OPINION: Opening the source bottle

Ian Perrin
By Ian Perrin | 6 September 2012
ZenithOptimedia chief executive, Ian Perrin.

While watching the Breakfast show on Channel 10 (seriously, I was) I was fascinated to see a segment on the future of the smartphone industry.

The tech expert was taking about the massive proliferation of iPhones and how they dominate the category with close to 50%. While many others are predicting the continuing rise of Apple, he pointed to the speed with which change has impacted mobile phone brands.

Not so long ago Nokia was the dominant brand, then Motorola, then Blackberry and finally Apple. All of this transition has happened within a very short space of time, and it is highly likely that Apple's reign will be similarly short. The expert said that the Apple system is closed and in an open source world, Android will prevail. Their share is already into the twenties and climbing very quickly. His conclusion was that the smartphone industry was moving to open source.

The same analogy movement towards open source is happening in the brand and communications industry.

For many generations we have assumed control of the brands we represent. Clients were referred to as the “brand custodians” and agencies carefully crafted the message that the brand communicated. This worked well before the advent of the 24 hour news cycle, blogs, forums, social media, Twitter and all the other forms of technology that aid an active conversation.

Now suddenly the closed world of brand control has been replaced by an open source model, where brands live, breathe and act in a dynamic way. They are not closed, controlled systems anymore, but free and consumer driven.

This necessitates that we need to look at brands and communications in a totally different way. Marketers that create three year brand plans are redundant because their brand will be totally different next week, let alone in 2015. Creative agencies that focus on a consistent brand image and a fixation on message management, will soon realise the brand has passed them by. Media agencies that create set-and-forget plans and negotiate annual media deals will become dinosaurs. And the types of solutions and ideas that we collectively generate have to be highly adaptive and comfortable being manipulated and changed in many different ways.

Like Apple, our models and ways of operating are not broken, but there is a prevailing force that is becoming stronger. And that’s the force of open source.

Ian Perrin
Chief Executive

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