You had a great ride but I suspect that it’s over.
It’s not your fault (really). It’s your customers. The ruffians want your job.
They have gone and changed the game again. Now they want to talk to real people. They have the gall to Tivo out your carefully crafted brand messages. They have better access to media platforms than you do. They are getting really good at articulating YOUR story.
It seems brand management has been open-sourced without your permission.
If you are looking for someone to yell out – go down the hall to the so-called digital group. Yell “Who knows what the hashtag is for our product launch event next week” – then pick up a Swingline stapler.
The first 30-something to peek over the cubicle is your target. Peg the bum between the peepers with the stapler. Turn swiftly and jog for the exits.
Now let’s talk about what happened…
Just 10 years ago, agencies, CMOs and legions of marketing hopefuls were crowing about the new age of brand management.
They reveled in the abstraction. Imagine – you could create an artificial person, story, tone, personality, and creative identity – on paper. Give it to a creative type who shot a magnificent 30-second slice of life. Spend a few million dollars, cross your fingers, and hope for a homerun.
It worked brilliantly. Not once did you have to hang out with the customer? Sure you could do a “disaster check” focus group. But, a good moderator with pizza, Diet Coke, and pretty charts steered those soccer moms exactly where you wanted them.
The Web geeks got it in their head that they wanted friends. In typical geek fashion, they created a prank to meet girls. 6 years later we have Facebook. Others wanted to turn the real world into a virtual game board complete with check-ins and badges. A few more decided that good ole’ instant messaging was too boring (and inefficient) and carved up life into 140 character increments.
Many hoped it was just a fad. They thought it would blow over and join Pointcast in the great but “not-needed” category (I was one of them…for about 10 minutes)
Nope. People happened to like it. They tweeted, posted rapid-fire status updates out on Facebook, and became hopelessly addicted to Farmville. They also realized they craved real people with sloppy and utterly human stories. They didn’t want abstract sound bites. They wanted the real thing…baby…not just from their friends but from the companies too.
Which left the abstract brand guys in the cold. Tell me the truth – When you take a close look you gotta admit that the brand is too perfect. Too precise. Too…well…digital. I know – it sucks.
How to Get Back in the Game
Want to keep your job? Here’s how to do it –
First, follow Ford and Chevy like a hawk. Scott Monty at Ford is rewriting the book on how big brands use the Social Media space. It’s shocking but Ford is hip. Chevy’s social antics at SXSW was simply brilliant. (Remember these are auto companies for Pete Sakes!)
These guys show that it’s ok to fall in love with bad breath, shy laughter, gushing praise, sharp criticism, quirky product uses, and a good story all over again.
Now the brand is the real honest-to-goodness story of real people. Look around and you’ll find your brand story all around you. Like The janitor who talks to himself. The receptionist who makes exquisite paper-clip Pandora bracelets. The PR savant who knits winter hats on conference calls. Your customers want to know why these people love your products. They even want to know why you show up for work (or are leaving it).
Dig down deep and remember why people say “Wow” or “Aha” or “COOL!” when they interact with your company. Slowly, use social media to organically, create a grassroots tribe of people who squeal “Again, Again!” when you tell your brand’s story.
It’s hard but it’s how things are now. (I suspect this revolution will last a while)