Brands on Twitter and Facebook have a unique challenge when it comes to building community and support for their brand. Do the brand managers monitoring their social media experience engage every tweet and post that mentions their name, product, service or industry? How appropriate is it to “chime in” on conversation streams with advice and “promotions?” When is the line crossed form Good Social Media Practice to Customer Stalking?
Choose Your Battles
As a brand manager, depending on the size and reach of your brand, you may not have the time or the staff to respond to every tweet, post or comment you stumble across. In these cases, be diligent with your engagement strategies (yes, strategies… plural). If you have the right tracking systems set up, you can be very involved with your brand community. If you react to every opportunity, it may become counter-productive. Test the waters and monitor the conversations. Based on a good brand strategy, you’ll know when a customer needs that little social recognition and engagement. It’s a great feeling to help, but even Mother Teresa couldn’t save everyone.
The social media manager should be aware of the brand perception with its community versus other brands. So looking at social media best practices from one brand to another will vary wildly.
For instance, the Target brand manager would advise quite differently than that of the brand manager from Dick’s Last Resort. According to the Target brand promise they are all about customer experience and pleasing the “Guest,” as if they were visitors in your own home. On the other hand, Dick’s Last Resort has been founded nationally on its reputation of being … uh… RUDE to it’s customers. So how they react in the social media world will be entirely different.
Ever pick up the phone to call a friend and POW, there they are on the other line? No ring. No dial. THAT’S FREAKY!
Social media can get that way some times. If a brand manager is doing her job correctly, she’s going to see mentions of their brand, product, etc. through a number of channels. Now, if she hyper-reacts and jumps on a tweet or a post like putting out a hair fire, then, watch the red flags start flying. Customers don’t want to have shop employees lurking around the corner to jump out at them as soon as they start to look lost. Give them a little space and react within your brand standards.
On the other hand, I’ve stood at service counters waiting for someone to greet me or even acknowledge my existence for hours! Okay maybe that’s a bit exaggerated, but with the finite attention span of social media, if someone requests answers from a brand and it goes unanswered for even ten minutes, it seems like an eternity.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but really! If you’re RESPONDING to someone in the social media world, there’s nothing LESS SOCIAL than answering a plea of distress or confusion with “Hey, have I got a deal for you…!” Social media doesn’t need to be sold. If you build your community of brand advocates, they’re already sold. It’s your responsibility to build trust in your brand.
So, brand managers, go forth and Tweet. Set your sights on your target market and ENGAGE; but beware of overstepping your boundaries, for after all, you ARE a BRAND.
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
CreateWOWmarketing, LLC has been honored with the opportunity to put on a branding seminar for Practical Farmers of Iowa on March 25th. The seminar will consist of a full day of events, starting with a keynote from Andrew B. Clark, The Brand Chef about TRUE Branding and how a TRUE brand can affect the marketing and sales in an Ag-Business environment. The participants will then break out into sessions based on the TRUE branding model and work together to discover the TRUTH, RELEVANCE, UNIQUENESS and ENGAGING aspects of their own agriculture-based businesses.
On March 18th, Andrew had the privilege to be interviewed on the KWMT Power Lunch program with Von Ketlesen. In this short lunchtime segment, The Brand Chef and Von discuss the seminar and the opportunities for the attendees in further detail.
For more information on the seminar, or if you would like to attend, please click here.
The internet has given access to information that just 10 years ago was incredibly hard to find. In a simple Google search, you could find the gross national product of Norway or simply strive to understand what a “Gross National Product” is in the first place. (yes, I had to look it up to just make sure I remembered Econ-101.)
There, see? I just opened this post with a “Smart” move to the internet to make sure I wasn’t just referencing subject matter that made me sound astute.
Some (most, I assume) will use this blessing of the internet for learning and fulfillment. They will better be able to define, understand, comprehend, decipher and manage their lives. At the same time they can choose to “spread the wealth” – teaching, mentoring and providing leadership for those that need it most.
At the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast at Bristol Community College, Dr. Clarel Antoine a Haitian-born doctor, was the keynote speaker. And while events like BCC’s took place around the country, I was particularly drawn by his personal statement:
“I was told they wouldn’t take someone like me in medical school,” Antoine said. “‘You can’t do it,’ people have told me,” Antoine said. “I ask ‘Why?’”
