For Scotts Miracle-Gro, social media has proven to be an effective brand fertilizer. According to Beth Dockins, director of customer service, many of the company’s customers prefer to tweet or Facebook a picture of their issue over having to talk about their lawn problems on the phone.
But social media can just as quickly open up a can of worms for a brand. As countless brands have discovered, marketers who try to control their brand message too tightly, as they did in the Mad Men days, risk a viral backlash. From Nestlé’s hostile response to Facebook critics in 2010, to McDonald’s hijacked #McDStories Twitter campaign in 2012, to Subway’s recent footlong sub fiasco, the lessons keep coming.
Ignoring the conversations taking place on social media isn’t an option either. A 2012 study commissioned by Conversocial found that 55% of consumers were disappointed by brands’ communication on social media. And nearly 9 in 10 consumers said they were unlikely to buy from a brand that ignored their complaints on Facebook or Twitter.
Welcome to a new era in brand management: one that is less about strict compliance and more about loosely defined governance – with a heavy dose of participation. Think of it as the marketer’s move from brand police to brand catalyst.
Embracing the brand catalyst role is one of five key responsibilities that current and future generations of CMOs require to be successful. Marketers can no longer control their brand, but they do have an opportunity to create and amplify a consistent message using the same tools and channels as consumers. This requires a new approach – one defined not by catchy slogans pushed out to a mass audience, but by real conversations, authentic content, and active engagement. Here are three ways to embrace this new type of branding:
Humanize the brand. The best way to influence how people discuss your brand is to humanize it. It’s an approach that marketers have long used to sell soft drinks or luxury cars or shampoo. But humanizing a brand that sells shop-floor equipment, accounting software, or aircraft parts can be far more challenging. The key thing to keep in mind here is that businesses don’t make buying decisions – people do. In other words, brands in any industry still can make an emotional connection with their target audience to drive awareness and advocacy.
Educate, don’t sell. Consumer and B2B marketers alike are finding that they can actively engage in compelling conversations with their customers and prospects, but only if they avoid mistaking brochures and press releases for content. Real content – authentic, original, and thought-provoking content that features subject matter experts rather than marketers (a.k.a. thought leadership) – can help brands build credibility on the topics that are most important to their customers – and, by extension, their business. Indeed, in a 2012 ITSMA survey, 88% of IT services professionals said thought leadership was important or critical when evaluating potential vendors.
Support the stages of the buying cycle. Successful lead nurturing often requires a sequence of different types of content delivered at different times during the buyer’s path to purchase. Research from technology publisher IDG found that IT professionals typically read, view, or download five pieces of content created by or on behalf of the vendor before they’re ready to speak with a sales representative, and download a total of nine assets during the entire purchase process. Embrace the buyer’s journey, not the seller’s cadence.
We marketers may no longer be able to control our brand, but that doesn’t mean we should sit by and watch the weeds grow around it. Actively feeding and nurturing a brand as others interact with it will help to ensure a healthy future.
How are you doing it? I look forward to your comments.
Originally posted on LinkedIn Today- Marketing Must Shift From Brand Police to Brand Catalyst on July 01, 2013
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