It's important for a brand to understand their new role as a Publisher. It's important for a brand to understand that nothing happens unless they are interesting. It's also important for a brand to understand that none of that matters unless they are relevant.
A lot of people confuse "being relevant" with simply following a "trend" or "fad." You can quibble over the semantics of that last sentence, but think about American Idol and what Simon Cowell constantly attempts to reinforce to the young, aspiring singers in the early days of the competition (and no, I too can't believe that I'm using an American Idol reference here). Cowell constantly lets these artists know when they are (and when they're not) being relevant in terms of their age, their song selection and the general zeitgeist of the world. It's a great question for a brand to constantly question and prod...
Are we, truly, relevant to our consumers and the industry we serve?
When you think about some of the best Creative Directors in advertising, you can see one common thread amongst their varying looks, style and approaches. For the most part, the creative folks who are at the top of their game are either culturally relevant or are directly tied in to the many various components of our society that inspire them to be relevant. Relevancy is such a complex concept for most brands because they do tend to confuse what it means to be relevant versus getting caught up in trends and fads.
Being relevant is (and can be) many different things to many different people and industries.
We are at a unique moment in time when Social Media enables and empowers everyone to publish their thoughts to the world. What makes it even more unique is that a lot of the focus (for many people and brands) is in using these channels to help them reach a bigger and broader audience. Prior to all of this, we had traditional media and a very fixed/finite amount of companies publishing content for the masses. Now, we have this conundrum where we have to become better human editors to sift through the masses of content (for more on this, please read: Mass Media Or Mass Content - What's Worse?). Who comes out on top? Which type of content wins?
It's not those that are publishers, and it's not those that are interesting. The ones that come out on top are the ones that are relevant.
How does one become relevant? Ahhh... that is the secret sauce (the mystery... the little black box). It's some parts imagination, some parts curiosity, some parts hubris, some parts creativity, some parts execution, and some parts insights. Those that are able to find some magical (and personal) concoction of those parts are, typically, those who do become relevant. Awesome timing doesn't hurt either.
Think about Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Blogs, etc... Who do you follow? Who can't you live without? It's always those who are relevant