“Rarely was I given an answer,” he said.
His speech went on to talk about his efforts to “self educate” in the poverty-stricken streets of Haiti – overcoming incredible odds to ultimately earn his doctorate from Colombia University.
While on the other hand, like in our video sample above, some will choose to reference obscure facts and ultimately trivial morsels of information to superficially boost their perceived intelligence (and value). While, in time, it’s not hard to see through most of these charlatans, it’s VERY difficult to tolerate them.
As my favorite childhood commercial series stated, “Knowledge Is Power.” The internet has provided the power to virtually EVERYONE (with a power outlet) the ability to harness that power. It’s up to the individual’s TRUE character to determine whether that power is used for good.
When stymied with “You cant,” we now have the power to answer it with “Why not?”
How do you wield the power of information in your day-to-day dealings?
Food for thought…
Keep Cooking (for the good of all)
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
This is the time of year that family, friends coworkers and clients alike gather to exchange the gift of cherished relationships and good wishes for a New Year. From the obligatory Christmas card and phone call to the newly added FaceBook posts and tweets this week, the requisite merriment and well-wishing is in full swing!
At the office, co-workers will play “Secret Santa” to those they generally don’t speak to for the other 51 weeks of the year. And vendors by the bus load will show up in your waiting rooms and reception areas adorned with tins-upon-tins of popcorn and glitter-covered poinsettias. For the next three days, your employees will walk slowly by their in-boxes looking for the corporate envelope that holds the holiday bonus, only to be disappointed by yet another gift-card to Outback or a 2-for-1 coupon at the “Beefstick Haus” kiosk in the mall.
How does it go? Yes. “It’s The Thought That Counts.”
At home children will gaze at the television with glossy, bloodshot eyes and drooling pie holes – knowing that the better they behave over the next week-or-so, the more Santa will cram into their stockings come the morning of the 25th. And parents across the globe will mill around distant shopping centers like zombies, looking for the next retail dupe to stick his (or her) naive head from the food court megaplex mumbling something about a “Sale on brains in isle three…”
SO INCREDIBLY FESTIVE!
But nothing says Holiday rush (as in sugar rush) like the ever-omnipresent Christmas party.
I’m not sure about you, but this is how it happens in my head world…
Friends and family members that you haven’t seen since LAST December will gather at your doorstep with cheer in charge and ugly sweaters galore. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, half-siblings, step-kids and even some neighbor kids all gather around one cramped kitchen counter to re-hash tales from ages gone by and better off forgotten.
Within minutes, grandpa is sleeping in the Lay-Z-Boy in front of the TV, the windows are covered in condensation and drinks are flowing like Niagara Falls. The superficial pleasantries have given way to the occasional fat joke and EVERYONE is trying not to stare at cousin Lacy’s botched boob-job. And in the dining room, the kids gather ’round goofy uncle Tony like moths to a campfire, waiting for him to start telling the stories about the days he and dad were run from the chapel by nuns for dipping Ritz crackers in the stolen communion wine! Oh, and I’m not sure about your family, but it’s required that at least one person ends up crying and another (most likely a child, but not a rule) will end up bleeding from somewhere above the neck.
REMEMBER – It’s CHRISTMAS, and there’s NO better way to celebrate the joy of the holidays than with a gaggle of disgruntled relatives, a block of Gouda cheese and a $12 box of wine!
But ultimately there comes the anxiety of the gift exchange. And this is UNIVERSAL from kids old enough to scratch “MERY KRISMAS” on the stairway walls with Crayolas to stinky great aunt Millie who couldn’t read a billboard if her wheelchair was hoisted up on the scaffolding – It’s not a matter of WHAT gift you get, but WHO gave it. Because EVERYONE KNOWS WHO GIVES THE BEST GIFTS!
(Didn’t think I’d get there did ya’?)
Year after year, I watch companies try to define their unique value or their “appreciation” for the past year’s business with trite, should I say irresponsible attempts at gift giving for the holidays. From popcorn tins and poinsettias to the ultimately unoriginal gift cards and certificates, companies fail time after time to harness the opportunities holiday gift-giving can make for your brand.
Sure, none of my family cares if grandma Colvetti sent iTunes cards in blank envelopes. We get that she didn’t know what else to give. But we also understood that even a small gesture like that outweighed uncle Tony’s 2-for-1 oil change for great aunt Millie, who hasn’t driven anything but a wheelchair for 30 years.
