Thursday, ‎April ‎19, ‎2007

The title of this article is a play on the old marketing gimmick of Reeses peanut butter cups where inadvertently a bar of chocolate and a jar of peanut butter collide to produce a new sensation in snacking food.

In a debate all too reminiscent of the Napster debacle of nearly a decade ago, the record companies, television broadcasters, and other IP copyright and trademark holders are turning up the heat on YouTube and the like, over their proprietary “content” being propagated on the internet without their permission, to the point of involving the courts in an effort to quash the swell…
As in the Napster case, copyright holders are holding media channels accountable for the actions of end users, even though YouTube and their brethren clearly outline in their terms of use that such activities are restricted.

These end users, the very market that the copyright holders are trying to attract, are presumably uploading and broadcasting these materials because they endorse these products, and are simply propagating the content.  In other words advertising.
Unlike the Napster case these materials are not being downloaded for the purposes of personal use and distributed  since downloading on YouTube is difficult at best and not generally accessible to the YouTube audience nor user. Following this line of thought perhaps The shoe should be on the other foot…  In my humble opinion… Google should be sending the copyright holders a bill for advertising and hosting.

This is not a new concept as in the above Recess example used it in one of the most  successful example of Branded Content in history:

Although Viacom reported increased traffic to their websites after they insisted their content be removed from YouTube, traffic is no longer king in this dawning age of user generated life…. CONTENT is king.  Not to mention that neither Viacom nor YouTube (yet) advertise on their sites, so how exactly has Viacom been hurt in all this?

So what if their content is being viewed on YouTube as opposed to their own property, the only difference here is who’s footing the storage bill.

Of course copyright and trademark holders will tell you that restricting access to their material on the YouTube scale ensures they retain control over it, and how it is viewed/distributed.  Fair enough.  What they don’t realize is that retaining that control, is, well… an illusion.

Consumers have always had the power to control brands and their success, they just don’t realize it (and until now, didn’t have the tools to propagate their views on a mass scale).  How many of us have tried a product, liked it and told our friends to try it? How many of us have condemned a brand, for a poor quality or lack of service, propagating our experience to anyone who will listen in general conversations at dinner parties?

YouTube and other social networking sites are simply the next step in this evolution.  They allow consumers to broadcast their opinions on brands, product experiences, music preferences, media viewing habits to a wider audience.

An attempt to control ones Brand becomes a futile exercise at best.  How do you reconcile a consumer’s opinion after he has purchased your product?

Case in point

Billy buys a bottle of Coke and a bottle of Pepsi. Blindfolded he takes the Pepsi challenge online for his YouTube audience. Neither Pepsi nor Coke can control the outcome of such an experiment, neither can they dictate the impact of the results of said taste test. The truth will be in the pudding as it were, and the brand that Billy likes the best will win out.

Billy’s opinion is propagated to his audience, and Billy’s friends decide to take the challenge themselves and discover which brand they truly prefer.

The future of brand equity will no longer be reach and frequency but rather honesty. With so many consumers exercising their right to an opinion in the ever growing expanse of rhetoric that is the internet, companies will not only need to propagate their brand, but also produce a quality product as an offering to the consumers.