Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Are ‘Scale’ and ‘Media’ The Same Word Only Spelled Differently?

The word ‘scale’ seems to be popping up everywhere these days.  Mostly as a defense as to why something shouldn’t be pursued.

“Can’t do that.  It doesn’t scale.”

Which is why it seems to me that ‘media’ and ‘scale’ are actually the same word spelled in different ways.

After all, one would never buy media if it were only going to reach 10 people.  That doesn’t scale, so it wouldn’t be considered ‘media’ now, would it?

So if media can’t exist without scale, aren’t they more or less the same thing?

There are three types of media people are talking about today - paid media, earned media and owned media.  But shouldn’t we really be calling it paid scale, earned scale and owned scale?

Earned scale is when something is shared with others.  Media has been taking credit for that, but the act of sharing something of interest really isn’t generated by the media.  It’s generated by the content itself.

And what happens if something is still being shared a year later? Is that media’s doing?  Hardly.  

And yet, the concept is still scaling.

Fragmentation is the enemy of scale on the online platform.   Which is why scale is assumed to be more and more difficult to achieve online.  To me, the problem is one of definition.   We're still referring to the word 'scale' the same way in both the online and offline universes.  

We're still using the word 'scale' when we really mean ‘reach’.

Yes, offline scale is about reach or how many.  But online scale is about how long.

How long did the viewer spend with the commercial, or look on the website, or engage with the brand?  What's interesting is that 'how long’ can scale on the digital platform while ‘how many’ seems to be having its difficulty.

So what if we all agreed to refer to reach and scale as two very different things online.

When we talk about reach we’re talking about how many.

And then, when we talk about scale, we’re talking about how long.

Because if scale refers to the amount of time a consumer spends with a brand, then it’s possible to reach fewer and fewer people while still getting the 'scale' the brand needs on the digital platform.

There was once this brilliant ad guy who used to tell me that he could build a brand faster by selling 10% of the people 100% of the way, rather than 100% of the people 10% of the way.

If a brand got 10% of any audience, that brand would be a success.

It’s the difference between worrying about how many versus how long.

The longer people spend with a brand’s messaging, the greater the chance of making a persuasive argument and selling them 100% of the way.  A brand doesn’t need everybody to be successful.  

Ten percent will do nicely.

As the world becomes more and more digital, we need to redefine some of the terms we use to define success in the advertising business.

May I suggest the following.

Media = how many.

Scale = how long.

Media reaches.

Creative scales.

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