Branding is a critical process for any company and protecting a brands image and market position is vital to market relations and shareholder value.
Garr Reynolds, former Apple Brand Executive. says, "The greatest brands of all - that is, the greatest brands to you - are much like a trusted friend. In a sense, we judge brands by asking ourselves the same kind of questions we would ask about people we know or are thinking of doing business with. For example, we might ask: Is he authentic? Is he reliable? Is he honest? Can I trust him? '
Is the Social Web a threat to brands?
With the reach and openness of the social web people are discussing anything about everything, including major brands. There are fifty groups on Facebook titled "Conversations on" (name the brand) and the one about Comcast has gotten significant traffic and subsequent conversational threads about Comcast service. Good, bad and indifferent, the connected individuals are forming swarms and creating conversational rivers about a brands performance. Comcast is now directly engaged in these conversations and active in this group.
Jeff Jarvis writes in Business Week,: Here's some free advice: Go to Google (GOOG), enter any of your company's brands followed by the word "sucks," and you will see the true consumers' reports. Brace yourself: It won't be pretty. Wal-Mart's (WMT) unofficial Google Sucks Index turns up 165,000 results; Disney's (DIS) 530,000; Google's 767,000. What's your number?
Staying a Step Ahead
You see, this is about more than putting out blog fires or quieting complaining customers. It's about more than customer service; indeed some say customer service is the new marketing (that was the title of a conference this month in San Francisco). No, this is about collaboration with your customers in every aspect of your business. If you enable them, they will provide customer service for each other. They will help design your products. They will sell your products. They will create your marketing message-they always did control your brand.
So when you reach out to that kvetching blogger you found online, you're engaged in customer service as well as PR, market research, marketing, sales, and product development. You are reinventing your company-and, if you get there before your competitors, your industry. That is why you shouldn't relegate this vital task to one department or some interns or consultants. You should reorganize the company around this new relationship with your customer, finally putting that customer at the center of everything you do because-thanks to the Web-you can. If you don't, well, someone will you say you "suck
How Will Brands Respond?
Peter Montoya's book "The Personal Branding Phenomenon "says, "It's the new reality no one wants to concede - and it's the cold, hard reality behind success in the new millennium. From the schoolroom to the boardroom, everyone succeeds - or fails - by the rules of Personal Branding. Personal Branding isn't the product of ad agencies or corporations; it's a continuous process that's as old as society. A Personal Brand - the values, abilities, and personality traits people associate with each of us - affects our careers, our relationships... our lives."
The message to the major brands is that the social web has made branding personal and unless the brands learn how to be personal then the social web is a threat. When people call customer service or have a problem with a brands product or service they want personal service, not an automated answer. Bad service or no service, thanks to the social web, is not longer contained to the few rather bad experiences can spread one to one to millions at the click of a mouse.
Brands have two choices: deny the process, or engage in it. Now consider how much social networking and related emerging technology has created the phenomena in which the masses are becoming connected with influence. Your brand is largely influenced by what customers testify as to its quality, responsiveness and ability to identify personally with the customer, people.
Now stop and reflect as to whether your brand is active in the social web or ignoring it. If your answer is the latter then your brand is failing to personally engage with the customer, people.
What say you?