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One Small Step for Brands

Sunday 14 November 2012 saw a giant leap in the way technology intersects with historic, real-life events. People gathered round laptops, tablets and mobiles to watch as Felix Baumgartner plummeted 24 miles from the stratosphere to earth. Social media channels around the world came alive, while TV sets sat unattended.

This death-defying stunt, orchestrated by Red Bull, was to become YouTube’s biggest live streamed event to date. Immediately, Baumgartner was a global phenomenon. Not just because he risked exploding lungs or boiling blood, but because the potential for sharing, trending and interacting online can now propel a man, a brand or a business into the online stratosphere.

We are more connected than ever before, and it is no longer a one way connection. If Baumgartner’s brave (or crazy) jump shows us anything, it’s that we don’t just want to ‘find stuff’ on the internet. We want to be a part of the interactive universe of the web. Video has played a huge role in this transition, and as such is growing exponentially. eMarketer forecasts that by in 2016 there will be 1.3 billion online video viewers. Whether you’re looking up presidential debates or dogs on skateboards, video has established itself as an essential tool in the online discovery. The way we find and watch video has evolved to meet the way we behave when we are connected. Explicit, keyword-based search still has its uses, but increasingly, and particularly with regard to entertainment content, search has become discovery.

Our dependence on being constantly connected and the rise of social networks - whether it’s Facebook delivering a constant feed of stories from friends or Twitter keeping us up to date with followers and trends – has profoundly changed the way that we interact with the web. We are using traditional search as a starting point less often, with a third of us relying more on recommendations from the content universe delivered to us by our friends and the people we follow. And more often than not, accessed via our mobile and tablet devices.

Soon, every device will have an internet connection as standard, and as it changes the way that we consume television, brands need to work out how they can capitalise on this new landscape – and fast. It’s no longer enough for people to view content – or show content. The age old adage ‘if you build it they will come’ no longer rings true. Instead, what we’ve seen from Felix Baumgartner’s jump is that live interaction with a brilliant idea, event or product is a contagious concept. Combine storytelling, branding, emotion, to the right person at the right time, on the right device, and you cannot fail. Brands that start experimenting now will be the ones the reap the rewards.