There's been a misleading trend for at least the last 2 years, mostly promoted by us, digital marketers.
We said to our clients that it could be natural to "talk" to a brand on a regular basis. The mobile marketing myth opened a gate to evergreen, on-going ties with pools of consumers, so much demanding of brand experience.
Come on, it's fundamentally wrong. I never talk to my diet Coke can, even when I drink too much vodka. I never ask Louis Vuitton how he's doing. And I never date Unilever, I'm not that kind of boy.
Let's face it: people who really sleep in front of H&M for the launch of a new collection don't represent the vast majority of brands' reputation shareholders: they are a "hardcore" minority of your audience. Sometimes they're really interesting, because they really love your brand. But sometimes they're just hunting sales, to freeride on you on eBay. Do you still like these guys? Not sure.
More seriously, we've been implementing a lot of Social Channels, trying to reach "consumers". We've been implementing Open Graph assets in our properties; and I think that for some brands, Social Design is now a very interesting part of their contact strategy ROI.
We're now pretty good at centralizing all the contact areas which can be suggested in front of consumers. But a contact strategy does not mean that you know how to shape a brand culture. Because all that happens in the back of Social Media, or more accurately in the depth of your strategy.
Few clues and weak signals tend to prove that we're going back to basics of Social Media: people talking to ohter people.
- Skype + Microsoft Windows Live = the power of extimacy
Do you wonder why teenagers still massively buy Blackberry and why SMS is still booming? It's because they are some of the only tools which really allow an on-going chat with friends, relatives, dates, lovers. It's for the exact same reason that What's App is one of the most downloaded app this year. The fact that our good old MSN merges with Skype is one of the most dramatic moves for 2013. It's a mix of personal conversations (hello, asl?, what's up) with the power of external social spaces integration (what's going on? no way! it's happening). They're going to be present in the middle of real cultural habits, powered by users, and will probably be the masterpiece in the Purchasing Decision Process. What we expect from brands in these spaces is not to talk to us, but to provide social functions. How can I offer a gift to a friend? Can I add a special tag if he also buys the same drink at Starbucks? It's still in exploratory territory...
- Tangible community or die
At the end, communities who only regroup for ideas (fans forums, pregnancy hubs etc.) are really complicated to approach for external brands. If you sell products to people who are here for help, the transformation rate may be a bit low. But what we see is that there's a growing trend for real experience, real gathering, through tangible events. The best example is for beauty/cosmetics, with Glossybox or Joliebox: you have a social need, you want to enjoy the testing of products, you want to share your thoughts. A mix of rituals + concrete elements. I bet this tangible asset will be implemented by brands more widely. Because it's a discovery ship to the depth of a brand culture. A like does not help: a sample with a like matters
- Native communities vs artificial brand allies
Believe it or not, there are still very few agencies and brands who really outreach and engage REAL communities. They tend to focus to the same bloggers, or to their fans. It's a natural process: you feel better when you "own" a relationship. But with new influential loops (Social TV) and new digital influencers (using the power usage of visual sharing platforms), brands will need to go back to native communities instead of trying to shape new ones ex nihilo. Some brands already do it well (Levi's, Converse...).