IABC members with Mitch Joel

Mitch Joel, at right, with IABC members Donna Papacosta and Cyrus Mavalwala.

The Internet used to be like an elephant; it never forgot. Now, its future is about “fast, temporary pieces of content” (think Snapchat) that are here now and gone soon after.

Mitch Joel, one of North America’s leading digital experts, told IABC/Toronto members at a recent event that consumers don’t necessarily want things to be permanent. “Increasingly, people want access, not ownership,” he said.

For evidence, look no further than the shift from owning or renting DVDs (and the demise of Blockbuster) to subscribing to a whole library of TV shows and movies on Netflix. Instead of CDs and then iTunes collections, we access millions of songs on Spotify.

We can rent a spare room from Airbnb, a car from Zipcar or Car2Go, a bike from Bixi. We can even rent a temporary parking space on someone’s driveway from JustPark.

“While some will simply glaze over this shift in consumerism, it is a massive deal in terms of understanding the new consumer,” Mitch said. “And it happened like flipping a light switch.”

Mitch called the new playing field the “temporary Internet of things” and the “age of efficiency.”

“The question becomes, if consumers have done this, what do brands and businesses do?” he asked. He had some thoughts:

  • Content has to be image-based, mobile, social.
  • You need to figure out how to be like YouTube star Bethany Mota, and “speak exactly and only to your audience and give them relevance.” In Bethany’s case, she speaks to 8.2 million teenage girls. (Oh, and if you didn’t know who she is, you are not the cool aunt or uncle any more! Hmm, and recognizing her from a stint on Dancing With The Stars, as I did, probably doesn’t count.)
  • Think about how you connect with people, beyond asking permission.
  • Personalization is important. “You happily give your information to Amazon because you get value back,” Mitch said. “On Father’s Day, it knows 20 things I want.”
  • Rather than solve marketing with advertising, think about ways to use the “bigger toolbox” the Internet gives us.
  • Know that the battle for attention is not just with competitors, but with everyone in the value chain of what you offer. As an example, he mentioned “liking” Beats by Dre on Facebook after you bought their headphones at Target, and the five or six different vendors that then ask you to like them, too.

Mitch’s talk left many of us with our heads spinning! If you were there, what did you think? What did you take away from the talk? Please comment below.