The Brand Companions Hypothesis: All media will be free for high-value consumers.
Now and again, I like to try to imagine how media are likely to change in the future. Today I was thinking about what I’ll call high-value consumers–people with a lot of disposable income who tend to purchase products with high margins. Is it possible that a group of brands (i.e., the consumer’s constant “brand companions”) will come together to “sponsor” the media consumption of such consumers so that they no longer have to pay for cable TV, internet access, satellite radio, etc? What if, for example, BMW, Heineken, Whole Foods, British Airways, Exxon, Apple and Costco pooled their consumer intelligence data and together ascertained that consumers of a certain profile were extremely likely to use all of their products? Would it not logically follow, then, that these brands would want to do whatever is necessary to ensure that they get a hammer lock on said consumers’ wallets? The best and most effective way to do this would be to block other advertisers out of their lives as much as possible. They could do it by picking up the tab for whatever media these consumers use, and for high-value consumers, the math could make sense.
Of course, different groups of brands would emerge and align themselves with consumers of various profiles; that goes without saying. What bears some more thought, however, is how this kind of arrangement would change the advertising the consumers would see. If brands “own” consumers, will there less hard sell and more of a partnership between the brand and the consumer? Will less advertising suffice? Perhaps only PBS-style announcements that “the following program is brought to you by your friends at BMW, Apple and Whole Foods” will be more than enough. Perhaps even more to the point, will your free cable TV get yanked away from you if you buy a Lexus instead of a BMW? It probably should.
Also, what will be the effect on consumers who aren’t part of these groups of high-value consumers that are rewarded with free media? Will they do whatever is necessary–including buying brands they can’t really afford–to reap the benefits enjoyed by others, or will some other system evolve to serve them?
I think this is a fascinating idea. Please let me know if I am alone.