Are we cutting out the middle man?
Economic principles tell us that disintermediation in a general sense is:
Disintermediation: “removal of intermediaries in a supply chain or “cutting out the middleman” to deal with every customer directly.”
The big D was starring in roles 7 or 8 years ago when Google plowed into the scene as a force to be reckoned with. In fact I can easily see it as an editorial cartoon (and if I were a better artist I’d attempt to provide a visual) – disintermediation as the slick salesman that leads a smug looking Google away in a new deal with the purchaser while the hired salesman sits defeated in the background.
Disintermediation as witnessed in the information delivery world blew our minds in the beginning – think about changes it brought about in industries such as real estate or with the purchase of items such as photography, movies and books. THE phenomena that leveled the playing field and created a new arena for little guys to beat the big guys without giant marketing dollars and big names, simply by their expertise alone. Thank you Google. Could anyone have imagined the importance of that one word and how much it would go on to affect how we navigate our daily lives?
So what really happened? Although I’ve painted somewhat of a negative story above, did the growth of the information age and the phenomena of disintermediation really hurt anyone in the long run? No! It inspired us.
The bigger picture
The process brought about a change that we probably couldn’t live without today. Entrepreneurs now have incredibly low costs to entry to begin new businesses and disseminate ideas. Real expertise can easily trump big dollar marketing. And the big guys – well they were forced to put their mouths where their money is, embracing the new age of transparency and trust. Everyone had to get naked and some walked proudly on while others made a dash for the backdoor. Disintermediation in the big picture sense then is really just a catalyst for innovation.
So why all the banter? Well, talk of disintermediation is back on the scene with the growth of what some call the “content mindset”. In a world where oysters are available to anyone that wants to work really hard and every expert’s “virtual” door is open for business – fresh, valuable and engaging content delivered across multiple mediums is the most valuable currency. It’s the engagement piece that has some talking – especially marketing and branding agencies. Consumers relate best to brands that deliver stories – stories that evoke emotion and spark connectivity on real life levels, stories that deliver a marketing message almost as clever secondary prose. Funny, sad, touching, inspiring – in YouTube videos, via written words, in movies and magazines and touching pictures – the new age marketer is ultimately challenged with becoming a publisher, a movie maker, a photographer, an actor, an artist.
So will disintermediation disrupt the process for marketing or branding agencies? Will businesses start to leapfrog them in the process in favor of directly working with the artists? Maybe, but likely not. Businesses still need efficiencies and economies. Generally they don’t have the time or resources to develop the meaningful direct relationships that lead to brilliant content creation. Will marketers have to change their models, innovating to stay in the evolving game? Of course.
According to Steve Rubel, chief content officer at PR firm Edelman:
“most marketers wrap content inside a marketing message,” he said. “Good journalists do the opposite. We need to think like them, with the reader’s needs ahead of our own in the creative process.”
Isn’t this what keeps each day exciting? Growth, innovation, change? It’s the natural process of a world that never sits still. Marketers will have to step up the game and change to fit growing needs, but isn’t this what you’ve been doing all along anyway? Carpe Diem.