Has Social Media made Brand Building irrelevant?

Without trying to sound too jaded, it seems to me, the less that is collectively known about a given subject, the more experts there are in the field. My case in point is the number of “experts” who are calling for the demise of brands due to the social media revolution. Social Media is so new, so vast, and evolving so quickly that nobody, and I mean nobody, can accurately project the trajectory of this force on consumer behavior. We do know that it will impact consumer behavior, but what we don’t is how it will impact behavior, or how impactful this force will be. The so called social media “experts” are all just simply guessing.

There’s an old sales adage “People buy from people they know, like, and trust”. This phrase is also the backbone of a number of brand building efforts. The very essence of a brand is neatly packaged in the concepts of know, like and trust.

• To “know” a brand, is really to “know of” a brand: Brand Awareness.
• To “like” a brand, is to find that the brand differentiates itself from competitors, and tells a brand story that resonates with the target audience.
• To “trust” a brand is to say that the brand has consistently kept the promises and expectations created by the brand story.

These concepts aren’t new, but in an era where “technology changes everything”, sometimes it’s important to go back to the basics.

Now fast forward to 2014, and the rampart calls for the imminent demise of brands as we know them. Social media will be the new force that defines winners and losers in the market place. Brand builders will become a thing of yesteryear, an anachronism, and eventually end up going the way of typewriter repairmen.

Not so fast. Social media will absolutely play a role in brand management, but maybe not always in the way we would like it to. By its very nature, social media is organic and spontaneous. People share and/or follow selectively. Simply put, the current forms of social media are too disorganized, and too disjointed, to rally around a company or brand long enough to create a positive lasting impact on consumer behavior. Strangely though, social media can play a significant role in advancing negative brand imagery at lightning speed. Years of brand building efforts can become unraveled literally overnight when a brand gets caught violating the trust of the public. Social media platforms light up as bad news goes viral, and the community at large share their disgust over the topic de jour. (Recent examples would include the GM ignition recall, or the LA Clippers debacle.)

So what makes brand management relevant? Today’s consumer is absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer number of buying choices at hand. It’s with this in mind, that the brand managers of this generation are more valuable than ever. They make sure that the brand is known by consumers, liked by consumers, but ultimately trusted by consumers. All the social media in the world can’t build trust like a well-organized brand that keeps its promises.

This is my humble opinion…not my expert opinion.

David Coleman is the CEO and Founder of Brandoogle (brandoogle.com). Brandoogle works with retailers and brands to combat showrooming with a proprietary suite of software and services. He can be reached via e-mail at dcoleman@brandoogle.com.

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