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Fragmentation: Uncertainty and opportunity for marketers

The digital innovation imperative 

The smaller particles become and the larger the number of routes they can travel, the greater the difficulty of predicting their behavior. The fragmentation of media delivery systems and the atomization of audiences and content are the ingredients of uncertainty for brand marketers.

Audiences have become both disaggregated and independent of schedules. The fast- growing media channels are homes to faster-moving content fragments. And

the achievement of both paid and organic reach is increasingly mediated by algorithms that strive to optimize usefulness to the increasingly capricious consumer while yielding to the platform.

In aggregate this demands a new mindset among advertisers: “Stay nimble for the long run.” These ideas are in apparent opposition, but the willingness to depart from legacy processes, the courage to embrace the new, together with the patience and determination to believe that fame over time, born from confidence in consumers’ ability to assemble a dynamic jigsaw of messaging, experiences and other stimuli, are co-dependent in the pursuit of success.

Brands that succeed in the coming years will be those that can combine innovation in function and purpose with communication assets that are useful and relevant. Those assets will proliferate and increasingly take on the native form of the channels that carry them. In every brand there will be a new active ingredient. That ingredient will be data. The data will both tell stories and allow stories to be discovered; the data will interact with passive beacons and active devices, giving consumers a nudge to action and enabling those consumers to share what they discover.

Once the Pandora's box of data-enabled discovery is opened in the pursuit of closer consumer connections, the marketer needs to shine light into the dark corners of that box to ensure that his house is clean. This is the new transparency. Brands that succeed in the future will have a purpose, will take a position, will live that through the supply of materials and data, and in doing so will welcome the atomization of messaging required to optimize the dizzying demand chain we now live in.


1. Channels and behaviors that disrupt are also the ones that enable.

2. Authenticity and advocacy go together.

3. Fragmentation and precision are a balanced threat and opportunity.

4. An internal audit of brand integrity is cathartic and pays a long dividend.

5. Innovation is not optional. Not everything experimental in every channel succeeds, but the only sure path to failure is to not try in the first place.

6. Somehow fame still matters. As WPP advertising sage Jeremy Bullmore said, “If you want to be as famous as Madonna, everyone has to know who you are.”