If your company is ANYTHING like my family – I pray for you. But more-so, I hope that you’ve spent a little more time working your TRUE Brand into the gifts you give your clients, customers and coworkers this year. Because some gifts (like a tin of popcorn or an oil change) can disappear in a mater of an afternoon, but a gift that says “I thought of you” makes a lasting impression.
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
For those that know me, you certainly realize I have a “slight” passion for music. It scores my life (and some of yours… ) . It is ALWAYS on in my house, my office, my car, my headphones (when discretion is required) and in my heart. So when I sat in my office this morning thinking of what to write, I (of course) had my iTunes randomly playing tunes out of the thousands of choices. It shuffled from Moby and Gwen Stefani to Stevie Wonder to Stevie Vai to Ella Fitzgerald and on to Curt Cobain and Nirvana. Then it hit me.
The song that brought the inspiration for this post was Nirvana’s “In Bloom” from the Live At Reading LP. Now, normally this song is a sure-to-be-cranked track in my play-list, but as this particular version rolled out of my speakers, I wondered how much longer before my wife could ACTUALLY see the blood dripping from my ears. It was horrible. Cobain’s vocals were slurred, muddy and dissonant. His guitar and Novoselic’s bass sounded like a couple college kids’ drunk foray into pornographic mud wrestling. And poor Dave Grohl couldn’t find a steady rhythmic path for any of them to stagger down.
Disappointing. So much so, I deleted the entire Live at Reading album from iTunes.
BUT… I kept every other Nirvana album (All 4 including MTV Unplugged) made “in the studio.” Would you like to guess why?
The “Studio Nirvana” is the brand I became a fan of way back in 1993. I became a fan of Kurt’s raucous, painful lyrics. I became a fan of the aggressive drive and colors they painted in my mind – all pleasantly presented to me after months of studio engineering.
But unbeknownst to me (and millions of other college radio fans), this was NOT the way Kurt, Dave and Krist intended Nirvana to be heard. As Cobain yelled from the stage during a 1991 concert in Seattle,
“Hello, we’re major label corporate rock sell outs.” (04/17/91 at the O.K. Hotel, Seattle, Washington)
Just for the record, I don’t think Kurt had “40+ year old me” in mind when he wrote his songs…
And so the Nirvana brand dichotomy was born. Studio sell-outs? Tortured alt-punk artists? That was up to the fans to decide, and we all know which won out.
Now, I could cite other vast discrepancies in brand marketing to “real-life” brands in the music industry **cough-Taylor Swift-cough** … but I think you get my point.
Too many brands (music industry or not) have “difficulties” holding up past the release of the studio-mastered album. Not for trying, of course, these “artists” dance and sing their souls out and ultimately wind up broken and disenchanted with their career, their art, their fans and the “brand” they’ve been trying to portray. So lies the issue.
Take a close look at your marketing collateral and website. Does it have your TRUE voice? Is it indicative of what potential fans will experience when they meet you IRL (in real life)? Remember, eventually you’re going to have to pick up that guitar or microphone and give those fans what they expect. Can you?
What other brands – music or not – have you encountered that couldn’t seem to hold up past their shiny “studio” exterior? What advice do YOU have for companies that work to be what they aren’t (or can’t be)?
I’d love to get the conversation boiling!
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
Differentiation. It’s one of the keys to good branding. Branding and marketing professionals have been beating that drum since the dawn of communication. But being “Different” in simple separation from the competition isn’t enough. Differentiation needs to add value. Otherwise what good does it do for the consumer?
Take for instance the recent “change” MillerCoors Brewing has made to their packaging. We’ve all seen the “Vortex Bottles” and the new big-mouth aluminum bottles. Sure that’s different, but the product is the same, watered down, tasteless swill. There hasn’t been any value proposition or improvement in the actual product. So unless the marketers and MillerCoors Brewing think their consumers are completely ignorant, belly-scratching mouth-breathers, there won’t be a return on the repackaging investment. Even msnMoney has called this effort for more brand awareness a “gimmick.”
“and MillerCoors fight it out. They are boosting their advertising budgets and even trying gimmicks like a “Vortex Bottle” that aerates the beer as it pours.”
