Managing brands in a social economy [presentation]

Great presentation by Tim Stock that serves as “an introduction to culture mapping and the implications to the creative process and the semantic web.”

Don’t make the mistake of giving up the Voice of the Brand

In the halls of Brand Management, Tom Fishburne is easily more popular than Dilbert.  After all, he’s one of us.

So it is no surprise that Tom perfectly captured one of today’s most debated brand management questions:

“Who should represent a brand in Social Media?”

It is the same question that was posed on the American Express OPEN Forum, when Ann Handley wrote an article entitled “The Right Voice for Your Brand Online is…?“  In the post, Ann suggested the right “person” could be:

  • The CEO (or other high-level executive).
  • The marketing department.
  • The company mascot.
  • The intern.
  • Separate identities for each distinct customer interest.
  • Multiple individuals.
  • Your customers.

All are interesting options but I think they left out not only the most obvious, but also the most important…the Brand Manager.

After all, the Brand Manager is the person that is suppose to live and breath the brand.  They are the one deciding on what products make it to shelf, what the advertising will look like and making the call on just about every other little detail that has to do with a brand.  When all is said and done, the Brand Manager is the brand.

So doesn’t it make sense for the Brand Manager to be the “Voice of the Brand?

The problem is that being the “voice of the brand” requires an entirely new skill set for Brand Managers.  In the past, Brand Managers rarely interacted directly with consumers.  When doing market research, there was always that convenient focus group where we could observe behind the glass.  With PR, generally we had a person that handled interactions with magazine editors and were in charge of “public  statements.”   And with advertising, our agency took the lead in crafting that message.  So while Brand Managers should be the “voice of the brand” in Social Media, it is going to require all of us to learn a new way of doing things… a new way to collaborate.

In the past, Brand Managers had to be experts at getting things accomplished internally and with agencies.  Going forward, Brand Managers are going to need to be externally focused, with a mindset for collaboration and partnership.  It is not going to be an easy shift, but it is one that every marketers need to be make in order to be the “Voice of the Brand.”

Don’t do away with Brand Managers… Just start to embrace marketing again

The buzz around the marketing water cooler this morning is about a report by Lisa Bradner of Forrester entitled “Adaptive Brand Marketing: Rethinking Your Approach to Branding in the Digital Age.”  In the report, Lisa makes the provocative statement that our industry should change the name “brand manager” to “brand advocate” as a response to the fundamental changes brought about by the digital age.  Further fuel is added to the fire with Ad Age’s story about the report called “Why It’s Time to Do Away With the Brand Manager.

The Forrester report makes a compelling story and the subsequent Ad Age article adds further proof of why Brand Management is about to undergo its’ biggest change since McElroy wrote his infamous memo in May 1931.

But there is one particular point that I think needs repeating:

We don’t need to get rid of Brand Managers -  we need to “return to marketing as the focus of Brand Management.”

As my colleague Bob Gilbreath points out in the article, marketing needs to be something much more important than “one of the six things a Brand Manager does.”  Or as Bradner states, “So much of [brand managers'] time is subsumed by internal management, and so much of the creative process and planning is outsourced to agencies and other parties… [brand managers] really need to be in charge of the heart and soul of what the brand stands for. It does move you off the generalist track to be more of a pure marketer.

I could not agree more with that statement.

In fact, this was the entire premise of one of my first posts on Hard Knox Life in April 2008.  At the time, I wrote that:

One of the biggest misinterpretations of brand management is that being a Brand Manager and being a Marketer are one and the same… If you love marketing, devote yourself to being the best marketer in the world and knowing how the world of media and communication are changing.  And if you love running a business/brand, then surround yourself with people that love marketing and are willing to devote the time to being a brilliant marketer.  Just don’t make the mistake of assuming just because you are one, means you are the other.

This same point is as true today as when I wrote that original post.  For the past decade (or longer), Brand Management has been more more about being a generalist and less about being a brilliant marketer.  But that has to change.  When suddenly we are faced with a world with 50 marketing choices instead of 5, we need to have pure marketers who can make sense of the chaos.

