Digital strategy for the world we live in

The iPad Welcomes the None Percenters

For the last couple of years marketers have been chasing a dream. The great promise, the Holy Grail of social media, is user generated content – the marketing that is produced by the advocates of your brand. In a utopian world, this user generated marketing “goes viral” – registering millions of impressions/plays/hits on sites like YouTube or Facebook. But I am here to tell you this – we’ve been chasing our tails. We’ve been focusing on the wrong thing – and the iPad is going to prove it.

In social media, we struggle with the immutable 90-9-1 rule. Basically, we have found that when it comes to user participation, only 1% of our social group will CREATE content. Jakob Nielsen calls this participation inequality. Ben O’Connell and Jackie Huba evangelised these one percenters – the citizen marketer and changed the way that we thought about our audience. But even Wikipedia – the great user generated content success story of the Social Web – butts up against the 1% participation rate.

And yet, we constantly search for ways to overcome this barrier – to drive up participation. If we could double our productive audience, then imagine the power and the crowdsourced creativity! We could unleash Clay Shirky’s cognitive surplus. We could transform the world. Now, there are undoubtedly ways to improve participation (you can get significantly higher participation in internal enterprise transformation projects for example), but the real revolution is not in the creation of user generated content, but in its consumption.

One of the things that I have been interested in recently is the principle that EASE OF USE drives CONSUMPTION. I discussed some of my work in this area with Christina Kerley for a B2B case study (subscription required, but hey, it’s MarketingProfs and totally worth it). By removing the barriers to use – of your website, your product or service etc, you are actually able to quickly and demonstrably drive its use. Not only that, by changing the pattern of usage you are also changing the buyer behaviours associated with your brands and products, and this in turn changes the way that your brand or product is perceived.

And this is where the iPad comes in.

With almost zero functionality for content creators, Apple is turning its back on the the one percenters: the creative classes who have evangelised their products for years. The focus now is on CREATIVE CONSUMPTION, making the mass of user generated and branded content more easily accessible, more relevant and useful and bringing it to an audience who – in my opinion – have yet to openly adopt web technologies and the promise of the Social Web.

cadillac_ch_ipad-600x498 This will challenge agencies and brands alike. Some are responding already – like the work that BBH are doing with Cool Hunter and Cadillac. But this is just the beginning. The iPad app store is bound to explode in the same way that the iPhone app store did. Importantly, I expect this to open NEW markets – with non-computer users such as my parents and grandparents to finally begin participating in online markets.

But this is a whole new market. The focus is no longer on the early adopters – the one percenters – but on those who have NO INTEREST in content creation. Our ongoing focus will need to be on the NONE PERCENTERS – those new audiences attracted by the ease of use and social cachet attached to the iPad. Perhaps, for the first time, marketing attention will fall on the zeros – those who sit outside our 90-9-1 demographics – and I have a feeling they will prove far more valuable than the 100% who have dominated our lives more recently.

Are you and your brand ready to deal with the zeros?

14 comments

  1. Not to be a tragic Apple apologist, but I think there’s still functionality for the creators on the iPad: they’re bundling Office-style apps with it, and there’s an option to hook it up to a keyboard for prolonged typing: the only gap seems to be with image capture, which is going to be more roundabout.
    Sure, the iPad is designed to open up a new market of mobile computer users who will be conger to consume new types of branded content (videos, mini-books, games, short interactions and other things not yet dreamed up), but I don’t think it marks the end of 90-9-1 per se.

  2. Interesting piece Gavin, thanks!
    One of the big themes of social media is we now have a raft of new influencers that didn’t exist 5-10 years ago i.e. the active content creators. Often they exist in certain niches; the growth in depth of such niches – or the ‘niche-ification’, as I like to call it! – which in itself is another emerging theme of sorts.
    In the industry in which I work (public relations), this presents us with no end of challenges, but conversely, also huge opportunities as well. Having another ‘channel’ in the iPad -particularly one, as you say, will open up new markets for content – will see even greater fragmentation (and more grist for the challenge/opportunity ‘mill’).
    Interesting about the 90:9:1 theory. In the past I’ve often referred to Forrester’s Social Technographics ladder, which pegs ‘Creators’ at 24 per cent (http://tinyurl.com/yakj6b8) . Am I missing something here, or are the definitions of ‘Creators’ simply different i.e. Nielsen’s Creators are more active, where Forrester’s could be ‘one-offs’?
    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and ideas!
    – Trevor

  3. look, think of it as just another screen, along with your phone, proper e-ink reader, and/or the two or three pc screens around the house, some screens are for creation, some are for consumption (digital photo frames) we all tend to consume more cultural products than we create (some listen to music while creating) so we only need one keyboard and mouse at a time, attached on one of the screens which are on at the time.
    Preferable the input device could link and use any screen/viewing system while carrying around your personal creative data, this portable lifedrive should be a keyboard/mouse/inputdevice for creatives to able to hijack any screen projector in sight, yes bring back the commodore 64 (only not the recent ugly beast with pcinkeyboard with optical drive) but a slimline keyboard full of solidstate drives and wirelesssness

  4. Interesting and thought-provoking article, thank you. However, while it’s pretty clear that the iPad is optimized for consumption rather than creation, to say it has “almost zero functionality” for content creation is to overlook its capacity and misunderstand what that content is. To reflect on your Wikipedia example, an iPad would be perfectly adequate for creating that kind of content. Heaps of content on the web nowadays is text.
    To use myself as an example, I do not envisage using an iPad for graphic design or multitrack audio editing. These require a powerful computer and a keyboard-mouse interface (though these could change in the future). But I already use an iPhone for mist of the other content I create: writing text (using an app that improves on the onscreen keyboard for large scale text entry), basic audio editing, songwriting, basic photo processing, and so on. In fact, the portability and ease of use make it easier for me to keep creating in those odd bits of spare time that arise during the day.
    I think the myth of the useless iPad has arisen mostly due to it breaking away from the form factor and architecture that we are accustomed to. And I think that once they are out and about we will see that, as usually happens, you can’t stop people from creating, no matter what tools you give them. And that often creativity glows brightest when it has a limited palette.

  5. Gavin, I have long posited that there is a world outside of the incestuous content creator circle and your post explains this so articulately. As I read, I was struck by the thought that the cycle has come full circle. Before digital our outreach to consumers, we didn’t evangelize people to create music or books but to consume them. Essentially Apple is closing the loop that has often alluded many content creators. Exciting times indeed.

  6. Nice post.
    But I don’t understand why you refer to these people as the “none percenters”.
    Surely Apple are going after the 90% passive audience in the 1-9-90 model.
    They are also going after the 1% of course, since they woo developers and even other brands to create content in the form of apps.

  7. Far from ending the 90-9-1 rule, I think the iPad will reinforce it. But I think this goes further. I expect the iPad will be a market maker.

  8. Thanks Daniel – my view is that Apple is not going after the 90% of the passive audience. I expect they are looking at those who currently sit outside the 100% of the market – to create and reach a new market altogether. They did it with the iPod and the iPhone. Now they are applying the market maker principle to the computer. Interesting times!

  9. Love the article 🙂
    I completely agree with your statement that the focus now is on CREATIVE CONSUMPTION.
    I just recently finished writing up my own article which touches on similar themes, pitching that User Experience (UX), over anything else, will drive consumption of the online newspaper industry– http://bit.ly/905L7m
    Let us know what you think!

  10. Good post, my friend, as always – I still think iPad is the iceberg of the next revolution we are already seeing unfolding – hardware+content (not Software+content) and how that translates across communication. It is going to be an interesting relationship that manifests. For trad print this is the biggest opportunity they have had passed to them (I hope they welcome it) For Broadcast & radio to embrace multi-channel platforms & to do away with an “us” and “them” mentality, will be welcome for them as much as the new consumer. Many things written about social media are about to seem so passe as we enter the next few months. Fresh thinking and forward thinking in the possibilities is where not only innovation will lie, but where success will become real.

  11. I think now’s the time to get one for myself. Thanks for sharing some good points I should know about it. By the way, if your business needs some rewarding change, then it might interest you to consult the best Australian business coach who is continuously changing lives for the better. Good luck!

  12. Great post.
    I think the iPad will attract new users, certainly through ease of use, but also due to its diverse utility.
    How long do you think it will take for the majority to work it all out? I wonder if the ‘nevers’ will have made it to the next life by then.

  13. While the purpose of the iPad may not be content creation, but rather to mobilise and integrate notebook usage more thoroughly into daily life (i.e. take it into meetings, read on the train) I think the most important stumbling block it will face will be the price tag.
    Refer back to where the concept entered the main stream – Star Trek 🙂 You’ll notice that in the scenario presented there these devices are everywhere, ubiquitous, and they are treated as a ‘data carrying device’ – for reading/writing in situ.
    The long term success of the iPad will depend on user response to the concept – will people a) treat it more like a smartphone to sync with a home computer? Or b) will they consider it all the computer they need.
    I reckon for the larger audience, option a) will be too expensive, and option b) will be too restrictive.
    Of course iPad 2 will be *much* better. Remember – always burn the early adopters 🙂

  14. Love it. One of the insightful things I’ve read in the last 12 months. Thanks for being so succinct in discussing something is often over complicated.