There is an elephant in the room when it comes to the Internet of Things. There is a critical element inherent to just about any IoT application that hardly ever sees the light of day in industry coverage of the topic. Some would say it’s because it’s just not as sexy, it’s a given, or it falls outside of the IoT deployment purview. But they would be wrong.
The role of content in the Internet of Things cannot be understated. By extension, the role of A Culture of Content, the topic (and title) of Altimeter’s latest report, has never been more important. In our report, my co-author Rebecca Lieb and I define and address the institutional imperative to meet the growing internal and external demand for content by fostering an authentic ‘culture of content;’ one that establishes, evangelizes, and streamlines how brands use content to express themselves. As brands in every industry embrace how to better leverage sensors to enhance and streamline customer experience across any connected interface, it is content itself that becomes the ever more critical brand unifier.
From IoT to IoC: The Emergence of “Things” as Content Platforms
The Internet of Things introduces an entirely new ecosystem for content– one that historically has been offline, static, perhaps crinkled up and thrown into the trashcan. In the Internet of Things, content (paid, owned, earned media) and product can converge; that is, when [connected] products serve as dynamic content platforms. Here emerges a new channel, for owned, earned, and paid content activations. Enter the Internet of Content.
Products as content platforms are an extension of ‘mobile’ platform proliferation we have seen across smartphones, tablets, wearables, etc. When our cars, our thermostats, our appliances, our homes are connected, they transcend a life of stagnant hardware, and become new vehicles through which brands can convey messages, even services. In fact, as connected product lifecycles transform to become enhanced, smarter, and more personalized over time, content will increasingly define, even evolve how consumers interface with their products.
A more connected world not only serves content more frequently, even in real-time, but it also generates more demand for content. Consumers themselves generate demand for content by interacting with brand properties/infrastructure such as beacons, kiosks, or a connected mirror in a fitting room, for example. The success of augmented reality applications– agnostic to platform– are contingent upon rapid content accessibility, personalization, and integration with other systems. Additionally, products themselves may create more demand for content through automated algorithms or data-informed services, such as product malfunction notifications, troubleshooting guides, support channel options, or suggestions for upsell.
A Connected Brand Experience Requires a Connected View of Content
Many marketers already view content as the ‘atomic particle’ of all marketing (a phrase coined by my colleague, Rebecca Lieb), but the Internet of Things ushers in a new era in which content becomes the atomic particle of just about any brand interaction– sales, service, support, R&D, experience. As the Internet of Things gives products, events, even media itself a voice (i.e. a contextual data stream), content becomes the very glue or connective tissue connecting any brand experience across any platform.
Furthermore, as IoT forces historically separate constituencies to partner, even share data, assets, and experiences, content also serves a nuanced role of continuity in recognition. For example, when a shopper walks into a mall, the beacon-triggered notification they receive on their smartphone could be driven by any number of players– brand, manufacturer, telecom provider, the mall itself or holding company, etc. As each player vies for customer engagement, content serves as cornerstone of brand recognition regardless of dynamic contextual elements such as location, time, or platform.
Ultimately, a culture of content doesn’t just help brands organize around content, it helps crystallize the very brand message; a culmination of stories that convey brand identity. Aligning internal processes, behaviors, and needs to a single brand manifestation will only grow in importance as brands embrace new ways of connecting with customers.