What About the Brand?

I recently read a Forbes article about branding, and it essentially solidified what I believe to be so important about marketing.  The author reminds marketers to ask two important questions when thinking about their brands: Who are we? And why do we matter?

Cynics may answer these questions with “money makers” and “to make money,” respectively.  Yes, there are millions upon millions of brands in the world, but there are those brands that have gone beyond simply answering these questions correctly.  They have gotten customers to agree with them and be on their side.  Such brands are called “lovemarks” because of the strong relationships that they’ve cultivated by knowing who they are and their place in the world.  You know them: Apple, Starbucks, Tide. The list goes on from there.

“Pause,” you’re thinking. “Isn’t this an emerging media blog? Why is she writing about branding?”

I’m writing about branding because, at the end of the day, the brand matters.  Media will continue to emerge until the apocalypse, and marketers will want to be the first ones to use them all.  But they have to determine if the emerging channels will help them answer those two questions more effectively. If the medium does not contribute to brand’s identity or its place in the world, then what’s the point?

It’s all about discretion. It’s very tempting to be ubiquitous, but that can be annoying. So to the marketers of the world: Choose your emerging media channels wisely. Your brand identity will thank you, and your customers will salute you.

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Is Native Advertising a Trick?

Online advertising is a difficult field to navigate.  People don’t like pop-ups very much and web banners are a dime a dozen. So what do marketers do now? They invest in native advertising.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau defines native advertising, or sponsored content, as a tactic that “delivers paid ads that are so cohesive with the page content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the platform behavior that the viewer simply feels that they belong.” In short: They’re ads disguised as content.  But this isn’t to be confused with content marketing.  This article notes the differences between native advertising and content marketing.  Whereas content marketing serves to build credibility and give consumers long-term value, native ads exist only to sell.

An ad that is designed so well that consumers might not even realize that it’s there? Too good to be true, right? Of course it is.  So it’s no surprise that the F.T.C has gotten involved to warn marketers not to be deceptive with their native ads.  But is that necessary? Are native ads really designed to trick consumers into thinking that they’re not being persuaded to buy something?

I think it’s fair that native advertising is mandated to have some sort of label on it, but I also don’t think there is anything wrong with advertising that resembles its environment.  Whether an ad graces a TV screen or fall seamlessly into a Facebook News Feed, if the content is good, then people will embrace it.

Customer Service 3.0

Every interaction that a customer has with a company can make or break a brand.  One wrong move and a customer will ban a brand for life.  If a customer gets angry enough, s/he will blast the company online and spread the word about a horrible experience.  On Web 3.0, this rapid-fire word-of-mouth can cause irreparable damage.  So why haven’t companies realized the power of social media as a customer service tool?

A Mashable article published last year stated that 80% of companies planned to incorporate social media more heavily into its service process.  However, this article presents some very interesting statistics illustrating that companies apparently forgot about their promise.  These are the two that stood out to me:

– 56% of companies ignored complaints posted on Facebook

– 71% of complaints made on Twitter went completely ignored

Here’s one more statistic for good measure: Only 23% companies have dedicated customer service handles on Twitter.

I find it interesting that companies are quick to embrace emerging media but fail to use them to their full potential.  I would argue that customer service is a much larger component of a brand than advertising, public relations, or any other form of media ever could be. Think of Zappos.  Zappos is what I call a “case study brand”: one that is highlighted time and time again for simply being outstanding in the marketing world.  The Zappos brand is founded on customer service, and this is present on its social media sites.  Zappos is not only quick to respond to positive and negative comments, but it also personalizes responses so that customers feel valued.

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It might be a tall order to request that every company be like Zappos, but all companies should remember that social media needs to be a tool for customer service – unless, of course, their customers aren’t too important to them.