”Don’t make no plans to see somebody here next year because a lot of y’all ain’t going to be here next year. That’s how [business] is. Here today, gone today.” -Chris Rock, MTV Video Music Awards 1997
The year was 1997. MTV was still playing music videos and in heavy rotation were the Spice Girls, Beck, and that cool video from Jamiroquai where the floor and wall and ceiling are moving around the singer as he dances.
Chris Rock emceed the event and proved to be prophetic with his words that evening: “That’s how the music business is. Here today, gone today.” Seventeen years later, the fates of the award winners are mixed: Some are still as relevant today as they were then, and some are nostalgic footnotes in pop culture’s collective memory lane. The pop culture icons are the ones that continued to reinvent themselves, the pop culture footnotes didn’t.
In the less glamorous world of brand marketing, the same adapt or die mentality is required for survival. Household names are being kicked to the curb and replaced with brands who seem more relevant to people who have unprecedented access to information and alternative purchasing choices.
The effect is not new but is growing in momentum. Several years ago, The New York Times reported that the largest American packaged-foods marketer – Kraft – was on a mission to prevent some of its most storied brands from turning into ghosts, or “once-prominent pantry staples that fade into obscurity through a lack of consumer interest.”
More recently in The New Yorker, writer James Surowiecki stated:
What’s really weakened the power of brands is the Internet, which has given ordinary consumers easy access to expert reviews, user reviews, and detailed product data, in an array of categories. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that eighty per cent of consumers look at online reviews before making major purchases, and a host of studies have logged the strong influence those reviews have on the decisions people make. The rise of social media has accelerated the trend to an astonishing degree: a dud product can become a laughingstock in a matter of hours.
Relevance, it turns out, has a short shelf life. Continue reading