Brands and The Meaning of Mutual Exchange

While the majority of society can generally describe advertising as a paid commercial message transmitted within a mass medium, there is no single definition that describes it today. Historians, sociologists, marketers, and the common citizen all view advertising differently – as an art form, a science, or marketing tool of within our capitalist world. James Laver, a British historian, broadly described advertising during the 19th century—a time when companies made outrageous claims which could not be proved, and with practically no regulation—as follows:

“Advertising is as old as Humanity: indeed, much older; for what are the flaunting colours of the flowers but so many invitations to the bees to come and “buy our product.” Advertising might be defined as any device which first arrests the attention of the passer-by and then induces him to accept a mutually advantageous exchange.”

In other words, advertising may be described as a mechanism for 1) getting the attention of an individual and then, 2) persuading that individual to engage in some kind of action—ultimately, to use some type of service or buy product.

The truth, however, is that this definition is practically outdated in today’s society, and not necessarily as a result of advertising clutter, the increasing ineffectiveness of awareness campaign, technology, or even the Internet itself. Before the first screen (theatre), radio, the second screen (TV), the third screen (Web), or even the fourth screen (mobile), advertising and marketing still existed. But it wasn’t just word of mouth, the printing press, or a placard on the street. Before that, what got people to act and take interest in something, to believe in what someone else said, was the result of social connections.

I think what Laver meant to say that still applies even today is that 1) the product is the marketing, and 2) Advertising, even in today’s technological, digital, and connected world should work to create mutually, or rather exchanges resulting in the connection between brands and participants.

“Mutually” being the keyword here. In 2009, Mutual brands will join with people, as well as allow them to join with others. Mutual brands will engage with people in cooperative ways, will have common thread, will share goals with society, and unite with those within social environments, for a specific cause, and ultimately become a part of an evolution of exchanges to come.

In 2009, marketers will collectively begin to understand that mutual exchanges, that giving rather than taking, and that providing value to people who are no longer interested in consuming as much as they are interested in participating, will be the new brand currency. Looking forward, audiences will no longer be known as consumers, but as participants, joiners and socialists, each with their own brand currencies to trade on their terms.