Content Badges for the Digital Age

2011 November 21

A walk through a living room ten years ago displayed signage worthy of Times Square. Content brands blasted messages about the consumer’s politics, preferences, and profession: The Wall Street Journals piled in the corner, the latest issue of GQ on the coffee table, the complete collection of Marx Brothers DVDs, Puccini operas on CD, and Ayn Rand titles on the bookshelf.

Those content brands are disappearing from the living room. The content is now housed on iPads, streamed through PlayStations, and stored on Dell PCs.

Content badges are vanishing from public spaces, too. At Starbucks and subway stations smart phones and tablets, like the Kindle Fire Amazon released last week, are replacing newspapers, magazines and books.

Both analog and digital content entertain and inform the consumer. But its only analog content that publicly brands the consumer. Often times the brand affiliation play a part in the purchase decision.

When content is distributed digitally it’s hidden within hardware and part of the value proposition is lost. But there are ways to restore the public branding benefits of digital content.

Content providers can give digital buyers logos to display on their social network profile pages. Subscribers to the print Financial Times tuck the salmon-colored fashion accessories under their arms to display knowledge of world markets. To digital subscribers, the Financial Times can give badges for display on LinkedIn and Facebook profile pages.

Another approach is for content providers to provide buyers with physical artifacts to represent the digital content. UltraViolet gives DVD buyers access to the same content online. This hybrid method, albeit a transitional technology, gives consumers both a case to display and cloud access.

In the same way investment bankers display Lucite deal toys, consumers may wish to show off their connection to content brands. Disney can give Simba figurines to consumers who download the Lion King. Today The New Yorker sells iPad jackets featuring iconic covers.