That doesn’t mean that we have to get rid of Brand Managers.  But it means that our entire industry needs to re-embrace what it means to be a marketer.

A Brand Manager’s Call for Change

“The amount of change in marketing over the past 3 – 5 years probably equals the amount of change over the past 30 years.” – Robert Liodice, CEO, ANA (Association of National Advertisers)

Let’s face it; it used to be a lot easier to be a Brand Manager.  People were looking for brands that delivered functional benefits like “better tasting” or “longer lasting.”  They heard about those brands through a handful of media vehicles like TV, magazines, radio and billboards.  And when they decided to buy that “longer lasting” brand they saw on TV, they went to the neighborhood store, which was happy to stock the trusted brands.  The purchase funnel was a simple, straightforward process that Brand Managers could easily follow and plan against.

Those days are gone and are never coming back.

What people want out of a brand has changed dramatically over the past several years.  While functional benefits still play an extremely important role, consumers want more.  They want a brand to stand for something more than just “best tasting.”  They want the brand to have a purpose and in many cases, they want to have an emotional connection with the brand.  In particular, these changes in attitude are being driven by a new generation of consumers:

  • Gen Y is 40% more likely to “pay more for products consistent with an image I like”
  • 59% of Trendsetter Youth would rather buy a $4 Organic Vegetable than a $2 Non-Organic Vegatable”
  • 62% of 14 to 34 Year-Olds claim to have taken steps to “living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle”, including 14% who have bought environmentally conscious brands.
  • Gen Y is twice as likely to claim to be “influenced by what’s hot and what’s not.”

Digital is transforming how people interact with brands and with each other.

Just as important as the change in what people want from a brand is the change in how they interact with brands.  You see, thanks to digital, people today have been permanently reprogrammed and they are engaging with different forms of media and technology like never before.  Their time is being split across all sorts of media channels and their opinions about products are no longer shaped by just what marketers tell them. Consider these facts of today’s digital world:

  • Nearly half of US online adults are social media users, but 71% of online tweens and teens connect to a social network at least once a week.
  • There are more Paypal accounts than Visa card holders.
  • Americans sent 75 billion text messages in June 2008, a 160% increase from June 07.
  • 70 million of the 90 million homes in the United States that are online have broadband connection speed and 37 percent of US Homes have Wireless or Wi-Fi.
  • 9 out of 10 teens considers themselves to be “video gamers” and more than half play video games at least 3 times per week.
  • 29% of teens would rather shop online than in a store.
  • Consumers aged 18 – 26 are spending more time using the Internet (12.2 hours per week) than watching TV (10.6 hours per week) according to Forrester.

These are just a few facts that provide the background for what Forrester describes as a Groundswell.  In this Groundswell, dramatic changes in technology and media have caused control to shift away from companies and shift to consumers.  As a result, the Brand Manager no longer has the control of creating a message, buying 3 television spots and then sitting back as everyone in markets starts to hum their advertising jingle.  Today’s empowered digital consumer has completely changed the game…but its not just about new marketing tactics or media.  What we are witnessing is not only a shift in the fundamentals of marketing, but also in brand building.  Simple put, the digital consumer is revolutionizing the basic duties of a Brand Manager.

The brand builders of tomorrow need to change what they are doing today.  The fact is we cannot afford to sit this one out.  People are not limited in their choices of brands and they are starting to hold us to a higher standard.  The fact is that digital is fundamentally changing the way companies and consumers communicate….it’s not just another marketing tool.  Instead, digital is an enabler of new means of communication and conversation between people and brands.  To thrive in this new world, brands and businesses need a new type of leader with a fresh set of brand building skills.  They need a Brand Manager with a new leadership philosophy.

So I guess the question is, “What are you doing to be that brand leader of the future?”

A Brand Manager’s take on Razorfish’s Digital Outlook

The Razorfish Digital Outlook for 2009 came out last week and as always, it’s a great (but long) read.  Given the report measures over 175 pages from start to finish, I wanted to take a couple of days and really read through it all the way.  While others have captured the broad themes of the report, I wanted to focus on some of the specific commentary that really stood out to me.  This included: