At first glance, it may seem there are few implications for professional services companies from last week’s announcement that The Walt Disney Company is acquiring – pending regulatory and shareholder approval – many of 21st Century Fox’s assets; however, the deal speaks to larger macro media and consumer trends that impact marketing and communications strategies for B2B companies.
Traditional Advertising in Decline – Disney’s stated long-game with Fox’s assets is to bolster its forthcoming streaming services, one for Disney/Pixar/Marvel fare and one for sports. Increasingly, young consumers are “cable-nevers,” picking and choosing entertainment options on demand and with far fewer commercials than the standard cable bundle. This accelerates the move away from ad-supported programming. A lower tolerance for explicit sales messages means an increased reliance on branded content – companies “advertising” through subtle messaging and by creating compelling media that drives thought-leadership. Bottom-line: traditional ads are more and more passé while blogs and podcasts are rising in status.
Adapt or Suffer – Netflix used to be a company that stuffed DVDs in envelopes and mailed them out to customers. Today, a whole generation has never known that side of the company, as it has transformed into a content aggregator and now creator – with an estimated yearly original content budget between $7 – 8 billion. Disney wanted Fox because it’s engaged in an arms race where millennials favor device and content accessibility and care little about brand pedigree. Professional services companies – especially post-Great Recession – are also finding that the name on the door isn’t a bulwark against disruption. Brands still matter, but consumers are more open to alternatives than in previous generations, and legacy defenses – “geographical fiefdoms” and the cable bundle – are no longer as meaningful. Professional services companies do well to avoid a mindset and marketing and communications strategy that dwells on company history without regard for where and how the consumer mindset is shifting.
Content, and Lots of It, Is Still King – Consumers today have access to virtually limitless entertainment fare – more TV shows, movies, news and music than ever before. Disney wanted Fox because it gives the company even more content to offer, from The Americans to The Simpsons. There is increasingly an expectation that professional services providers not just be good at the technical application of their jobs, but will also be insightful and personable. Consumers are more inquisitive and have more resources to learn about issues than in past generations. This is yet another reason that byline articles, blogs/guest blog posts, speaking engagements and third-party commentary should be the norm for business-to-business professionals.