Saturday, 13 October 2007

The age of the Brand Facilitator

The age of the brand manager is over.

It sounds like something that’s been said before; perhaps it’s a cliché that I have been slow to catch on to. But I have had opportunity to reflect on this recently, and I write here why I have now come to accept this realisation. My interpretation of this cliché.

Brand management is over. The brand manager must give way to the Brand Facilitator.

I believe that we now live in a world that has millions and millions of brand managers. Some of them work in corporations- but most of them you will find simply on youtube- myspace – or facebook. Some have dual degrees and MBAs, most are still in high school. Some have millions of dollars and media plans. Most have a laptop, an opinion and their own communities of trust. They have frequent and regular access to the internet. To information. And they have the technology on their fingertips to interpret and comment on every piece of news. On reshaping it, propagating it and influencing the truth.

The truth is always relative. With the internet, it is totally apparent that there is no longer one truth.

The “brand manager” then, in the traditional sense no longer can believe that his brand message carries any weight. His message then is simply a set of facts and his interpretation of those facts. He can buy “share of voice”, but not the trust of a new generation of consumers that have the motivation and technology to seek their own truth.

10,000 miles away, a TV viewer sees an advertisement, interprets it in perhaps a completely different way, goes on to blog it and suddenly his interpretation is available to more people than is guaranteed by the GRP of a media planner!!

So as a brand manager, there is no longer any control.

Why fight it? Just join it. Don’t be a brand manager, be a brand facilitator.

The new age wants to find the truth for itself. The brand facilitator can then provide data and information. In an accessible way. In a responsible way. And allow the reader to create the brand on his workstation.

If you don’t like the brand the reader has created and is diffusing, you need to understand that given the same set of information, two people have come to completely different conclusions.

Which means, you need to understand why? And rework the information sharing process.

But you cannot sue the reader (you don’t even know his real name or address anymore) and you waste energy in justifying a common message to each of the billion people that have their own interpretations.

But you should begin to understand how your consumers are coming to their conclusions.

And facilitate an understanding of your brand. That’s all you should do. Facilitate an understanding. By sharing information openly and honestly.

I believe people create associations based on their interactions with brands. Ten years ago, it was easy to give out branded “pens”, “caps” and start building an interaction. Not anymore. People are interacting online. There, it is honest and responsible dialogue that will allow people to build the trust in the brand.

People need information. This gives a sense of “power”. They cannot be denied information. They will find it. The best option for us is to give out the information ourselves. Openly. So that we can be sure that at least they have the access to the most accurate information.

And this is great news. Blogs, forums and communities allow us to benefit from the views of millions others. To be a part of their opinions. People are building opinions not be watching tv, but by discusing issues. They should discuss your brand. And be free to play with it... to "own" it by creating their own interpretation of it. To be associated with it in a "personl" way. Thats where brand equity will be established. Lets not fear this. Lets embrace this.

The brand manager will have to give way to the brand facilitator, if the brand is to survive in this century and beyond.

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