Wednesday, 31 March 2010

open and closed social networks - where should a brand manager focus?

Social networks mirror the real world. The real world is large an indifferent place with people running a race to better their lives and given the opportunity will 'free load'- i.e attempt to gain goods and services without having to pay for them.

The real world is mostly leisure and pleasure seeking.

Its true, for every 1 hard working 'i want to change the planet and am ready to lose my last dollar for this', you have a 1000 that want to save the planet but not really switch off the bathroom lights when they are finished.

We like gossip. Social networks mirror this.
We like to be part of the 'cool crowd'. Social networks mirror this.

The one reason marketers have been trying to embrace social networks is that they believe (as do we) that social networks are a good way of engaging consumers. Is this really true?

Yes and No.

'Engagement' is a two way street. It requires action, reaction, action.

Most consumers really just want to read, hear and be informed. Only 1 in a 1000 will react. So why try to reach the other 999? you're really trying to reach the 1 that writes what the other 999 read.

Why advertise on Youtube? Why have your brand twitter? Why create a facebook page for your brand?

Rather than reach out to networks, we advocate that companies and brands create networks and invite selectively 'engag-able' consumers. Then allow these consumers to inform their own networks. But these are the 'brand or category advocates' that interact with the brand.

These advocates must be allowed to touch, feel and influence the brand. What's tricky is how do we filter the engaged user versus the non engaged (who will invariably come to the community if it becomes cool to be part of it).

But the bigger question is, does the brand manager have the maturity to distinguish between these two groups and focus on the quality of the engagement rather than the quantity.

That's what should decide online advertising budgets. The possibility of creating interactive and engaged communities. It takes time and effort. Like a 'frequent flier program' that over time separates the truly loyal from the others. A brand website that tracks user participation will eventually pick out the true loyalists.

Ritu and Venkat.

The REAL 'So What' of functional advertising what's functional advertising....advertising that sells a product based on a functional benefit for its users. Unlike a Louis Vuitton bag that offers to satisfy mostly psychological needs. These products usually sell themselves on performance. Nike shoes. Sony. (When you lose your 'mojo' you drop from satisfying psychological needs to functional needs...its true, Sony.)

Now whats the REAL 'so what'?

The story of advertising usually ends with, buy me because i can do something better than the competition...or buy me because i can save you money or time.

This works when competition is weak. Once competition strengthens, and everyone offers a way to save money or time, whats the distinction?

And here is where the REAL 'So what?' becomes relevant. This is based on the core consumer need that saving money or time satisfies.

Brands need to understand this core need for its core segment. For example, a mother may like to save time so she spends more of it with her family...or on herself. Does your advertising capture this for the kind of mother you are targeting?

Or that a father would like to save money to buy a golf set or to put his children through a better college. Does your consumer understanding capture this about your target?

Nike does a fabulous job of understanding the 'so what'....we make great shoes, buts that not the reason you buy us. You buy us because we understand you want to compete and win...and mostly you are competing against yourself. We can help you raise the bar. That is what they help the consumers with.

Thats the real brand benefit that needs to be answered. The REAL 'so what'.

Ritu and Venkat