Business Media Strategy

Renting vs. Owning

From BostInno.

Is the death of ownership upon us?

A recent Fast Company article by Josh Allan Dykstra, “Why Millennials Don’t Want to Buy Stuff,” explores the shift in buying behavior.

Humanity is experiencing an evolution in consciousness. We are starting to think differently about what it means to “own” something. This is why a similar ambivalence towards ownership is emerging in all sorts of areas, from car-buying to music listening to entertainment consumption. Though technology facilitates this evolution and new generations champion it, the big push behind it all is that our thinking is changing.

Dykstra’s point is well-made: both technology and our thinking create a new market for renting.

The future of renting

It’s not only the digital world that’s become rent-heavy. Earlier this year, The Altimeter Group’s Jeremiah Owyang asked about the future of renting on Google+:

You for rent: I can rent your HOUSE with AirBnB. I can rent your CAR with GetAround. I can rent your TIME and EXPERTISE with taskrabbit, crowdflower. What else can we rent in the future? What’s left?

The concept of subscriptions has created a culture of niche clubs. A fashion blog offers a monthly subscription for pocket squares (Put This On). A book distributor encourages monthly lending (BookSwim). There are even entire online communities for renting nearly anything (Zilok).

Through changes in consumer behavior and advancements in technology, is the concept of ownership on the verge of extinction? Dykstra argues that consumers are purchasing for reasons beyond the feeling of ownership:

People buy things because of what they can do with them… People buy things because of what they can tell others about it… [and] People buy things because of what having it says about them.

Millennials want access over ownership, streaming over storing, and rentals over buying.

Reacting to consumer behavior

The shift goes beyond millennials – businesses are now turning toward services via rentals or subscriptions.

Adobe recently launched its Creative Cloud service where businesses pay a monthly fee to utilize all of Adobe’s product offerings. Instead of paying for a license, designers, producers and creators can “rent” Adobe’s programs and services for as long as they like.

Adobe’s actions come as part of a much larger trend in services and content consumption.NetflixHulu and Amazon offer streaming movies and television shows that don’t require the purchase of a television or cable box, while companies like Spotify and Rhapsody offer a subscription music service.

Hardware technologies have followed suit – the storage industry blossomed with cloud offerings, removing consumers’ needs for local storage. Movies, music, photos and other documents can be accessed through the cloud and retrieved at anytime. Apple’s iCloud service and Rackspace are some of the most popular.

Without the need for massive hard drives, personal computers increasingly use flash storage as a faster way to access data. The capacities are significantly smaller but the responsiveness of the computer’s operating system greatly benefits.

In short, consumer behavior informs business strategies and decisions.

Renting in B2B

Does the same purchasing theory apply to B2B? It seems to be headed in that direction. At HB, we work with several businesses who offer their services as subscriptions and rentals.  The Meltwater Group provides a social media engagement service sold to corporations and agencies. We want access to data – not the data itself. Shutterstock offers access to an enormous library of photos and videos – none of which we pay for individually. Instead, our monthly subscription serves as our gateway to content.

We see consumer behavior shifting. But it’s the businesses – and how they will change theirselling behavior – that must change in order to survive. How will your business adapt to a culture of renting?

Business Culture Design Media Social Media SXSW Technology Video

SXSW Interactive: Attempting to Digest Five Days of Awesomeness

Co-written by Andrea Dunbeck and Justin Hastings

What a week! Now that the panels, discussions, presentations, chats, serendipitous introductions and nightly events have concluded, we attempt to wrap our week in Austin into four central themes that we brought back for HB to make our work (and our clients’ work) more successful.

As a reminder, you can relive all of the action here.


Andrea spoke about this a few days ago. Throughout our time in Austin, we heard discussions surrounding the idea of audience trust and authenticity. Only when content speaks directly and honestly to the audience will a brand perform well – and this happens over a long, incremental period of time, not in short, sporadic bursts. With the right campaign, trust can be measured through speed and reach – audiences will make quicker decisions through a trustworthy relationship.

“Trust can be measured in speed and reach. Vendors can make things easier in order to solve a problem – therefore, you can work more efficiently and make more money. Reach comes from sharing stories with your friends.” – Liz Strauss, founder of SOBcon and Inside-Out Thinking, from What’s So [Bleeping] Hard About Social ROI?

In fact, multiple presenters talked about getting out of the user’s way, allowing for individual brand experience and exploration. Technology should be calm and unobtrusive, using clean, simple design and user experiences to communicate messages.

“Calm technology is in the background and relaxed. Actions become buttons or are triggered through invisible interfaces.” Amber Case, Co-founder, Geoloqi , from Ambient Location and the Future of the Interface.

Be Bold, Smart and Nimble

Panelists and speakers throughout all our sessions challenged attendees to break traditions, defy standards, go rogue and show change. Shifts in offerings and marketing strategies must become part of an agency’s (or brand’s) DNA, allowing them to act like startups to adapt to constantly evolving industries, media channels and technology.

“There needs to be resistance to hierarchy. Smaller, nimbler teams innovate faster.” – Rei Inamoto, Chief Creative Officer, AKQA, from Why Ad Agencies Should Act More Like Tech Startups

We often heard the recommendation to “fail fast” – testing new ideas, strategies or projects through user research and experimentation.

“Fail quickly. You learn more from what doesn’t work then you do from what does.” – Lance Weiler, Story Architect/Experience Designer,, from Multiplatform Storytelling: Frontline War Stories.

Give the People What They Want

It all boils down to this. Content strategy, development, distribution and marketing – it’s about getting your audience members what they want, when they want it and how they want it.

Brands are no longer just product and service companies – they are publishers who must provide meaningful, entertaining content to their users (even if the content does not directly tie to the product or service). These same brands must inspire their audiences through unique storytelling – gone are the days when copy, on its own, can create the same experience as a story involving visuals, videos, photography, and media from other platforms.

