Issue #46: Content Infinity, Consumer Technology, and the Uncanny Valley

Don’t look now, but 2023 is going to usher in a new era of media disruption. We know what you’re thinking: But we still haven’t mastered the last era yet!

For well over a decade, we’ve been helping clients move from a world of media scarcity to one of media abundance. Brands and organizations have been able to take the storytelling reins as they strive to reach audiences in more direct ways. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have helped make this possible — even if, today, these platforms are evolving or teetering on collapse. But it’s not quite the precipice it seems, as a wave of AI technology has dramatically shifted the social landscape.

Powerful new tools like ChatGPT are taking us well beyond self-indulgent profile photos to a land of robot-generated college essays. Thought we were already living in an age of content overload? Well, we’re moving into an era of “content infinity,” where these tools — and many others yet to come — will equip everyday creators with the ability to produce endless content at a quality once reserved for professional creatives.

So yeah, what’s coming next is going to be messy. But, like the era that’s now waning, it’ll provide plenty of space for those of us who know how to tell captivating, authentic stories. As creative professionals, marketers, and brand builders, we’ll need to shift our emphasis from being merely creators to largely curators, who participate in the conversations our audiences are having around us and use them to shape the brand stories that we’re stewards of. Now more than ever we need to become the signals in the noise that guide people toward good information, good products, and good stories.

Here are three opportunities we see for adapting to the new era of disruption:

1. Take a bottom-up approach to storytelling

Brands are no longer the only ones who can create high-fidelity content. Thanks to the barrage of new AI tools hitting the marketplace, everyday people are increasingly becoming extraordinary creators — and this means that our audiences now have more power over brand narratives than ever, whether we like it or not. So the opportunity brands and agencies now have is to become part of the ground-level conversation like never before and to curate the conversation from the inside out.

Given this, it’s probably time that we think less about user-generated content (UGC) and think more about what we like to call user-centric content (UCC) — that is, brand content that creates space for audiences to tell their own stories and lend their own (higher-fidelity-than-ever) vision to brand narratives. It’s about to become more important than ever that we understand, trust, and empower our audiences. Check out Provocations Issue 43 for a deeper primer on UCC.

2. Focus on the story and your audiences — not on platforms

Since platforms are in flux (both traditional and new), it doesn’t pay to sweat decisions about platform before you’ve figured out what the core story is. It all starts with your audience and identifying the story elements that can best strengthen their relationship to your brand or organization. Once you’ve nailed those narrative pulses, you can find the best platforms (and the smartest story structures) to get your message out into the world. But if you do this backward — that is, focus on platform first — you get caught just feeding the beast, blindly serving up content whether it’s actually connecting with your intended audience or not.

3. Focus on immersive experiences

In a world where everyone from a grade-schooler to a grandparent is a good-to-great content creator, we need to up our game. What can we offer that’s additive? What can we do that enhances the stories we’re telling and brings our audiences in? We need to create more immersive digital and IRL experiences that elevate the ability for people to connect and contribute, to learn and be wowed by what we have to offer. We need to be asking ourselves what more we can do to use the tools we have to create more enriching and meaningful moments for people, whether that’s harnessing VR or AR to create more human-like digital experiences or crafting IRL experiences that touch on the full range of our senses and sensibilities. We need to welcome our audiences in and invite them to stick around.

Every month, we publish a fresh issue of Provocations, a digestible digest that captures our perspectives on the world around us as well as big — and little — ideas to provoke the way creatives, strategists, and marketers make their moves. Sign up below to receive Provocations in your inbox using the “Stay in the Know” form. 

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