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ADVERTISING IS DEAD : LONG LIVE ADVERTISING. - BRAND LEADERSHIP THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA

ADVERTISING IS DEAD : LONG LIVE ADVERTISING. - BRAND LEADERSHIP THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA

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Published by Mark Cameron
Not so long ago the relationship that brands had with their customers was a one way street. The brand was the boss. They told their customers what they liked and how to like it. The only say the customer had was the decision to buy. This is no longer the case, customers are very publicly talking back and it is making the management teams of some brands very nervous. Web based social networking platforms give customers power never seen before. Now one voice can be heard by thousands of people. Brands need to learn to deal with this evolution, so here is a primer
Not so long ago the relationship that brands had with their customers was a one way street. The brand was the boss. They told their customers what they liked and how to like it. The only say the customer had was the decision to buy. This is no longer the case, customers are very publicly talking back and it is making the management teams of some brands very nervous. Web based social networking platforms give customers power never seen before. Now one voice can be heard by thousands of people. Brands need to learn to deal with this evolution, so here is a primer

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Published by: Mark Cameron on Jul 27, 2009
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02/26/2011

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ADVERTISING IS DEAD : LONG LIVE ADVERTISING.BRAND LEADERSHIP THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIANot so long ago the relationship that brands had with their customers was a oneway street. The brand was the boss. They told their customers what they liked andhow to like it. The only say the customer had was the decision to buy. This is nolonger the case, customers are very publicly talking back and it is making themanagement teams of some brands very nervous. Web based social networkingplatforms give customers power never seen before. Now one voice can be heard bythousands of people. Brands need to learn to deal with this evolution, so here isa primer.First, some background on how the internet has altered consumer behaviour. Theinternet, and particularly the rise of social media, has allowed people withsimilar interests to connect. This is abundantly obvious when one trawls throughTwitter where the common social network model of simply connecting with people youknow tends to give way to people connecting in groups according to interest.Indeed, people interested in any topic imaginable from all areas of the world areconnecting. It’s like subject based forums on steroids. People are forming tribes.Humans have always formed tribes. Religion, family, sports and fashion are allexamples of tribal behaviour. The difference now is that any interest group canform a tribe almost instantly. Social media has allowed any fringe idea to becomethe basis of a tribe and a movement. People desperately want to be connected but,even more importantly, they want to be led. We are in a time of massive change.This change is driven by everybody’s desire to do things in a new way and to beheard.Barack Obama’s recent landslide victory is a good example of this. He promisedchange, he communicated differently and led with integrity. He connected to hisaudience through social media. He started a movement, formed a tribe and then heand his followers charged to victory. What the world discovered is that you cannow make an ad campaign as slick as you want but if the product is poor then itsimply doesn’t matter.So “advertising is dead” in the sense the old methods don’t work the same way theyused to. Obama’s opponents didn’t fully understand the impact that socialnetworking has had on society. They continued to use the old and trusted methodsof marketing. These apparently transparent methods are diminishing in influence associal networking begins to infiltrate every media touch-point. In two recentarticles I wrote for the Anthill blog I talked about how this is already happeningto television and how the newspaper industry needs to change to avoid becomingirrelevant (see the end of this article for links).Social media is much more than a passing phase. Human civilisation is built aroundsocial interaction. It’s what the people want and this new media is only going toget bigger. It will eventually become part of everything. Individual social mediacompanies might fade away (MySpace seems to be in that category) as betterdesigned products come onto the market, but the world has spoken and it wants tobe connected. Brands that don’t adapt to this reality will be left behind. Theywill become the guy at the party that nobody wants to sit next to because he justkeeps talking about himself.Tribal behaviourBlogs have become socially and commercially influential. From what started out as
 
