We are living in an age where brand--like it or not--can no longer control the message. Customers, the experiences they have, and how they choose to share them are now in control.
The human channel is our network and it is the future of marketing and branding. It's not so much a social network proper as much as it is an open line between people to people however those connections are made, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, review sites, communities, apps, et al. It is here where individual truths are spoken and shared. This is why brand experiences are more important than ever before. They're felt. They're shared.
Listening, learning and allowing the conversation to shape product output--this paves the way for a new wave of user generated PR. By addressing consumer wishes directly, companies create unprecedented loyalty despite the fact that consumer lead PR can either impact them negatively or positively with the potential to be fatal to the brand's identity if the pendulum swings too far to the negative.
The Hollywood Blockbuster
Last year composer and filmmaker Alexis Kirke conducted an experiment on Emotional Optimization. The term Emotional Optimization relates to the discovery that certain parts of the brain correspond to different emotions. Participants wear sensors that allow Kirke to monitor their brain waves, heart rates, perspiration levels, and muscle tension. These readings were then fed into a computer, where they were analyzed in real-time. The results were used to alter the direction of the film's narrative based upon the emotional responses of the participants. Kirke's research could prove to be a huge breakthrough for the entertainment industry's inefficient business model of where only one out of five movies becomes a blockbuster. The possibility of shooting alternatives endings with different soundtracks could mean going from one successful blockbuster to perhaps three or four. (Source.)
Hollywood blockbusters with their broad target audience, deep production and advertising budgets are an example of where wearable technology has the potential to revolutionize the entire industry by steering it away from being an auteur driven medium to one that is literally consumer driven.
Shaping the future of menu choices
For the last couple of years, secret menus are an ongoing trend for restaurants. These menus offer diners the possibility of tasting new unlisted items. It allows the restaurant to evolve their offering in real time and test potential new menu additions without a commitment to a full scale rollout investment. This trend is a tastefully done experiment that could potentially prove to be a tremendous customer influenced option.
From mainstream chains to independently owned restaurants have their customers partaking in shaping the future menu items by human channel advocacy. Customers who have experienced a secret menu item will have a deeper resonance with the brand and higher probability of telling their friends about the food, either through social media or word-of-mouth.
Hashtags gone wrong
Today's PR efforts can easily become a runaway-train either used for the benefit of the business or twisted into something entirely new.
The probably overworked community manager at DeGiorno who hashtagged #whyistayed in a pizza promotion last week before realizing it was associated with domestic violence and was not a joking matter: "The tweet was a huge mistake. A bad, embarrassing, hurtful mistake. Never missing an opportunity to claim a scalp, Twitter and The Blogs attacked." -According to Tim Herrera of Washington Post.
As this article points out: 'Brands are people, too, you know.' It is exactly right. By being human and apologizing for the flub DeGiorno puts itself in a different light by admitting their wrongs and insuring us that nothing this careless will ever happen again, at least not on social.
Last week #voguearticles broke out on Twitter as a comeback to an article that glorified big booty as being in style. It implied that Jennifer Lopez, Iggy Azalea, Rose McGowan and Kim Kardashian have brought 'back'(pun intended) this trend.
Vogue's press office has yet to respond to what appears to be a PR catastrophe. They have the option to turn it, around as some brands have done in the past, by running with this newly generated flurry of posts and embrace it.
Since body parts ARE NOT trends, Vogue could piggyback on the tremendous amount of talk about this post and make light of it by running a submission of hottest hands, elbows, and knees, since you know they're #ontrend, which would diffuse any negativity associated with the big booty debacle.
It isn't the first time, and certainly won't be the last time consumer inspired PR will take control of the wheel. Brands and media need to approach such scenarios with a sense of humor and add a human touch reminding us that at the end of the day we are all flawed humans who make mistakes.
This new wave of "freedom of speech" has not only reduced the brand's control of its image and message but it is also leveling the playing field for businesses by humanizing how they interact with customers. It is becoming a peer to peer relationship. Companies now have the ability to lean into this new consumer driven paradigm and benefit from this rapid evolution.
Main image credit: FastCoLabs