Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Brands need to learn to freewheel a little...

Brands have spent years and millions of $/£/€ carefully crafting their brand image. Brands help us make choices.Brands naturally form part of the fabric of the many conversations we all have everyday.

Brands have been loved, praised, reviled and denigrated at conversations around dinner tables, in the pub, in bars, on the telephone for years and years. But whilst the brand owners really knew these conversations were happening they couldn't really measure or tap into them. So a head in the sand approach was fine unless a particularly determined consumer was persistent enough to deal with horrible customer service freephone number queues and listening to 15 rounds of Vivaldi's spring allegro to really make their feelings known.

Then what has become known as Web 2.0 occured. Consumers suddenly got a voice (albeit generally a written one) via IM, email, blogs, Twitter, status feeds on Facebook, all manner of places where all of a sudden their voices could reach far further than just the people around the dinner table. Suddenly, the brands couldn't ignore the conversations anymore. Thoughts were being shared far and wide, right there in black and white or green or blue or pink. Yesterday 112k new blogs were created, the day before it was 123k. That's a lot of personal publishing platforms, whether they reach 14 ,44 ,400 or 40k people.

Brands are no longer controlling the conversation. Shock! Horror! I was sent a link to this presentation recently that illustrates the journey for many brand owners quite nicely.

It astounds me that so many brands who would never dream of giving up their old world daily "press clippings" service still haven't got around to implementing any serious form of buzz monitoring. Yet the word is on the web now not in newspapers in the same way that it was once upon a time. There arebuzz monitoring tools a plenty. Some you pay for, some are free, but these days there's no excuse for not listening even if it's only on an ad hoc dip basis.

I particularly like the "Big Buzz" feature of Ice Rocket for giving me a snapshot of what's happening in different spaces. Check it out.

Someone also shared with me yesterday this cool desktop social monitoring app called Social Seek. I've been playing with it this morning, having selected "Starbucks" and "London" as my keyword and location, and it's been burbling away happily all morning revealing all sorts of things...For me, these tools, provide great insight into how consumers reallly talk about brands, rather than the way brand managers think consumers talk about their brands. Armed with this understanding, we can then create content and experiences that are relevant to the consumer and help harness those conversations for brand advantage, using the influential connections between consumers to get our brand into places our ad $ just can't buy. Ignore at peril.

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