Defining your Brand – One Conversation at a Time

I’ve spent a large part of my professional life dealing with the realities of having conversations with customers. In every type and size of company imaginable. And there is one single reality that holds true:

Your brand is what your customers say it is… regardless of your best Marketing and PR efforts.

With the rise of Social Media this reality is even more true. Not because you ever really controlled you brand – but because word of mouth just got global, social and the biggest megaphone you could have ever imagined.

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It used to be a single pissed off customer might only impact 10 or 20 people over the course of 3 months. Now a single dissatisfied customer with a Twitter account or Blog can reach hundreds of people in a single day. And, as a rule, if you are doing (or not doing something) that makes customers mad, you do it to more than one per day.

So feel free to create all the marketing material and press releases you want lauding your superior product or service and you commitment to great customer service. In the old world that might have worked. But today it simply can not compete with the conversations your customers and prospects are having about you. You are what they say you are.

If you want to really impact your brand – and how it is perceived by your customers and prospects, get in the conversation.

Your PR and marketing staff will tell you to invest in Social Media Monitoring tools like Radian6 and Techrigy to gather Social Media data to analyze for your next marketing campaign. And I concede – monitoring what is said about you is a positive first step. The challenge with this strategy is that you are still trying to control the conversation.

What you need to do, what you should be doing is participating in the conversation.

Provide Solutions, Inform, Listen and Respond

The most important branding you do (and can do) is in the conversations you have with your customers and prospects.

Think I’m nuts? Great – Let’s look at two examples:

Motrin’s Blunder:

Motrin released an ill conceived ad. And it isn’t that they didn’t realize their mistake – it was that they weren’t engaged in the conversation. Because of that there were 4 days to allow the controversy to reach significant proportions.

Links:

http://mashable.com/2008/11/16/motrin-moms/

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/motrin_bows_to_social_media_pr.php

Exploring Social Media: The Motrin Moment Impact of Social Media

http://blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/2008/11/18/motrin-moms-and-the-perils-of-social-media-marketing/

Ford’s ScottMonty:

ScottMonty from Ford is actively engaged in Social Media. And because of that he is able to react in real (or near real-time) to negative and positive brand messages. This allows Ford the opportunity to actively engage in the conversation and refute false perceptions and reinforce positive messages.

Links:

http://friendfeed.com/e/a8d15997-12ec-eeee-921b-61c96ed66d27/Why-I-love-the-US-auto-industry/

http://friendfeed.com/e/e34bb7df-5a8c-4d1c-84cb-d16e0fa09099/I-am-watching-CNN-and-seeing-bad-employment/

http://friendfeed.com/e/b4753ec3-a123-6ef4-6671-cdd7ef10e4b5/Glohamar-Here-are-a-few-of-Ford-s-other-Twitter/

http://friendfeed.com/e/45cec2a1-17c8-3e26-3afc-4a9d3897c15a/ScottMonty-scottweisbrod-LisaHoffman-1-2-Bill/

The takeaway:

Analyzing the data and reacting is about how fast you can “clean up the mess”. It pre-supposes you can megaphone your brand message and shout down those who have a different point of view.

By participating in conversations about your brand you have the ability to prevent situations where the perception becomes the story. You have the ability to turn negative experiences into positive brand affinity moments that increase your customer loyalty and enhance your brand in the eyes of those watching. And in this new Social Media world we are all watching.

15 thoughts on “Defining your Brand – One Conversation at a Time

  1. Brian,Thanks for noticing. This hasn't been easy, but let me just make one observation: it's much easier than it would have been if I were not an active participant in the Twitter & blog communities.Keep up the great work yourself.Scott MontyGlobal Digital CommunicationsFord Motor Company

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  2. Brian, Thanks for the Techrigy mention. You bring some a good point to the table; hearing the conversation is good, but it's what you do with the conversation that really makes a difference. Imagine the difference Motrin could have made had they monitored their campaign and directly engaged some of the opinions out there. Bob PeaseWeb DeveloperTechrigy, Inc

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  3. You are absolutely right Brian, it involves listening AND engaging. And there is no better place to see the impact of social media on a brand than going to Google and searching any brand. Take a look the the number of sites the brand would actually own, how many are blogs/tweets/youtube vids and how many are media. I bet most readers would be surprised to see just how much conversations about a brand appear on the first and second pages. Often folks say, well my brand is not targeted at folks who would be active in social media. But I would respond by saying how many of that audience use Google, and the answer would be the majority. As a personal example, I tweeted once a couple of months ago about how terrible my wife had just been treated by a UHaul rep. It touched off a firestorm that lead to multiple reponse tweets, blog posts by a listers, even a mention in a keynote at a conference. And I just Googled Uhaul, and one of the blog posts on the firestorm sits at position 14, 2 months later. Social media conversations definitely define a brand.So great post and thanks for the Radian6 shoutout to boot.Cheers. David

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  4. Brian,Thanks for noticing. This hasn't been easy, but let me just make one observation: it's much easier than it would have been if I were not an active participant in the Twitter & blog communities.Keep up the great work yourself.Scott MontyGlobal Digital CommunicationsFord Motor Company

    Like

  5. Brian, Thanks for the Techrigy mention. You bring some a good point to the table; hearing the conversation is good, but it's what you do with the conversation that really makes a difference. Imagine the difference Motrin could have made had they monitored their campaign and directly engaged some of the opinions out there. Bob PeaseWeb DeveloperTechrigy, Inc

    Like

  6. You are absolutely right Brian, it involves listening AND engaging. And there is no better place to see the impact of social media on a brand than going to Google and searching any brand. Take a look the the number of sites the brand would actually own, how many are blogs/tweets/youtube vids and how many are media. I bet most readers would be surprised to see just how much conversations about a brand appear on the first and second pages. Often folks say, well my brand is not targeted at folks who would be active in social media. But I would respond by saying how many of that audience use Google, and the answer would be the majority. As a personal example, I tweeted once a couple of months ago about how terrible my wife had just been treated by a UHaul rep. It touched off a firestorm that lead to multiple reponse tweets, blog posts by a listers, even a mention in a keynote at a conference. And I just Googled Uhaul, and one of the blog posts on the firestorm sits at position 14, 2 months later. Social media conversations definitely define a brand.So great post and thanks for the Radian6 shoutout to boot.Cheers. David

    Like

  7. Excellent comments Brian! And, once you understand the perspectives of those you need to engage with, the value becomes even more positive because then you can truly participate in conversations, not just attempt another form of “advertising” by mentioning names and “corporate” opinions.Steve Doddhttp://www.sysomos.com

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  8. Excellent comments Brian! And, once you understand the perspectives of those you need to engage with, the value becomes even more positive because then you can truly participate in conversations, not just attempt another form of “advertising” by mentioning names and “corporate” opinions.Steve Doddhttp://www.sysomos.com

    Like

  9. This is exactly what we do or our clients. It's all about participating in conversations in a meaningful way. You want to make sure you are talking with your customers and have a good relationship with them in case a “Motrin” happens. CariBuzz.io

    Like

  10. This is exactly what we do or our clients. It's all about participating in conversations in a meaningful way. You want to make sure you are talking with your customers and have a good relationship with them in case a “Motrin” happens. CariBuzz.io

    Like

  11. This is exactly what we do or our clients. It's all about participating in conversations in a meaningful way. You want to make sure you are talking with your customers and have a good relationship with them in case a “Motrin” happens. CariBuzz.io

    Like

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