October 07, 2016
How can it be that everyone knows what it means to be a band-wagon “fan” and everyone dislikes band-wagon “fans”, and yet every time a local sports team makes the playoffs, the band-wagon still swells beyond recognition? So much so, that a single spilt beer dominates every single media feed for days – pushing down stories of life and death with ease. The public is captivated by this “breaking news”, hanging on every new development as if the well-being of our nation hung in the balance.
Why? How does this happen? Of course we all know that people can so desperately want to belong, so desperately want to feel included that they will ACTUALLY become invested in something they have little interest in and in some cases, dislike. But this is not the entire story. The entire story must include a discussion of the power behind the creation of the “discussion”. How is it that so many people are successfully converted into “band-wagoners” in such a short timeframe?
The simple truth is, the full power of the media and thus the true power of advertising is at work here. People are literally transformed into caring about something that only days before they barely knew about. If you pay close attention you will spot a “band-wagoner” because they will be unfamiliar with the rules, with the players, with the nuances but they will have nevertheless formed a passionate opinion about who stinks, who should be playing, and how they should be playing. They will even head down to bars and stand and cheer, take to the streets regardless of weather, skip work, stay up late and talk to just about anyone about strategy. Beyond this, they will feel anxious and depressed if their ‘team’ loses and ecstatic and charged if they win. In short – in but a few days, they will be shaped into a living breathing “die hard” fan. Amazing!
Nearly 50 years ago, Marshall McLuhan brilliantly explained that the medium is the message and he was right then, and even more so now, as the power of mass media has grown to an omnipotent level. What has changed however, is that mass media is no longer involved in providing content, which viewers should be interested in (setting the discussion). Instead, it merely seeks to provide that which viewers already want to see (follow the discussion). This means every medium collectively delivers and reinforces the message that baseball is the most important thing happening in Toronto right now – hands down. With social media in the mix, the pervasiveness is even more irresistible. Every piece of information is delivered in one media format or another, and when all of these formats are talking about the same thing, the hearts and minds are fit to conform to whatever the message being delivered is. The casual person starts by hearing about baseball a few times and disregards it – wondering why in the world everyone seems to be talking about it – that is, until a source (medium) they trust catches on and also decides to join the party. For example – one of those flowery A.M. talk shows all of a sudden cannot resist jumping into the mix and “adding” their perspective on the topic – naturally, they have to do this to “resonate” with their viewers, but if you ask them, they will tell you that they do care – but why do they care? Of course, they too are viewers when not on screen, and thus they too have been swept into the discussion, led and fed by the power of the mass media. It’s no secret, history has long proven this point – unfortunately, in mostly ugly ways. As it happened then, it happens today – seamlessly and thus unnoticed for the most part.
What does this all mean? Well in branding terms, it makes crystal clear the point that delivering a message across all (or as many platforms as possible) is still the way to go and; that the form is, as always, more important than the content. That is, it is more important to effectively communicate to people that you have the best product than it is to actually have it and vice-a-versa. This is a reminder to all those businesses with truly great products who think that their greatness alone will make them successful: Good or Bad, you must enter the discussion or else risk not being heard for interest is always shaped, guided and created through the mediums in which we communicate.