individuals chatting on about their lives, blogs have become business tools andmoney making ventures. They influence groups, buying patterns and fashion. Theyare modern tribal leaders.Not so long ago commentators speculated that blogging was simply a passing fad.What these commentators didn’t realise was that it was yet to achieve maturationand once it had it would signal big trouble for the large media organisations. Nowanyone with a camera or a desire to write is ‘the press’. This pattern is beingrepeated for micro-blogging, a category of which Twitter is the current marketleader. Some commentators question the relevance of utilising Twitter to listen topeople “drone on about their lives”. But Twitter, and other micro blogs, are inthe early stages of their development. They too will mature, most probably muchquicker than the original blogs, and enable much bigger tribes to develop aroundeven more specific subject matter.The tribal leaders of these new social media can be reached and persuaded tosupport you, no matter what platform they decide to use. Unlike the old ‘one way’approach however, they need to be interacted with on their own terms. Providedthey have a group of true fans, they can influence hundreds of thousands of people– in a matter of hours. This is what gives them such power.And this is what marketers in the current environment have to understand. The‘mass-market’ model is on the decline. What is needed now is a pattern ofmarketing to the ‘early adopters’ – the guys at the front of the bell curve, theones that have a true interest in what you have to offer – and form a base ofevangelists that will market for you. You no longer have to aim to connect witheveryone. This really leaves the field wide open for the smaller brands to breakthrough – the ones willing to challenge.The age of the challengerIn marketing speak a ‘challenger brand’ is code for ‘the small brand’. Achallenger brand is one that is meant to be fast, flexible and innovative in itscommunications. But in my view the word ‘challenger’ should instead be short handfor ‘emerging leader’.Emerging leaders challenge the status quo, they challenge themselves and theyconnect with others who have similar ideas – those people who need a leader toshow and inspire them what to do. The market leader wants the status quo to remainjust that. They want to speak and be heard in a mass market. No discussion thanks.The challenger realises that, in order to create a movement there needs to besystems in place for everybody in that tribe to be heard, and they commit toleading that tribe with everything they’ve got.Traditional advertising is not about interaction with the individual. It ispredominately a one way conversation to a mass audience. But nobody likes to beforced into making decisions. This is why the traditional advertising model isbeginning to fail. It relies on mass media, and this media is itself beingtransformed by social networks.What can social networking do for your brandAll of this may sound a bit scary for brand managers. It’s true that it does taketime and effort to build a community and to be truly effective you have to obeysome rules. Even so, it is not a hard thing to do. It takes far more time andresources to build that fan base with traditional advertising. Be honest, behelpful and contribute to the community and you’ll get supporters fast.Social networking is far more than having a Facebook profile. It is any platformthat gives the end user an ability to contribute. Many companies have realised
 
that developing an internal social media platform can aid in communication buthave yet to work out how it can help shape their brand personality.A good social media strategy accepts you can’t do everything at once. A companycan employ a social platform to perform customer service, to connect directly withcustomers thereby humanising the brand, to obtain demographic information onindividuals to improve the effectiveness of direct marketing or to harness a massof surplus cognitive resource to generate new ideas.You can’t do everything with social media but as long as you are focused you willbe able to do much more than you may expect.Where to startIn the coming months many companies will try to market through social networks andmany will fail. There are of course ways of dramatically upping the chances ofsuccess, not least of which is making sure you hire a company that knows the spacewell. Making sure you are across the fundamentals will help move things alongquickly.The first thing any company moving into social networking should decide is theoverall goal. Knowing what you want to achieve and why you are doing it may seemobvious but is something that is easily overlooked if you rush into a project tooquickly.Like any good marketing activity you need to know how your customers think andbehave. Unlike traditional advertising, marketing online is very data rich. It ispossible to know exactly what your customers are looking at, how long they spenddoing it and who they then talk to about the experience. Make sure you know asmuch of this information as is possible before you develop a strategy any further.From there deciding what channels you wish to utilise becomes a very importantchoice. You should know where your target market is by this stage so deciding ifFacebook, Twitter, Bebo or any other platform is right should be easy. Deciding tocreate your own platform is a bigger step but can be very rewarding if it is donecorrectly. Again, make sure you are getting good advice and a solid strategy anddon’t just assume that if you make something it will get used.Measurement is important in all areas of business and social networking is noexception. Developing good metric methods should be an early priority. Rememberthat it is possible to measure everything but not all information has value.Knowing what you are looking at is vital. If you are hiring a marketing firm tobuild you a social networking campaign it makes sense to have part of the paymenttied to the performance of that campaign. If you are building a network to getstaff talking to each other and your customers the quality of the content will godown if you assign KPIs to ‘platforms usage’ only.Most importantly make sure everyone involved knows what your ‘voice’ is. It iswise to develop a policy around social networking usage but if that policy is tootight then you will lose support. This is about people. Learn that it is OK togive up control of your marketing message and become part of the conversation. Behonest, be objective and be involved. And do not leave your community. You havemade a promise to these people to listen to them. If you stop participating theywill abandon you in an instant!Start leadingThere is no better time to start developing social media strategies. All marketsegments are spending a lot more time on social networks (the time spent onFacebook grew by over 500% in the year Dec ‘07 to Dec ‘08) and in this time of

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