A Brand New Future.

I admit it. I went to see the Miley Cyrus brand at the O2. Whatever the rumours to the contrary, it was my kids that wanted to go.

They badgered me at least once to buy tickets, which, as a dutiful father, I did. I spent the first few tracks ogling a blonde dancer with my daughter’s binoculars, and then there was a pause. The music lowered and brand Hannah, I mean Miley, addressed her adoring fathers. I mean fans.

“This Summer I had to, you know, get away from everything and everyone and do some growing up. So I made a movie called ‘The Last Song,’ and it was so totally the best thing I’ve ever done. I hope you enjoy it,” she husked. I realised at that point that I’d just been branded.

Miley disappeared and we were all ‘treated’ to a trailer of her new movie on the giant screens. I wasn’t sure I approved. It was like being at a movie theatre instead of a gig. An expensive, noisy, 23,000 seater movie theatre. Nonetheless, we sat there and watched a trailer at a live concert. Everyone clapped and the screaming never actually stopped, but I still wasn’t sure.

Whilst the trailer played on the centre screen, the side screens displayed graphics of the movie logo and the website address – Miley came back onstage, sang a song from the movie (presumably the last song) and the crowd went wild.

So what’s the problem? Well, I understand merchandising and promotion. I believe I still have a treasured Thin Lizzy t-shirt from the 1983 Thunder and Lightning Tour that I’ve saved for special. So that’s not the problem.

The problem was the line. It felt like it had been crossed.

‘Good Lord! Promoting her movie in the middle of a concert? Outrageous! That’s not what I’m used to. Whatever next…etc.’

My reaction felt familiar and I needed to pinpoint it. I’m pleased to announce (without a trailer) that I’ve remembered where the unease came from. It’s how I felt some years ago when a pimply-nerdy-geek-type told me that traditional B2B communications were dead and that the future was digital. I guffawed, spluttered and muttered outrageousnesses then lay down in a darkened room to sniff some well earned printed collateral. But just because you don’t like it or are unfamiliar with the territory, doesn’t mean it isn’t so.

I’ve had to move at speed in the last few years of digital development just to keep up. There are some home truths about online brands that every B2B marketer needs to face, and at the moment, they’re not.

At a recent B2B Marketing Conference I proposed the debate, ‘This house believes that traditional B2B communications are dead. Brands must migrate to digital or face the same fate.’ Despite a compelling rationale, I was roundly thrashed in the voting. I surveyed the audience and, to my surprise, some of the faces looked pretty outraged. How very dare I even suggest that digital will replace the communications that they’ve relied on so stoically for the last decade or more? I had just crossed the line.

But even at a Miley Cyrus gig, the channel of communication was digital. The trailer directed me to I accessed the site using my iPhone and was pointed towards a Facebook page and encouraged to follow the movie on Twitter – all digital.

I mentioned the differences between traditional concerts and the multi-channel, multi-media digital experience of the Miley gig to my nine year old daughter. She shrugged in a completely passive, assumptive way and said simply, “Come on Dad, what did you expect?” I can’t be sure, but I suspect my face looked very similar to those I saw in the crowd at the B2B Conference.

The line has moved. Expectations have changed. We will all ultimately become old farts and die. The question is how quickly you want to realise that fate. Personally, I left the gig a far hipper father than I went in. Digital, like, so totally rocks. Dude.

Scot McKee