Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Social media puts a point on what every great brand has always done.

I picked up my latest issue of Marketing Management tonight to wind down after another great day sharing the plans, vision and the new name for a community we are creating outside Seattle. Not wanting a huge commitment of time, I flipped to Don E. Schultz's column that I read with interest every issue. A short column, it's always pithy and thought-provoking. Tonight did not disappoint, but I think he missed the point.

His column talks about the whole new world we live in, where the customer has control. He asks, "Is Persuasion Dying?"

That's not the point. That hasn't been the point in meaningful, customer-focused branding for years.

I mean years. Many marketers may have only woken up to this fact in the last 3-5 years, and point to social media as the game changing reason why. But truthfully, all of us, as consumers, have been in control a lot longer than that.

What social media does I think is give those smart brands out there more opportunities to be talked about. You Tubed about. Tweeted about. The core premise of a brand, when truly used as a business asset, has and always will be a promise you make to your customers. It's never been about short-term interchangeable brand concepts that are more ad slogans than anything else, designed to persuade buyers. That's promotional marketing. That's ad copywriting. That's all good too, and it has its place.

The article asserts that social media is the reason why "having one clear, distinct, incontrovertible brand image is becoming harder and harder to develop and maintain". I don't agree at all. Social media simply gives us and our customers more channels and vehicles with which to share and communicate. And that includes communicating about powerful, great experiences we have with brands that work hard to deliver on their promise at every opportunity. It isn't an excuse to not work hard until your brain hurts to find the authentic nugget inside your company or product that connects with and matters to your customer.

That's what this crazy business has always been about. Social media has simply given us a faster, more expansive view into how we are performing as we continue the hard work each day of defining and delivering the promise of our brand. Meeting our customers' needs, while finding ways to co-create with them has always been the heavy lifting of successful businesses. Social media doesn't make it new. It just puts a big giant point on it!


  1. I would go a step further, if you define "brand" as the accumulation of the experiences people have when interacting with your product, service or place, which is the way I like to think about, then social media just gives us one more way to have meaningful interactions.

  2. The ideal goal is to turn "existing" consumers into stark raving lunatics about your brand. They've bought in and you want them shouting their enthusiasm about your brand in a way that's emotionally compelling to fence-sitters. In this context, you're absolutely right, e.g., social media doesn't make this goal new - but it does "put a big giant point on it." Social media thus becomes another tool to make this happen - and in a way, it makes reaching this goal easier, esp. if you've got a hook that's impossible to ignore. If that hook is real (vs. stunt-based or a one-off promotion), then the possibilities can be endless AND enduring. Great post, TST!