In October 2010, the famous clothing company Gap quietly introduced a refreshed version of their classic logo that was in existence for over 20 years. Following an outpouring of negative customer feedback (their Facebook pages had over 250 comments), the company was forced to reverse its decision and transform the initiative into a crowd-sourcing project.
This is just an example of the power of social media, and how much this new communication tool can influence the brand management of any company, no matter how big and established.
A quick Google search for the two magic words – social media – returns 517, 000,000 results. In comparison, the words” brand management” return ten times less results.
So the natural question is, what impact does social media have on brand management? Does it make the Brand Manager’s job simpler? Or does it add to an already full plate?
From “One To Many” Monologue to “One To One“ Dialogue.
Social media allows for a more profound engagement at a very personal level with the target audience. It also makes it easier and more cost effective to communicate the brand message versus traditional communication tools such as TV and print.
But I guess the biggest benefit is the two-way dialogue and the opportunity to get instant feedback on your brand decisions. Since social media is highly traceable, the 2-way feedback allows Brand Managers to quickly make the necessary corrections to the brand message.
The new communication tools such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter allow for creating brand visibility and awareness much faster and cost-effectively than before. While not a complete replacement for traditional media such as TV and print, social media channels help spread the word quickly (which can be positive but also a negative). The dialogue is really “open”, which is great for obtaining valuable insights on where your brand stands in the mind of your audience.
From the view of market research, we could say that this has been greatly enhanced by the explosion of social media sites, which force companies (including competitors) to be more transparent. As an example, social media helps greatly in the brand differentiation strategy and positioning process by identifying the perceptions associated with competitive brands. Since the dialogue is very personal, monitoring these online trends can provide a better and more accurate picture than even complex market research studies.
The Need For Brand Transparency, Involvement and Engagement via Social media
The new social media wave, although greatly benefiting Brand Management, also poses some risks. Brands have to become transparent and can no longer hide behind the corporate wall. Social media encourages honesty. Customers are making purchase decision based on independent reviews and the advice of opinion leaders. As a result, the Brand Manager has to make sure every message that gets out is in line with the brand promise.
When it comes to company reputation, the new tools can easily be used to build it. There are companies today that specialize in online reputation management. Because in this fast-paced environment, every Marketing initiative is easily judged and scrutinised. The Gap incident is a perfect example.
The only way brands can engage with the audience is by generating relevant and meaningful content. In an environment where consumers are less responsive to advertising and sales pitches, Brand Managers have to gain the trust of opinion leaders and leverage the power of word of mouth marketing. The effectiveness of the 30-second commercial has been replaced by referrals and information sharing as a more personal way to build (or lose) credibility.
Brands risk becoming irrelevant without fresh content and strong customer engagement. In the not so distant past, the brand message was created “from inside-out,” through positioning and one-way communication. Currently, the targeted audience plays a huge role in shaping the brand identity, values, and deliverable.
The New “Must Have” Job Skill
Love it or hate it, there is no denying that “social media skills” has been added to the list of Brand Manager’s job requirements.
One of the biggest challenge marketers have is to keep up with all the tools and changes that seem to be appearing overnight. That’s because Social Media is added on top of an already complex job, which includes managing the 4 Ps of marketing as well as the additional communication channels.
Brand Management has irreversibly been impacted by the rise of social media as a new communication tool. In the never-ending battle for customer loyalty, managing a brand requires adaptation, transparency, and engagement.