This week’s #bizforum debate is inspired by fellow Social Media Master Jonathan Copulsky’s presentation Brand Resilience: Managing Risk and Recovery in a High-Speed World. The topic inspired me to question whether Branding has become a defensive play?
According to the Kellogg School of Management, a brand is the “psycho-cultural associations linked to a name, mark or symbol associated with a product or service”, which essentially means the image you see in your head or positive/negative feeling you get when you encounter some visualization of the brand.
Michael Eisner (former CEO at Disney) expands the definition with: “a brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time…the product of a thousand small gestures.” The point being building a strong brand required time and consistency of messaging down to the very last detail, however small or insignificant it may seem in isolation.
An argument can be made that building a brand this way is “old school” and that in today’s hyper-connected world, a brand is no longer the warm & fuzzy established by the brand’s imagery and advertising but a brand-perception that is authored by the “wisdom of crowds”… the masses who document their biased opinions with every tweet, comment and check in across social networks. Further amplifying social brand-perceptions are those who feel the need to actively seek out consumers and potential customers and insert their biases into those dialogues. You see, push marketing isn’t just for marketers anymore.
Collectively, these individual perceptions – shared one tweet, “Like”, Google +1, Digg or comment at time – become what Michael Eisner refers to as the “thousand small gestures”. At the time, I’m sure Mr. Eisner considered that those gestures would be created and delivered by his Marketing & PR team (via advertising) and his staff (via customer service) and not the public itself.
Like it or not, people trust people over corporate messaging, which is increasingly being perceived as PR spin regardless of the accuracy, honesty or sincerity of the message.
The public’s general scepticism and reliance on their peers to tell them what to think and believe was born out of “a perfect storm” that was created when the big-accounting firm scandals of the 80s/90s and more recently the collapse of major financial institutions met the rise of the Internet, Web 2.0 and social media, which gave the public a stronger voice just as they were growing distrustful of any form of big business or authority figure. Terms like the “wisdom of crowds” and “trust agents” caught on to denote the shift in control of brand perception – and more importantly influence – from the marketer to the consumers’ peers.
And so it’s natural that marketers are going “on the defensive” like never before to protect their brands and wrestle back control from the public. Brand spin can just as easily be generated and propagated by the public as it can by the PR/Marketing team. So much so that PR firms are increasingly being called up to deliver “brand reputation management” services online. A new industry born from this “perfect storm”.
The Main Event
So back to the debate: has the ability of the public to collectively create and/or impact the perception of a brand changed the nature of branding from a proactive, push marketing & customer service exercise to a reactive brand reputation management one?
Jonathan and I, along with the Social Media Master’s audience will surely debate this in person when we cross paths at the upcoming events in Atlanta, New York City and Kansas City (www.socialmediamasters.com) but you’ll all have the chance to weigh in during this week’s #bizforum debate: Wednesday August 17th, 2011 at 8 PM Eastern/7 PM Central. Feel free to post your thoughts FOR or AGAINST in the comments below. It will help share the debate online and at our presentations!
By Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego
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