Marketing departments have tried to control brand identity with years of research and oceans of ink (and pixels). But the concept that a company can control its brand is a myth and it always has been. At best a company can contribute to its brand identity, but in reality that identity is created by the market. That identity includes not just the nice polished stories pumped out by Marketing, but all the crappy and in between stuff that happens when product meets customer.
This topic was brought home in a lively discussion at the Austin Social Media Club breakfast this morning. Bryan Person led a conversation about how to lead people to Web 2.0 who are outside of the technology bubble. One theme that surfaced was marketers’ reluctance to give up controlling the message. That “control” is a total conceit on their part.
With Web 2.0 customers can talk to each other about the things they always talked about, but now Marketers can see it. This is hugely disorienting for a tribe that thought they “controlled” and “managed” their brand identity. But all of us as consumers are gravitating to this new way of interacting with each other. For companies that can adapt it will result in much more authentic conversations with their customers. We need more focus on contribution and less on control.
Later in the day Andy Pass from Classroom 2.0 and I were talking and he stated that the challenge is that companies don’t need to develop an on-line voice they need to develop on-line ears. They know how to shout, but they are terrible at listening. Until you can stop shouting and start conversing you are not in tune with where customers are going today.
The net effect of 80 years of broadcast culture has been the development finely honed BS Meters among the general population. When you read your marketing copy does your own BS Meter peg into the brown zone? Lighten up, get real, and learn to listen more.