Part 1 of 2 (go to part 2)
There are a lot of brands that still have not successfully worked out how to generate tangible bottom line results in the brave new world of social media. So much so that it is worth taking a look at why.
To fully understand the branding landscape, we have to acknowledge the historic symbiosis that has existed between big brands and big media. In traditional news media like television, print, and radio, the news content has always been a loss leader for advertising space. Back in the days of dominant conventional mass media, huge advantages accrued to major brands, to the disadvantage of both minor brands and, arguably, consumers. With only three dominant television stations and one newspaper per city, the scarcity of venues to advertise a brand created huge barriers to entry in leveraging media to promote a business or idea.
The equilibrium between media and branding is currently undergoing its first major shift into another phase of inverted asymmetry. Stories like “United Breaks Guitars,” where a disgruntled musician distributed a catchy song about his mishandled baggage, are just the opening salvo in illustrating how the 21st century is experiencing a dramatic change in the hierarchy of power. Modern platforms, YouTube in this instance, give massive scope for expression of customer frustration (over 11.5 million views), which has never been able to be disseminated so easily beyond a group of family and friendsInevitably, with new platforms and venues, less authentic players will arise with exploitative motivations. Already in the political arena, one of the favorite hand grenades thrown is the accusation of “astroturfing,” or faking grassroots appeals that have significant commercial or political funding and investment. Brands and media have found themselves “punked” by a competitor, lobbyist or mischief-maker when discovered – too late – as behind dishonest campaigns. Meanwhile, every occasion a genuine consumer complaint is ignored, everybody loses: both the justifiably aggrieved consumer and the now-tarnished brand.