Why Do Brands Have Trouble With The A Word?
March 6, 2012
It used to be in order to broadcast a message to many, to make change happen, or to simply hold a company accountable for questionable actions, you had to have some kind of power, be it status, money, or position.
But today, those rules no longer apply.
Technology has created a more open and connected world giving everyday people a voice. And we’ve even seen at times how that voice has become big, and even revolutionary – from overthrowing governments to simply holding people/brands responsible if they question your actions.
For example – out of protest, when the Susan G. Komen For The Cure foundation pulled (and ultimately reinstated) funding to select Planned Parenthood affiliates, 10,000 people took to their individual social circles and raised $3 million in three days for Planned Parenthood. Komen’s Vice President of Public Policy was forced to resign and the charity remains in “recovery mode.”
Komen is just one example of a major brand that seems to have a misconception (and/or dis-connection) about today’s open and connected world. Brands are nearly destroying their reputations because they somehow think the “old rules” still apply; that it doesn’t matter if you stray from its core values, confuse consumer expectations, or dismiss or ignore complaint; that dialogue is a one-way street and that a single ticked off consumer doesn’t matter – after all, a big corporation is much more powerful than one small person’s voice.
But that’s just no longer the case.
And beyond companies deficiency of real understanding to this “new world social order,” there’s an equally important fundamental being dangerously ignored.
It’s one word.
Why do brands have such a hard time with this simple concept?
Last week at Facebook’s first ever Marketing Conference in New York, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s CFO, said it best, “If you want to talk to me [on Facebook], you have to listen to me too.”
Sandberg was saying that we’re so busy talking at people socially, that we’re not listening. And oftentimes, we’re not responding. The more consumers become connected, the more they are demanding to be heard and acknowledged.
Last December, consulting firm A.T. Kearney found that 94% of the top 50 brands on Facebook use the platform as a one-way promotional device (and that’s even up by 3% from 2010.)
And when it comes to acknowledgment – over half don’t even respond to a single customer comment.
And by the way, look at the types of posts consumers react to – the personal ones, not the promotional clutter and hype.
Another meaty quote heard at the Facebook conference came from Wal-Mart EVP and CMO Stephen Quinn who suggested that brands take a more traditional approach with this social space. Quinn said, “[We] need to go back to the old days of having shopkeeper style relationships to ensure local customer support.”
He added that, “’Social by design’ needs to become an integral part of organizations, which calls for big changes in management.”
Bottom line, social networks elevate the everyday consumer’s ability for impact – to inspire other people to think, react and move on a dime. They can also expand your reach to a level you could never do on your own.
But it’s a matter of acknowledging them in the first place and being very clear with what you’re trying to achieve. What kind of stories are you trying to get fans to talk about? Brands that win in this space are the ones that exercise the basic fundamental strategic building blocks that serve and strengthen their company’s assets and its connections.
Be focused on the brands essence, the singular voice and acknowledgement – the basic respect that fans expect each day. We’ve all seen the blunders, from Susan G. Komen to Netflix and others. A single misstep in any of those areas can tarnish what you work so hard to establish every day – your good name.
We’re at the very beginning of so much possibility – but only once consumers are truly put first with everything we do.
Reach out to me anytime on Twitter @lorilewis.
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