Does their target audience really care about aeration of their beer? I could put even money that their target audience doesn’t even aerate their lawns!
To give you a little insight on how the beer market has changed, take a look at another article from msnMoney. In brief, it says that while beer sales over the past year have plummeted by 10% the “Craft Beer” market (think Sam Adams) has seen an uptick of 2.2%.
Beers like those that Sam Adams brews offer taste, quality and variety focused on the micro-brew-lovers palate not a feeble innovation to the “dump-it-down-your-throat faster” need… Their marketing sticks to their quality brewing process and attention to the needs of their discerning customers. No gimmicks… just great brand marketing.
It comes down to adding a value proposition to their differentiation. Sure, MillerCoors brews wheat beer and has special “flavors” like Miller Chill, but it hasn’t improved overall sales or brand awareness. In this writer’s opinion, it’s just watered down (further) their brand and left a bad taste in consumers mouths (pun intended).
So, Pull up a bar stool and join the conversation. What can commodity beers like the MillerCoors products and the Anheuser-Busch line do to compete with the Sam Adams and “Craft Beer” makers? We’d love to hear what you have to say. Maybe MillerCoors is listening in?
What say you?
Until next time…
Keep Cooking (great value branding)!
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
How does your brand stand out in a crowded market? It’s not enough to tout “great customer service” or “our focus is on quality.” Those are feeble excuses for separating your company brand from the rest. It’s when you have a proven, quality product and recognizable trait to your brand that the differentiation will emerge. And most times it’s not something that your marketing department or even the CEO can define.
In an article from William Lozito (@WilliamLozito on Twitter) he talks about the unexpected success Sweet N’ Low has had with their current “Think Pink” campaign. And while what I was reading was typical “Branding 101″ stuff, I did pull one specific quote from the article that resonated to the power of intrinsic brand recognition.
“Other sweeteners will have to share, because nobody can take pink away from Sweet N’ Low. Even sweetners who essentially have their own color (Splenda) do not own their color the way Sweet N’ Low does.”
How many times have you been asked if you would like “sweetner” with your Tea? How many times have you simply said, “The pink stuff.” I know I have.
Intrinsic brand qualities can’t be forced. It’s in the DNA of your brand. But the right marketing and awareness of the brand can bring out the qualities that make you a SUPER Star among STUPOR Stars.
What are some other brands that have that intrinsic quality that makes them stand out?
Until Next Time…
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
Illustration Credit: Kevin Frank
Have you ever wondered how I became The Brand Chef? It’s not a story I tell often, but in a recent interview with Johnny Wright (Twitter: @unsecretshopper), better known as The UnSecret Shopper the TRUTH was revealed.
The request came out of the blue (proof of building a good personal brand), but after a few Twitter direct messages and a phone call-or-two, I decided Johnny had some great things to talk about and was very interested in learning more about The Brand Chef, marketing strategies and generally what I do… (go figure).
In 19 short minutes, we covered everything from marketing strategies, social media marketing, customer service (which Johnny is brilliant at, by the way), and we even talked a little about how I became The Brand Chef!
Here’s a link to his post of his full 1-hour show. Or you can listen to just my interview below.
Again, I’d like to thank Johnny Wright for taking the time and giving me the honor of being on his show. It was a great conversation and I look forward to hearing / seeing more from him in the future!
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
Johnny Wright can also be heard on 1350 AM, KRNT radio in Des Moines Iowa. Every Saturday at 8 AM. Check it out!
Does your company have good character? I’m not talking about the people or “characters” within the company. While the people make up a very important part of it, I’m talking about the character of the company, itself.
Good character, like TRUE branding, is based on a very specific set of criteria. For TRUE branding, we’ve determined that the brand must be True, Relevant, Unique and Engaging to have a strong, marketable brand foundation. But when it comes to character, there are six traits that form the strongest foundation:
• and Citizenship
Not one of those characteristics has anything to do with increasing market share or ROI.
There’s more than the bottom line. There’s more than the marketing. There’s more than 60-hour workweek. There’s more than the executive washroom. There’s more than accounting or sales. More than copier paper, toner, staples… There’s simply more, and it’s called character. While it shouldn’t be confused with your company brand, good character and a TRUE brand should go hand-in-hand.
