We live in the age of the attention economy. In economic theory the moment a quality becomes scarce it also becomes valuable and the moment it becomes valuable it becomes subject to analysis designed to discover shortcuts that make it even more economically viable.
All of which leads us neatly into the DO EPIC SH*T meme trend where you are told, from every quarter, that to succeed you need to be exceptional. Exceptional, invariably, translates into extreme and outlandish which, more often than not, become marginal and weird which kinda defeats the purpose.
We live in a semantic universe. Hyperconnectivity and the semantic indexing of information as well as a rise in semantic technologies shows mean that exceptional is shorthand for valuable, consistent and, to some extent, invisible. Google is exceptional and Larry Page’s stated intent is to produce products that are used like a toothbrush at least “twice a day” without requiring much thought on our part. Google search is a good example of this. If Google was the only one taking this approach it would be an outlier, irrespective of how successful it is. But it’s not. It now has company as some of the world’s biggest global brands are beginning to reposition themselves to achieve exactly what Google is doing.
Buying and Selling Have Changed
The reason all this is happening is to be found in the market itself. The traditional view of buying and selling where two parties, one with a need or a want and the other with a product or service that met it, were matched, is dying. If all you’re doing is matching a customer’s needs or wants you’re on a losing proposition where you’re chasing prospects all the time whilst losing existing customers to your competition.
Brand loyalty that used to require a brand now needs something more: an ecosystem. Google has built one, Apple is building one. Facebook is trying to build one (co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has been telling people for years that he wants to turn the service into a global utility, akin to the power grid or the water supply — something that feeds everything else you do.) and Amazon is scaling its existing one to include seamless delivery of everyday, “unsexy” items, to your door.
Build Your Own Brand Ecosystem
The secret to commercial success in the 21st century then is an old one: provide value that goes above and beyond the immediate product or service you’re selling. Make yourself useful. Make your brand essential.
The rules of the game now are:
- Think of what will be of value to your audience and deliver it
- Go beyond money (yes, you do need to make a living but charging for absolutely everything you do only limits the number of people willing to use your services).
- Stop just selling (don’t push ads, join the conversation for real).
- Listen and respond (those who engage with you are telling you what they want, what they like and what they don’t. This is direct access to the source, beyond market studies, focus groups and gut instinct).
- Aim to become invisible (make your products and services as easy to use as possible. The more people have to work to access them, the less likely they’re to do so.)
- Enjoy what you do (it shows and it colors everything else).
It also helps that all these activities fit in perfectly with semantic search, the creation of identity, trust and authority. Those who develop these qualities and help their audience understand who they are and what they stand for, are truly exceptional.