As The Most Interesting Man in the World says in the Dos Equis commercials, “Find that thing you do not do well … then do not do that thing!”
Today, accountability for brand performance is heightened exponentially by social media communities, whose members can be ruthlessly truthful about brand performance v marketing promises — in in a highly public setting (blogs, Facebook, etc.). Social media, in essence, becomes the “brand promise police” (or lynch mob). So, more than ever, it is essential that brands deliver flawlessly on their promises.
According to a 2007 global Nielsen survey of 26,486 Internet users in 47 markets, consumer recommendations were the most credible form of advertising among 78 percent of the study’s respondents. According to a 2009 Nielsen report, “Global Faces and Networked Places,” two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit social networking or blogging sites, accounting for almost 10% of all internet time. Putting these two studies together projects a pretty powerful position for social media in shaping brand perceptions.
Back in the day, marketing was mostly a monologue, with snapshots of research guidance, where brand messaging was a one-way street from brand to consumer. Brands hosted events, ads, and other promotional events to push messaging and product. Today, social media creates a running dialog, taking the neighborhood “fencepost” to a new level. It forms a nexus of potentially millions of people where opinions of brands are voiced in a gloves-off mosh pit of customer/consumer scrutiny. So today, it’s even more essential than ever to NOT over promise brand delivery. Instead, brands must be “surgically” precise in defining their value propositions, while consistently articulating and supporting them through every brand touchpoint, especially product and service performance. Finally, they should be certain to include a continuous feedback loop to update messages in real time to address the shifting sands of vox populi at any given moment.
In contrast to a simple brand model with the customer at the center of the universe, today customer issues are at the core with communities forming around them. These communities accumulate consensus and can reposition brands outside of the brand’s control. If a brand’s promise meets its performance, it is considered “a good brand.” If not, well … then do not do that thing! Or modify your promise.
One way to look at this new paradigm is to understand that brands are now the guests of communities, instead of their hosts. Today, communities more often form around issues than individual brands. And rather than enjoying that time-honored “competitive cushion” offered by media, which avoided competitive ad adjacency, social media pits brands mano a mano in a public forum. This is where your evangelists are indispensable, defending your brand among the detractors.
Bottom line? Promises are intrinsically meant to be kept. Social media trends are simply another club over the head to remind us that we must keep our brand promises faithfully, and that our brands are not the center of the universe, but rather servants of demand.