“What would our audience love to see? Don’t even think about the brand.” – Anthony Batt, President, Katalyst, from Entertain or Fail: Brands as the New Publishers.

The role of the content strategist thus continues to grow across brands and agencies that develop large amounts of content. Increasingly, people in this position will take the lead on new projects. A successful content strategy combines thoughtful workflow and governance (people) with substance and structure (engaging content).

“Nontraditional storytelling through visuals and interactive is becoming what readers want.” – Jill Abramson, Executive Editor, The New York Times, from The Future of The New York Times.


We all think Social is so special. Stop it – it’s not. Social is simply another marketing tactic like advertising or direct mail. So why expect special ROI measurements from social marketing? For many other marketing tools we simply ask, “are profits increasing?” We need not treat Social as an alien, but rather just as another strategy in your marketing toolbox.

“Aren’t we overcomplicating this? What’s the ROI of taking a guy to the golf course or out to dinner?” – Matt Ridings, Co-founder & CEO, SideraWorks, from What’s So [Bleeping] Hard About Social ROI?

The only real difference is that social media allows you to listen to your audience, rather than broadcast to them. So do it – leverage the opportunity to get to know your prospects and customers so all of your communication is spot-on for their needs and interests.

Oh, and “viral” is overrated.

Phew! The week in Austin surely filled our brains with plenty to digest, review and implement in the coming weeks and months. We look forward to SXSW 2013!

Read about the rest of our trip to SXSW trip at The HB Blog.

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Renting vs. owning: A shift in content consumption

From the HB Blog

A recent Google+ post from Jeremiah Owyang read:

“You for rent: I can rent your HOUSE with AirBnB. I can rent your CAR with GetAround. I can rent your TIME and EXPERTISE with taskrabbit, crowdflower. What else can we rent in the future? What’s left?”

Owyang focuses on a shift in user behavior over the past couple of years: people no longer require ownership of their content – just access to it.

That’s a long cry from Steve Jobs’s discussion surrounding the iTunes Music Store in 2007:

“People want to own their music.”

Only six years later, Apple now offers iTunes Match which allows users to stream their music from any device, assuming it’s purchased through iTunes or resides on a home machine. Similarly, Spotify offers a seemingly-endless supply of music to its customers for a monthly subscription fee.

On the tube

Likewise, the television and movie models are shifting their business model from ownership to rental. Companies like NetflixHulu, and Amazon provide content consumption without taking up precious space on your hard drive.

Even production companies are joining the fun. Without “ownership” of a cable box, folks can watch many of their favorite shows via a web site or app. The episodes no longer reside on a machine; rather, users stream content over the internet with relatively little setup.

On the horizon

Back to Owyang. What’s next? Magazines have slowly joined the movement, offering digital subscriptions – but mainly when the customer already receives a print version of the publication.

Instead of content, it’s commodities and services that are sure to see an uptick in “rentals.” Could there be a subscription-fee model for airfare? Or how about automobile maintenance? Will the book industry move to this model to service the millions of KindlesNooks, and iPads across the globe?

What do you think will come next in this world of renting?

Content Marketing Measurement Media Social Media Strategy

Control vs. continuation: a shift in marketing strategy

From the HB Blog

Last week, I overheard a conversation between our PR team and a representative from a prominent wire service.

“When I started, we concentrated solely on media. We differentiated ourselves from our competitors through speed – as soon as you faxed something to us, we had two people proof it as soon as possible.”

That was only 10 or so years ago.

Then, media strategy stressed control. An agency suggested key messages – and that would be the only thing you heard from a business.

Lack of control

And then the internet happened. Through the birth – and rapid explosion – of social networks, companies soon learned a then-awful truth: they no longer controlled their messages and stories.

The customers had a new playground to express their opinions. Gasp!

Embrace uncontrollability

As companies learned to harness their networks over the last few years, the power of the customer grew exponentially. Companies now interacted directly with customers… and often, the customers drove business decisions. What a novel concept!

The shift to continuation

More recently, companies’ social strategies matured into something Gary Varynerchuk called “continuing the story.” Instead of fearing the uncontrollable, businesses began crafting their own story… and extending it online with a microsite, hashtag, or Facebook URL.

Customers are now characters, taking the beginning of an idea and crafting it into a story of their own, providing ample opportunities for brands to re-engage.

Now that’s continuing the story.

Business Culture Media

How humans consume news

From the HB Blog

“I need something in my hands!” my father decrees, sharing how he reads news via the print edition of The Boston Globe.

He’s not alone.

Traditionally, humans learned of the latest news developments from their regional news publication – a literal newspaper. Needless to say, the medium changed.

The fear of customized news

I recall reading an article 10-15 years ago about the possibilities of receiving a “custom newspaper” in your inbox. This was considered a big problem – would readers ignore hard news for entertainment and sports coverage? The horror!

Today, that “horror” materializes as “options.” Readers use several strategies to digest news, including:

Experiential news

Another marked changed comes via the delivery mechanism. Readers who rely solely on the internet for news read on a desktop, mobile phone, or tablet – and can view additional content beyond the printed word with color photos, videos, and interactive graphics that serve up content not available in my father’s newspaper.

One new trend across the web, responsive design, allows readers to digest news at the same web site, independent of their device. The Boston Globedoes a great job of this at

The news cycle

Perhaps the biggest shift comes from the new interpretation of the word “journalist.” Quite often, readers receive news via sharing. I might hear about the latest news development from a Twitter follower whom I’ve never met. Or, learn of a new technology trend from a video blog.

The new news

Gone are the days of Walter Cronkite and The New York Times, early edition. Here to stay are varying delivery methods for all types of news. How long will newspapers last?