Welcome to the ‘reaction economy’

In this guest post TCO’s Tom Phillips looks at how brands can best utilise earned media and why not to listen to social media gurus.

Welcome to the “reaction economy” where there’s a new currency in circulation. It’s called earned media.

The units of that currency are comments, shares, likes, badging and posts. And as in all economies, he who gathers the most currency wins.  

The emergence of the reaction economy has resulted in a shift from the traditional idea of simply building a creative and pushing it out there via bought media.

Gone are the days when creatives could scramble to get the best director in town to produce the most beautiful TVC that goes onto win a Cannes Lion and that was enough to satisfy the client and their brand/communications objectives. Now, we are accountable for the outcomes generated by that content.

Reaction economy will prevent brands from being vanilla. No longer have you got a captured audience who will watch your commercials, but brands now need to create content that drags people to it.

Reactions are a good indication of how successful your content is at getting people to it.

I think the reaction economy helps to dispel a lot of the things that just didn’t feel right to marketers about social media. Social media gurus told you, you always had to be on and it’s about long-term relationships, whereas the reaction economy suggests that you can be a part of people’s life for a short time but make sure that you’re getting a reaction from those people in that time.

This means that in conceiving ideas in this space we need to first think about the reaction. How can we trigger a reaction and ensure it’s a positive one, or at least a positive outcome in terms of adding value? What value will we be adding to the user’s experience and how can we trigger a reaction as a result of being exposed to that piece of content?

Increasingly, creatives need to understand earned media and how – with audience engagement – they can leverage a client’s solar system of brand-owned platforms.

Crucial here is the ideation stage and the development of the idea. The people who are going to have the most success are those who think about how an idea can live and breathe beyond just bought media.

Two great examples have just made their mark. Google’s new web browser Google Chrome came to the digital ecosystem’s attention via a cleverly crafted piece of creative demonstrating speed in a series of elaborate, engaging experiments.

“Chrome versus Potato” is a beautiful piece of content. But in developing it, its creators really thought about making it amazing, intriguing and stimulating a debate. It marked a very different approach to traditional TVC content. It was made for the web environment and specifically made for reactions: I’m going to pass it on, going to like it, put it on Facebook, comment on it on YouTube, Tweet it.

All of that happened. The piece of content was a success by the standards of the reaction economy.

Another great local example was Yellow Pages’ “Hidden Pizza”. The brand embraced this whole idea of the reaction economy and created a fictional hidden pizza restaurant then used all its products to drive an audience to come to this hidden pizza night.

Yellow Pages’ Steve Ronchi said: “The primary reason for the Hidden Pizza Restaurant initiative was to highlight the value of Yellow Pages to small businesses. The secondary reason was to get people talking about our brand and to engage them in the use of our products.”

The end result did just that. Stats showed Yellow Pages’ effectiveness across search engines and in the web environment generally – a boon for small businesses – while the stunt produced a massive conversational reaction which was both good and bad. But controversy is good in the reaction economy.

It was a really smart idea that beautifully demonstrated the product in a highly engaging way and highlighted the simple truth about the reaction economy: When you put a video up on YouTube or Facebook it’s no longer just a video. It’s a currency generator. You want people to comment on it, talk about it, pass it on, share it.

It’s about making sure you are optimising these opportunities in the reaction economy and the only way to do that is to start out with the concept of engagement and follow it through.

  • Compiled by The Conscience Organisation’s director of content and distribution, Tom Phillips… with a little bit of help from digital strategist, Julian Cole and founder, Clive Burcham.

Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.