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Archive for September, 2008

The End of Command & Control Branding

by ConsumerSphereGuy on September 3rd, 2008 in CPG, Social Media Optimization

For years, classic brand strategy has always been about the creation of a single message that can be used with all of your constituents; investors, employees, senior management and customers about who you are and what value your company provides. Brand managers tend to write it up and paste it on every wall and train every new recruit in it. It’s a classic approach to command and control brand messaging which then gets deployed via all the traditional media and used in every communications channel.

But these days you hear a lot of discussions about the explosion of new media types and formats like RSS feeds, blogs, podcasts, video, communities, micro-blogging and other emerging forms of social media. And it is causing plenty of concern that this disruption of media is eroding the traditional command and control branding that has become such common place for marketers.

Well, I say hallelujah and good riddance!

I believe that there is a very compelling argument that media doesn’t have to be fragmented while at the same time the message need not be command and control anymore. It is only a matter of knowing how to orchestrate it.

One of the first instances of this to hit the marketplace was Ogivly & Mather’s Dove “The Campaign for Real Beauty” (ok yes it is B2C but sometimes we marketers can take inspiration from our B2C brethren) Which won the 2006 Grand EFFIE Award and for good reason, They did a great job finding a powerful attribute of their brand and made a very inviting campaign around it that engaged their key audiences into a conversation. Evidence this by the nearly 3000 blog entries about it, the 2,000,000 viewers of their video on YouTube and you will see that they got the blogosphere humming about an ad campaign. Now I am not professing you drop everything and just do some clever video with your ad campaign, I do applaud the use of video to make their campaign more viral. What can we learn from this as technology marketers? Take a look at my next example.

Now compare this to the “Greg the Architect” campaign from TIBCO. Here is a B2B example that took a very different approach to making their technology funny, and engaging. What they have done is told the TIBCO story through a series of episodic vignettes and allows the viral component to kick in. Viewers are bound to have an opinion on these videos and so is the blogosphere. Also they have given the audience something to react to for better or worse rather than say “we do SOA better than the next guy”. Also don’t forget about the reaction internally to these videos and how that helps give everyone in the organization a conversation starter for the next meeting.

So why is this good news for technology companies? Because for the first time ever, technology companies specifically in B2B can lead the way using technology tools to get their message out to the masses for very little money. Just one tactic like using a video on YouTube can reach 325,000 viewers and engage them with your brand but more importantly with a message that they have sought out. But how to you take something so tactical like a video and make it part of an overall approach to your brand?

Here is the secret.

First, the brand manager needs to architect a single theme that can be used across all media traditional or otherwise. Notice here I didn’t say command and control at all – just to create a theme that is broad enough to use across every aspect of your media plan and “invite” customers and prospects to “engage” with it.

Next, you need to give your customers and prospects the digital tools to comment, to interact, and to add to the conversation. Then you add in more traditional elements of a media plan that all point to the online conversation and you will end up supercharging your media plan!

The bottom line for technology firms is your customers and prospects are perhaps the most savvy engaged technology users of any buyer in any industry. You can’t expect to reach them with traditional media only any more, you need to deliver your message in a way that is targeted to their exact interests. So why not get out there where they talking about your product or service, and give them a conversation starter along with the permission to start a dialog with your brand!