Social Media Strategy

What does your brand stand for?

December 17, 2009

Today I’d like to talk about support for causes and how I believe this can affect the marketing communications approach for brands both now and in the future.  This was the post that I originally intended to write last week but got distracted when my favorite writing tool was offline.

CausesI was reading an excellent post earlier by Augie Ray where he says ‘in 2010, your brand will be more defined by what you do and who you are!‘  I couldn’t agree more, and to me this is the essence of where business is heading.  Think about it – when you hear about a specific cause that you believe in being championed by a brand, don’t you feel a closer connection to that brand?  I believe that this kind of connection is going to be vital for the successful brands of the future.  The age of advertising as we once knew it is over.  We can’t rely on the ways of the past or ‘better creative’ to be the saviors of our brands.  There has to be something more.

What does your brand really stand for?

People are paying more attention to what brands are doing and what they stand for than what they are saying about themselves.  People are talking with each other and discovering things about brands at a staggering pace, so naturally the more positive associations people find with brands they are considering, the better.  And of course, with the addition of real-time search to the equation, this is only compounded in importance.

We can all learn a valuable lesson from the Toyota social media fiasco that is really picking up steam right now.  I won’t get into the specifics, but you can read about it here.  The idea though is that it appears that this was approached using old thinking in a new medium.  Instead of trying to come up with a clever ad campaign to advertise the Yaris, they could have asked some better questions like ‘how can we connect with potential buyers and give them something positive to talk about in relation to our brand or the Yaris in particular?’  Or maybe ‘how can we make a difference in the lives of the people that we hope will buy a Yaris,’ or ‘what are some of the social issues that this group of people are passionate about and is there a way to align our brand with organizations or causes that are helping?’  Instead, they took a risk on the shock factor in what looks like a slick commercial in the name of ‘user generated content’ and have alienated a lot of potential buyers in the process.

Asking better questions

Instead of trying to get clever with your messaging, why not try thinking smarter by understanding how humans think and behave and how your brand fits into the bigger picture of this dynamic.  What if you take a percentage of your budget and dedicate it to social causes that will resonate with your target?  What if instead of always talking about how wonderful your brand, product, or service is, you help make the world a better place to live and let that message spread organically?  Which do you think is going to resonate and get people talking more?  Is it worth a shot?  I think so.  After all, if people are going to talk about your brand, wouldn’t it be nice to have a nice positive theme running alongside the discussion?  And it should go without saying that the support should be authentic, not contrived or opportunistic.

Remember, ‘social’ is not just a function of the Marketing, PR, and Customer Service departments.  All aspects of business are affected and can benefit from becoming more social.  The entire organization should be listening to what’s happening out there and responding with ideas and programs that will resonate with the participants of the conversation (special thanks to Daina Middleton for sharing her thoughts about ‘participants’).

So, let’s start asking better questions, ok?  Here are few thought starters:

  1. What does your brand stand for?
  2. Do you take a strong position on any specific cultural or social issue?
  3. Is there a way to use this point of view to connect with the people that use or could use your products or service?
  4. Is your organization making a difference in the world?  If so, how?  Do people know about it?
  5. Can your alignment with a cause or multiple causes help you achieve your business objectives?
  6. Would you be willing to put more focus on the causes you support and less emphasis on your overtly promotional messages?

What are some other questions you think we should be asking?  Let me know what you think about this in the comments.  As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

Bonus Video

One final thing – if you have 10 minutes and haven’t already seen it, please watch this incredibly inspiring video by Simon Mainwaring.  He touches on this topic and really has a strong point of view on social causes and business.

11 Comments

  • Reply Dan Ziman December 18, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    "Brand" will once again be a huge topic on 2010 as the ownership continues to shift away from "the company or product" to "the consumer" and anyone associated to that company or product. Case in point, swift actions to dump Tiger and avoid brand damage. Similarly, measurement of sentiment, positive or negative will become increasingly important so that brands can act on emerging topics.

  • Reply Dan Ziman December 18, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Thanks, Brandon! Perhaps "ownership" is the incorrect word on my part. What I'm really trying to say is that the amplification affect due the voice of the online consumer is becoming louder, more pervasive with ease of engagement. Thus, paid brand campaigns by marketers still have worth, but can't keep pace with how brands propagate thru online networks.

  • Reply Brandon101 December 18, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks for the comment Dan. I agree that 'brand' will indeed be a major topic of 2010. The quicker companies realize it, the better off they will be. The fixation on communication channels is a distraction – what matters is what is being said and how the brand is perceived by the participants of the dialogue, wherever that dialogue may take place.

    Your point about the ownership shift brings up an interesting question: does a company really ever 'own' its brand? In many cases, brands are shaped by the people they serve, not the board room of the company that owns it. Sure, the brand can be guided by the company (and should be in collaboration with the overall audience), but I think that guidance has more to do with what the brand does not what is says.

    You may want to check out Justin Kownacki's post about the Tiger situation – I think you'd enjoy it. https://www.justinkownacki.com/2009/12/18/you-ca

    Thanks again Dan!

  • Reply Brandon101 December 19, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Yeah, we're on the same page Dan. Listening to what people are saying and being flexible and open to collaboration with the end users of the product or service is the key. Then the paid campaigns can be used to help tell the story that has developed as a result of this collaboration. Thanks Dan! Hope to continue the conversation with you in the future.

  • Reply uberVU - social comments December 20, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brandon101: What does your brand stand for? https://bit.ly/5DE3RF pls RT…

  • Reply Brandon101 December 21, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Well said! I look forward to staying in touch. Thank you for the comment at the RT!

  • Reply Opinion@Large December 21, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Great post. This kind of thought represents the progressive edge of social media and interactive marketing. Companies are realizing that the rules of the game are changing. Businesses cannot talk at their consumers anymore. Whether it is customer service, marketing, or advertising, its a discussion and a collaborative effort now. The power to shape the presence and brand of business is flowing freely into the hands of the consumer.

  • Reply Brandon101 December 21, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Well said! I look forward to staying in touch. Thank you for the comment at the RT!

  • Reply Opinion@Large December 21, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Great post. This kind of thought represents the progressive edge of social media and interactive marketing. Companies are realizing that the rules of the game are changing. Businesses cannot talk at their consumers anymore. Whether it is customer service, marketing, or advertising, its a discussion and a collaborative effort now. The power to shape the presence and brand of business is flowing freely into the hands of the consumer.

  • Reply Social Media is the New Super Bowl: Pepsi Refresh and What It Means to Marketers | Online Marketing Strategy January 5, 2010 at 2:34 am

    […] the world a better place versus a laugh at the end of a 30-second spot.)   As my online friend Brandon Sutton recently wrote on his blog, "Instead of trying to get clever with your messaging, why not try thinking smarter by […]

  • Reply Lessons in Simplicity, courtesy of the American Red Cross | BrandonSutton.com – Embracing Community January 15, 2010 at 11:41 am

    […] have a desire to help others in need.  This goes back to the cause efforts that I’ve been writing about lately.  It’s obvious that we have a connection with our fellow humans that runs deeper than social […]

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