Can British Petroleum (BP) say they’ve got a good character? If you evaluate the company character based on the simple six criteria listed above, they’re failing miserably! They’ve broken our trust, shown absolutely NO respect, taken no responsibility for their actions and have been deplorable in their dealings since the spill (can we even call it a spill any more?). And let’s not even talk about caring and citizenship. It’s a perfect case study in complete corporate character implosion. Even based on the TRUE branding criteria, I’d say their brand (and company) is in a world of hurt.
I love the recent statement by Laura Ries when she identified BP’s “brand problem.”
“The spill in the Gulf has pulled the curtain off of a company that has been blowing smoke up our butts for years. No consumer, regulator or politician will soon forget this tragedy”
And she concludes with,
“Strong brands with a reputation for quality, safety and honesty are able to survive even the worst tragedies and negative PR stories. Toyota, Tylenol and Goldman Sachs have faced some dark days recently, but for them the future is still bright because the brands are strong. For BP, not so much. A brand with a poor reputation facing one of the worst oil spills ever is damaged goods. No amount of advertising can fix this. Anything BP says will no longer be believed. You can fool us once, but never again.”
Because of recent events, BP is the obvious example, but what other companies have been branding themselves as the “community company” when its character, deep down, is flawed, selfish, myopic and detrimental to the community in which they serve? Finding the truth within your brand is imperative. It’s the foundation on which all else is built. Ironically, truth is a core component for good character as well.
I can’t emphasize the importance of the correlation here. There’s an important connection. When the two support each other, everyone wins!
What has your company done to educate and foster good character? Does good character start in the corner office and spread on down through the ranks or is it simply a happy face panted over oil slicks, smoke screens and broken promises?
Food for thought…
Keep Cooking! (TRUE character-driven business)
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
For more information on the six pillars of character, check out these links:
I don’t mean to fire another shot at the marketing community in the U.K., but…
(we’re sorry. the video could not be re-posted here. If you would like to watch the TELEGRAPH.UK news coverage of the mascots, please go to The Brand Chef Blog to watch.)
Sorry about the auto play… (Notice the kids giving the Nazi salute to them? WTH?)
To have such a prestigious organization adorn your city would be an honor to last a lifetime. But it seems like the folks marketing for the occasion have taken the opportunity and turned it into a Duran Duran meets The TeleTubbies on LSD experience.
Let me back up about four years… If you haven’t read it yet, I did a blog post (June 2006) about the incredibly ill-conceived logo designed for the London 2012 Olympics. Saying:
“I’m saddened when I think of the world’s athletes that have put so much effort and time into achieving the honor of competing in the Olympics having to walk around the Olympic Village slathered with a logo that looks like they just got back from a Duran Duran concert.”
And now the marketers have launched a campaign to show off the new mascots. All I can say for them is at least they’re consistent.
Good Lord, They look like the love child of Timothy Leary and TinkyWinkie! I’m thinking the Aztecs saw this for 2012 and just decided to end it all there. What the heck would be the point of living after that?
Normally, in these horribly off-the-mark situations, I’d point my finger at some self indulgent agency or myopic company trying to be “cutting edge” without the first hint of research or understanding of the target market. But according to The Telegraph UK, the chairman of the London Organizing Committee, Lord Coe and his marketing group spent 18 months and did over 40 focus groups in preparation and development of these atrocities!
40 FOCUS GROUPS?!?
What did they do, design them AND THEN hold focus groups until they found someone to say they liked them?
Here are a couple more images that come to mind when I see these mascots:
At least Vancouver 2010 Mascots related to the region and didn’t scare the hell out of people…
Also from The Telegraph UK:
Stephen Bayley, the prominent design critic, said: “What is it about these Games which seems to drive the organisers into this cretinous infantilism?
“Why can’t we have something that makes us sing with pride, instead of these appalling computerised Smurfs for the iPhone generation?”
“If the Games are going to be remembered by their art then we can declare them a calamitous failure already.”
I mean c’mon, if one of the biggest design critics in your country says they suck, shouldn’t you reflect on the direction you’ve taken?
So, what is the London 2012 Olympic committee to do? It’s too late to start over. It’s too ugly to ignore. Is this a public relations issue now? Can they make this all make sense somehow?
I’d love to know what you think. And for a little fun, here’s a little spoof from Gawker…
Keep Cooking! (at least tasteful branding decisions)
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef