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It's About More Than Music 1 August 2000 Edition
Previous Edition

I had a lot of feedback on yesterday's column and much of it followed the same theme -- that music or video could never be protected by encryption because at some stage it had to be converted to sound and/or images before being used.

Many pointed out that the analog signal coming out of a DVD or CD player would always be susceptible to piracy by capturing it and encoding it in MP3, DivX or whatever digital format was appropriate.

I will concede that this is true -- but then again you can record your favourite tracks from FM radio or from TV and convert them if we're really happy with analog-quality recordings.

The other issue is that existing music and video is essentially one-dimensional -- little more than a sequence of sounds and images which are linear from start to finish. DVD and the proposed newer formats are decidedly non-linear and offer a wave of new functionality and features.

A taste of this can be found with some modern DVDs that allow the viewer to select different endings to the same story, view scenes from different perspectives, look "behind the scenes", select different language audio tracks and even different display formats.

It is rumoured that the next generation of disks will integrate video and audio -- such that the same disk can be used as an audio-only recording like a CD to get high-quality sound and then, when connected to a TV, also deliver the video as well. Other functions might include delivering the music as a multi-track recording so that you can do your own mixing and save your settings keyed against each track.

In short, the new media can deliver a lot more than just the music -- and that's how the RIAA and MPAA will try to sell the market on switching formats. Just as it took very little time for people to shift from vinyl and cassette to CD, most consumers would probably switch to the new format very quickly if the players were (near) free and there were some really positive benefits associated with it.

Remember -- one of the key benefits of modern technology is customisation and personalisation. To date you haven't been able to customise your music -- the new format will let you mix your very own, possibly unique versions of your favourite tracks. A single track will then have an infinite number of variations and as your tastes change you could even go back and remix your favourites to suit your mood.

Marketing Your Website: Branding
Where do most "average" Net users go to find information on the Internet?

The ratings indicate that a huge number of them go to Yahoo! -- but why?

Most "seasoned" Net users realise that it's often much quicker and more effective to go to Google.com or AltaVista when you're looking for something -- but Yahoo have done such an excellent job of establishing their branding that many people use it either because they think it's the best or simply because it's all they've heard of.

The power and value of branding should not be underestimated -- look at the example of CocaCola. Why on earth do people pay up to $2 for a bottle which contains little more than 98% water, some sugar, food colouring, caffeine and other flavouring ingredients? Because CocaCola have firmly established their brand name in the minds of customers.

Thanks to some extremely powerful and pervasive advertising and very high-powered marketing approach, the manufacturers have succeeded in associating this sticky brown liquid with youth, vitality, and good times.

Even more ludicrous is the fact that people are prepared to pay similar amounts of money for little green bottles of Perrier water -- because the manufacturers have given it a "snob factor" and, thanks to the same kind of smart marketing, it has become associated with wealth, fame and success. Perrier aren't selling water -- they're selling a message that people can give to those around them: "look at me, I don't drink water, I drink Perrier."

Once you have established a strong branding, much of your marketing becomes automatic -- if people associate only your brand with the service or product you provide then you have a powerful promotional tool. Just look at the example of Xerox. Because the Xerox company were able to strongly establish their brand as "the" photocopier company, the word "Xerox" became synonymous with photocopy. In offices around the world you'd hear people say "can you Xerox this for me" whenever they wanted something copied -- that's effective branding and a powerful word-of-mouth marketing tool.

So how do you establish strong branding on the Net?

Tomorrow I'll provide some simple and very effective methods of getting your branding out to the wider web.

As always, your feedback is welcomed.

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