The markets and audiences of the 21st century are a savvy bunch. No longer gullible and susceptible to the heavy handed and brash branding practices of the past, they’re looking for the ‘why’ and not the ‘what’ when they buy into a product or service, and this leaves companies and organisations charting new and unfamiliar territory. Andrew Collins explores the changing face of brand promotion.
The digital world has arrived, and with it has come a flurry of new media initiatives driven by an entirely different sort of customer: The kind of customer who doesn’t really want to talk with your brand; the kind of customer who feels you’re only trying to ‘sell’ them. However there is a solution to this — let’s call it ‘socialising your brand’.
To be social, one must be popular in a social context; the sort of context that encourages the most ‘friendly, open and natural’ way. To socialise your brand requires the brand becoming an integral part of that conversation, regardless of the specifics of the actual brand but merely ‘in the conversation’. When you engage with someone at the pub or café are you more interested in what he is saying or what he is?
Today, more large companies are investing in a ‘give value first’ approach. This ‘lead with value’ communication strategy is more than a tactical marketing ploy or campaign — it’s a strategy to build long-term relationships. It’s a business strategy at the highest point. We are talking about a fresh fundamental shift in the tactics employed to capture a community and potentially own a market.
To give it perspective, imagine the top 500 brands gathered in an auditorium. They all have their own agendas, egos, principles and they all think they are the most important person in the room. Now imagine the conversations. It makes you squirm, right?
Well picture this. In walks your brand: Average height, but cheerful, optimistic and glowing with a child-like enthusiasm. Actually, you feel just lucky to be in the room. You have no ego, you are open for change, you want to learn and are willing to listen. How do you think your conversations would sound? Do you think you’d make some friends? Of course you would.
This ‘give, learn and listen’ approach always ends in a positive result. It must. And today there are more and more brands recognising this paradigm shift in thinking. American Express is now pushing exclusively their openforum.com online asset to get businesses connected. They are not alone, with SAP and many others adopting the same approach. By no means is it a short-term strategy for success – and almost in each case I see it’s a three to five year minimum plan. It has to be, it simply takes time to collect and gather momentum. Not to mention actually making connections online and building those relationships.
Socialising your brand is a top down decision. It’s not the decision of a marketing director or a digital directors. It’s greater than that. It’s bigger than any campaign a business can establish today. To get social means to get serious about your business and your customers. If senior management only rely on mid-tier marketing professionals or the new ‘social media’ junkies to create this change it’s unlikely to ever materialise. The talent in those ranks is just simply ill equipped to consider such bold endeavors.
Andrew Collins is CEO of Mailman China, a leading alternative media company based in Shanghai. An entrepreneur from the age of 10, Andrew has been involved responsible for various ventures, from trading marbles to establishing an M&A consulting company at the age of 25. He recently launched www.ZeroSocialMedia.com