Five key shifts driving social ideas

There have been countless slideshare presentations highlighting the changing consumer landscape and the impact that social platforms have had on how we build brands. So, I’m not going to create another slideshare presentation. Rather I thought I’d highlight five key shifts I’ve noticed in the way brands need to behave in the ever changing socialscape. Some of these shifts are not new, I hope to share my perspective on them.

  1. IMAGE TO REALITY

Communication is no longer about manufacturing an image around a brand. This is not to say that lifestyle branding is dead, however  it’s now far more about being authentic and truly transparent in all aspects of a brands behaviour. We used to use advertising to shift image perceptions with the hope buyers would shift their purchase behaviour. Now, it’s about crafting new realities for consumers by creating open and transparent brands. We’re also seeing brands CSR initiatives being scrutinised far more closely. My old boss David Jones, CEO of Havas talks passionately about this shift here.  It’s true to say you can’t get away with anything in the social world. This shift is making brands far more accountable for their actions.

  1. SAYING TO DOING

Propositions are dead. Yelling at people hoping they’ll latch onto a brand benefit or attribute is pretty much over. Unless you’re Apple and have truly remarkable product innovation. Sure you need to build out from a brand truth, but I believe it’s as much about brand behaviour in media as well as brand messages. It’s all about how we can inspire behaviour change through creating brand behaviours which deliver value. Whether it be through a thoughtful gesture, a branded utility, or entertainment. Every brand essence or brand truth should be a VERB  not a noun. Social objects which are based around doing something and which have their own reverberation. We’re already seeing brands now focus on creating ‘experiences’ and then turning those experiences into the content for advertising. Attention is scarce, we need to drive engagement via doing stuff for our audiences which add value to their lives.

  1. CONTROL TO COLLABORATION

Marketing in a black box is dead, as are matrices where we put segments and consumers into boxes thinking that they are anticipating our messages. Marketers need to relinquish control of their brands.  Open up and allow for collaboration. Apply a ‘beta marketing’ approach whereby you collaborate with your fans constantly in crafting and recrafting your marketing strategy. I’m not talking about crowdsourcing new product design which is so 2009, I’m talking about genuinely involving your fans and advocates in the brands story. A recent research report suggest that 84% of brand fans on Facebook are actually customers, so it’s clear people want to collaborate with brands. You just need to work out what sort of collaboration that is. Whether it’s a ‘digital fling’ as Saneel Radia calls it or more of an ongoing ‘Digital Marriage’ eg: Nike + platform. I believe great flings like Intel Museum of Me are still critical to spark a reconnection with a brand.

  1. AUDIENCE TO COMMUNITY

We need to shift our marketing strategies to think about the ‘networked community’. Understand how the ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ links between people are created and how brands can be relevant within these communities. That’s the key to unlocking virality of an idea. Social seeding is now an artform within the communications planning skillset. Planners who understand how to create ‘influence’ and spark virality (assuming you’ve got a great idea) are worth their wait in gold. How many great pieces of content do you see with 500 views on YouTube.?

  1. BRANDS TIME TO REAL TIME

Marketing has sped up. We now expect ideas and narratives to play out in real time. Brands which spend 6 months bringing out a campaign will struggle for relevancy. The brands which will succeed will be super responsive to culture and allow fans to take ownership of ideas in real time. I’m talking about far more spontaneous ideation and creation of ideas. This requires complete shift in how we bring creativity to market in agencies. Urgent Genius is an example of this philosophy as is the highly awarded Old Spice Responses campaign. When I worked on McDonald’s we used to plan launch campaigns 15months out. I think those days are short lived. Brands now need to be super reactive as culture moves at lightning speed and the brands who can keep up with it and even inspire culture will be the brands which win.

There are many other implications of what’s happening to communications as a result of social media, these are just a few  thoughts based on observations as well as what I’ve learnt from others.

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