nails have been brewing something very interesting indeed. Trent Reznor has always been an interesting chap and the upcoming album is being launched via a remarkably complex mystery.
It's been covered well elsewhere, but if you've not come across it yet it began with a mysterious slogan on a tour t-shirt - iamtryingtobelieve - that led to a website that began an interactive narrative for the fans.
And it is for the fans - elements of the story have been left on USB sticks in the bathrooms of NIN concerts, containing Mp3s and clues, leading to phone numbers and websites and conspiracy. It requires high levels of involvement - the more engaged you are with NIN the more you will get out of it.
I could go on to claim this as an excellent transmedia campaign - because, well, it is - and show how it's driving the formation of specific knowledge / brand communities around it, pulling people together and giving them something to do.
But I thought I'd focus on another aspect of this campaign. Perhaps the most interesting thing I've read about it comes from the mouth of Reznor:
‘The term 'marketing' sure is a frustrating one for me at the moment. What you are now starting to experience IS 'Year Zero'. It's not some kind of gimmick to get you to buy a record - it IS the art form... and we're just getting started. Hope you enjoy the ride.’
It strikes me that this is a very interesting idea. Leland has already written a brilliant post about advertising as product.
But it occurs to me that there are two intersecting trends here and that they feed into a different role for marketing.
Firstly, the man at the end of the tube will soon have complete control over the content he consumes. It follows therefore, that if brand communicators wish to compete for attention, the content brands develop has to be as interesting as entertainment content - art forms like the Year Zero experience.
Secondly, there has been a cultural shift in value away from objects to experiences - gigs, festivals, travelling are at an all time high and part of the identity construction that used to be the domain of what clothes you wore is now enabled by what experiences you choose to take part in.
So then, what if marketing was an experiential extension of the product you buy. Not some kind of gimmick to get you to buy the product, but part of the product experience itself. The beginning of an experience that will be deepened, made richer and more interesting, when you buy the product.
Then the people you want to communicate with - your fans or people in the market for what you sell - will actively seek out your communication, not avoid it.