There is a great interview with Crispin, Porter + Bogusky CEO Andrew Keller on Think With Google. Here is a summary by way of some excerpted quotes:
The digital age, and social media in particular, have changed the social contract between people and brands. The expectation of the relationship has become far more intimate.
From a consumer’s point of view, social media and digital tools are more closely related to a brand’s products than a brand’s “advertising”. They are the company. That makes them huge branding opportunities but also liabilities as well. If you can create a digital tool that becomes an important part of people’s lives, you’ve connected people to a system they won’t ever leave.
[Before], “content” was seen as a go-between connecting humans through shared experiences, [and] “advertising” was something that was only ever able to stand next to the conversation. Now, great brands are that conversation, while entrepreneurs and start-ups are the new rock stars. The products they dream up and the motivations that drive them are culture’s new aspiration. So in the same way we take it for granted that films and songs are art and entertainment rather than products that need extensive advertising, a well-built brand can create that advantage for a product, giving it the same kind of social currency that can’t be ignored and doesn’t need to be “marketed.” The intimacy and opportunity of the digital age has been a huge contributor to this shift.
Keller’s point is a fundamental one. The shift from brand advertising as adjacent to the “conversation” to brands being that conversation (at least when done right) has such implications — not just for brands but also for innovators creating new platforms where that conversation will take place. One of the big opportunities in this shift is for entrepreneurs to build platforms where this conversation takes place, and to understand that their business model is not limited to brand advertising, but commerce itself. During the ’90’s people used to talk about the “3 C’s” of content, community and commerce. But the Internet as a medium hadn’t evolved to the point where the 3 legs of of the stool really were connected. Now, it has.