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A few years ago, families would huddle in front of a large wooden box and sit with head turned to expose the good ear as they listened to The Shadow or myriad cops and robber serials on this magic device known as radio. The owners of the sophisticated broadcasting equipment would create content and send it across the airwaves where it would skip and carom off the ionospheric propagation and into the homes.

Time, like it’s wont to do, moved on and families did too. They huddled in front of an equally large wooden device with a small screen and watched the Ed Sullivan show or their favorite game show. Later soap operas became fashionable and content was created for the audience based upon perceived interests and marketing dollars. Families learned to bathe in the cathode rays of campy comedy and news.

As we headed into the modern era, we huddled in front of a plastic box and watched a small screen—usually orange or green in hue—as we typed away on a keyboard the words “If then” and the computer was born. Sure, that’s simplifying it a bit but you get the point.

Today we hover over a small device in our hand(s) and surf the digital ocean called the Internet. We also own the devices we surf with and through software (apps), we communicate with people all over the world. Revolutionary? It certainly is but in its purest form, it simply represents an evolution of communication. It’s not like we discovered aliens on the far side of Titan.

This new medium is different though. It is built upon the premise that we are engaged in a full duplex conversation in which we, the consumers, are also the creators of the content we consume. This hasn’t been the case for those old wooden boxes.

Now, every human with a connected device has something to say and we can read, see or hear it—apparently so can governments. In 1984 there were around 1,000 connected devices. Today there are close to 10 billion. That’s quite a growth rate if you’re looking for tangible examples of exponential growth.

NASCAR, NBA, NFL, Barclay’s Premier League, Olympics and thousand upon thousands of companies have all crawled on this new medium for myriad reasons. Using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterst and more, and while we like to think of this as a community or collective, nothing really happens without the individual.

Formula 1, then, is surely all over this new medium seeing as the old wooden box medium was so near and dear to its revenue stream right? Wrong. Formula 1 hasn’t embraced the new medium without reluctance and a great deal of reservation. This has left teams and drivers to fend for themselves and they’ve done a decent job of it lately.

If you’ve followed drivers, teams and that wonderfully prolific tweeter, Dickie Stanford, then you know just how pervasive F1 pundits have become in the new medium that is social media. Formula 1, however, offers…crickets.

Vivacity Hangout

That may be changing if the lads I spoke with today on a Google Hangout session have anything to do with it. James from Mercedes and Steve from Caterham are intent on taking social media farther for their employers and it is refreshing to know they mean business—I don’ think Steve liked me saying “Mike Gascoyne is floating around an ocean in a rubber raft” though.

The chat today was centered on, what marketing calls, brand tribalism. The notion that F1 teams and drivers have and can build fan loyalty and passion through social media. What I will say, before you push off and watch the video, is that things are slightly different on this side of the pond.

Having a greatly reduced amount of coverage and access to Formula 1 than the UK, we rely heavily on social media to help us feel connected to the sport. I surmise that is possibly true in return for a bloke in London who fancies MLS soccer or NFL football here in the States.

As such, the way team’s approach social media could be quite different for the localization effect. Anyway, what do you think of F1’s attempt at tribalism and building more brand loyalty, passion and driving sales and sponsor dollars? Give the chat a watch and let us know what you think in the comment section below.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Hey Todd

    Nice summary. I found your views during the Hangout insightful and certainly valid. Believe me, as an avid NFL fan trying to live the sport from the wrong side of the pond, I can empathise with your plight.

    It’s important for F1 (or should be, at least) to properly serve a truly global audience, and the US is a significant part of that. I’m always open to input on how we can do it better. I’d love to see a lot more of these panel type discussions with media, bloggers, fans etc.

  • PS: I enjoyed the Mike comment, but he might not like you calling his round the world racing yacht a rubber raft! ;)

    • LOL…fair enough. Mike deserves a little more credit than a rubber raft although I believe his rescue training was a rubber raft and to be honest, he looked rather professional sitting in it. :)

      I really enjoyed hearing both you and James on team social media. I know you both know this well but in the interest of driving conversation; fans/users are experiencing timeline fatigue. It places a premium on how we curate those timelines and the devices we use to do so. Things have certainly changed.

      It took the Newspaper industry 127 years to generate $20 billion in ad revenue, it took the online digital media industry 13 years to achieve the very same level of revenue. That’s how much things have changed but in the end, content is the white noise we must suffer in order to find the signal.

      Your comment on the NFL is appreciated as it closes the gap on my supposition that social media marketing prime movers are different in each market and the daunting task for Caterham F1 is to make sense of market activations and best-use policy for reaching particular markets. In some sense, I think having localization for account content strategy makes sense. Coke would do well to have a team in the UK focused on content creation bespoke for that particular area and it’s twitter/facebook voice for the brand should have a local nuance to it, not some Yank from the US blowing and going about how well Coke and the UK fit together.

      I chuckle from time to time over the notion that Social media is a young business so teams/companies put 20-something’s in charge of their account. Almost instantly, a company’s main voice now sounds like a 20-something. Imagine huge companies with long histories sounding like a 20-something. It’s ghastly when you think about it. That’s what the company wants people to think of their corporate message, voice and brand that they’ve spent millions on building and refining? Now you toss it in the weeds and post pictures of rabbits breeding or tweet with mittens? WTH? It’s not cheeky, edgy or funny…it’s sophomoric and immature for a brand. JC Penny isn’t admired for being creative and resonating with their customers, they’re big achievement was being ridiculed. Yeah, that’s what I want my brand to be known for.

      Anyway, I do believe in what you’re doing with the team and think you are doing a great job of it mate. It helps when you have a dynamic and prolific, if not egregious, tweeter for a CEO. :) If I could offer honest feedback, it would be that there was a very tangible impact when Tony and Mike left the team to do other things. It really was felt in the overall team message and feel. It almost felt like the team was orphaned. Not because they were actually orphaned but because you had such prolific social media users at the head of the team that disappeared. That vacuum was certainly felt. It’s like losing radio contact to the inner sanctum of Caterham F1 and for fans, that missing insight was certainly felt. Now we have to follow Heikki’s golf game. ;)