I'll give you the end, then the ramble:
Brand is your personal window into a shared experience.
Bear with me.
I've long held that the music industry wasn't in the music business - it was in the CD printing and distribution business. I caught the edge of Steve Knopper on NPR last night, and he highlighted another key role they play now: the minting of celebrities. This, he suggested, would be their primary role going forward, now that musicians themselves have distribution tools and marketing strategies of their own.
So if Music's core proposition is not printing but minting, can they exploit that? and can they carry (and monetize) that core expertise out of the music vertical, when IMG and CAA and Paris Hilton and Shaun White are already out there?
And then, take advertising.
Advertising isn't the ad business, it's the influence business, right? Because done well it influences decision making. And knowing 'job one' is to enhance our client's business and brands, the question to ask is: What is brand x's most effective way to influence your decision making? And not just your decision (though they love you, the REAL you, trust me, they do), but the decision-making across enough wallets to support the infrastructural investment to make the widgets you so hotly covet?
And that question now leads you in a variety of directions, from product, to experiences to software to films, music, games, and yes, possibly "ads".
We are creating the next generation of shared experiences - synchronous and asynchronous. Facebook is fundamentally asynchronous, though the "chat" functionality tries to bridge that...even Match.com trys to relationship build on dead drop boxes til you meet. How do we use tech to bring us together rather than isolate us, while the reality of "Shared Experience" is in flux?
Because brands, regardless of whether they 'do' beverages, sneakers, mobile devices or hotel rooms, are at the core, in the "Shared Experience" business. They both reflect and create narratives that invite folks in.
Now that technology has eliminated barriers of distance, geography, time (through multi zone and asynchronous interaction), language (google translator) and even caste/culture ("noone knows you're a dog online") - we get a magical new sea of hyper-accelerated idea propagation, ambient intimacy and spontaneous group/community formation at scale. The ability to create new narratives, individual and shared, is wide open to anyone. Net, we've removed barriers of manufacturing, distribution and communication/marketing. Anyone one can affect everything.
So look at your business. What is your core proposition?
Music Industry = Celebrity
Advertising = Influence
Nokia = Connection
Now all you need to do is make money at it, using all the tools at your disposal. You know, the EASY part.