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Do readers really want to hear your news?

September 28, 2010

Corporations around the world have for some time been “going social” with their marketing strategies. Hardly any surprise, given the movement among the younger set to do away with email as a way of talking and conducting all their affairs through Facebook, Twitter, texts etc. Earlier this week, for example, a pair of Korean teenagers even won £60,000 at the World Texting Championship and new statistics point to 25% of people over 65 using social media, a sector growing by 100% in one year.

Yet a challenge for companies in this environment is actually to “loosen up” and have something to say. Some publishers for example use Twitter and Facebook as a broadcast medium for new launches, whereas the more savvy ones, like Penguin, have understood how perception steers brand with a range of fun discussions which people are happy to join. Companies such as Triumph motorcycles have an active social community where people discuss things as varied as recent trips abroad to where to get new clothing.

What Penguin and Triumph has in abundance is brand value. And it’s brand values that get talked about. People love being part of a community but, and this is crucial, you cannot force them. No love is ever gained by prescriptive practice – lust is illogical, and so is community.

Despite this, companies still feel that people should love them – for ever. Over the years I have sat in numerous meetings, including board meetings, where the very idea of brand has been dismissed as a costly irrelevance. This is a huge mistake in today’s changing world.

Communities, people, don’t get excited about you, the company. They’re more interested in making news themselves. So if brands can be part of that news story they need to have a character of their own which actually makes emotional sense. This takes us right back to old fashioned brand strategy and the importance of understanding emotional involvement with the consumer.

What is your overarching brand conception? How do you want people to feel about you? Have you measured what people feel about you? Do they even care or are they just flattering you?

As an example of a weak understanding of brand, over the years I have heard a number of interesting comments: “you have a great brand here”, “we must be seen to be publishing this”, “social media’s where it’s at now – everything else is old hat”…

All of these statements, and many others I have heard, all show a fundamental misunderstanding of brand perception: it views the brand from an internal point of view. Even advocates of social media for marketing are often constrained by internal perceptions of what their brand is and consequently project a stilted (or even illogical) brand to the outside world. This is a mistake.

For brands to enjoy free love in the social world, they’ve got to stop exhibitionist stripping down and posturing and, instead, indulge in subtlety. They need to remove the Kiss Me Quick Hat and the false breasts and instead indulge in a few candlelit dinners.

The strongest marriages rest not on the beauties of flesh but one what goes on in the mind.

When you’ve woken up the morning after the night before with a stranger next to you, the best brands make you glad you chose them.


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