Suzy CEO: Branding Is Dead And ‘Gramming Killed It



Matt Britton (Chief Executive Officer, Suzy) on why the growing domination of Facebook, Google, and Amazon is redefining the role and importance of brands in American culture.


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At #SMWCHICAGO, Matt Britton, Chief Executive Officer of Suzy, took the stage to discuss the growing domination of Facebook, Google, and Amazon and how the new digital dynamic is redefining the role and importance of brands in American culture.

The TV Industrial & Shopping Mall Complexes

Britton opened up his talk by discussing the humble beginnings of television advertising and brand marketing in the 1960s. He spoke about “The TV Industrial Complex” that was coined by author Seth Godin.

As the years went on, the economy grew and consumers bought more products while manufacturing moved overseas, lowering the cost of production while increasing profits. This led to something Britton calls “The Shopping Mall Complex,” which describes the cycle in which consumers buy stuff, pay off their credit card, see some else’s stuff, and buy their stuff, which would then lead to buying more stuff. As the name suggests, The Shopping Mall Complex led to the rise of shopping malls, which became a communal space wherein people spent a significant amount of their time.

“What the shopping mall did in the 80s as it really started to explode was give people a community around shopping.”

Per Britton, consumerism (and brands) hit an all-time peak in the early 2000s. Indeed, The TV Industrial Complex would meet its demise by four defining death blows:

    • The Invention of the Internet
    • The 2008 Stock Market Crash
    • The debut of the iPhone
    • The rise of Instagram

All of these factors have come to head in a way that is redefining what it means to be a brand. In Britton’s words, “the status update became is the new status symbol.” Over the years, the creative class has moved into the cities and millennials are buying less so they can afford to live in small spaces near and around large metropolitan areas. As a result of millennial buying habits, malls and big-box retailers are closing and companies headquarters are relocating to where the millennials are.

Doing it for the Instagram

Because they are acting younger in life adults are pursuing experiences more. People are so consumed with experiences and “DIFTI” (doing it for the Instagram) not to actually live the experience, but to build their own personal brand. As Britton called out, this has reached a point in which people are actually renting grounded private jets to take Instagram photos. People are going to places like The Museum of Ice Cream and ordering desserts at Black Tap not to learn about or eat ice cream, but to take selfies and food pics for the Instagram.

Utility is defining the everyday brand

While millennials are taking selfies, brands are having a hard time evolving. Even companies like Walmart and Target are releasing product lines to compete with the brands that they put on their shelves. The brands on the shelves of those retail locations can’t learn anything about their customers because there is no data to support it.

Utility is defining the everyday brand. Looking at the top ten most valuable brands of 2017, you won’t find Hereseys or Nike, but you will find companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Verizon, which provide data, search results, devices and things consumers need to find what they are looking for. Companies like Airbnb, Uber, and Rent the Runway are giving consumers the things they need without having to spend the money to own them.

According to Britton, the medium is becoming the utility that matters. Companies like Amazon using voice technology to sell their Amazon-branded products to consumers without giving them the option of choosing another brand. Britton advises brands to follow in the footsteps of brands like Amazon and Apple and “don’t just make the software, make the hardware,” which means brands need to focus on building an infrastructure.

Further analysis and commentary from ‘The Inevitable Extinction of Branding’ session:

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