I recently came across an interesting post on BrandingBrand.com blog entitled 'Social Media: The Future of Branding'. Now, it is more of a pros and cons of branding via social media, but it did highlight some significant problem that huge name brand companies are dealing with. And, regardless of whether you're considering SMM or SEO content for building your company brand, you'll also have to be prepared to face these issues.
Kleenex Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be
Chris used Kleenex (launched in 1924) in his post as an example of the ultimate in company branding. The facial tissue product started out as the 'disposable "cold cream towel"' and 'disposable handkerchief'. Today, it has become the biggest name in the industry and synonymous with the product itself.
And, really, isn't that what every company wants? If I send my husband to the store and tell him we need Kleenex, he knows exactly what I mean. (I think the last person in my family to call it 'facial tissue' was my grandmother.)
Kleenex isn't the only product to achieve this either. If you've had kids, you've likely used Pull-Ups (launched in the 1980s. AKA disposable training pants) or Pampers (Came out in the 1950s. Also known as diapers for any of you who haven't experienced any 3am feedings yet 😉 ).
Depends (started in the 1980s) is another product that has reached the 'golden' level of branding. You might also be interested to know that Kleenex, Pull-Ups, and Depends are all made and owned by Kimberly-Clark. (They're obviously doing something right!)
I guess my point is that the branding for these products started long before social media was ever thought of. They gained their prestige simply by having good products, smart business owners who could identify the best advertising opportunities, and a solid understanding of their customer's needs. Point blank, if your company doesn't have these three things, you don't stand a hope in hell of getting anywhere.
Now, I fully agree that you can't really say anything negative about their branding, but these products have another huge problem to overcome: The market is now full of no-name competitors selling for far less. So much less, in fact, that many of the coupons released by the name brands still can't put the price tag of their product at a competitive level.
Now, as a mother with a young family and a tight budget, why should I pay an extra $5 more or so for a bag of diapers that are just going to go in the garbage anyway? The reality is that until you try it and can personally see the difference yourself, there isn't one! They have to get potential customers to try their product and identify the benefits. That's where social media comes in.
A Little Head-to-Head Competition Never Hurts
Social media brings a whole new meaning to the word 'competition'. This new, real time format brings the fight over your target customer base to the forefront, forcing you to plan ahead and step wisely. Make a mistake during this very public conflict, and it could seriously harm your company image.
I think the best example of this situation was Pepsi greeting Coke on Twitter or even Yahoo, MSN, and Google who have done this as well. None of the companies have done anything wrong (yet), but the problem is that they haven't done anything! Instead of ignoring the situation, these
opposing companies should really use this viral opportunity to their advantage.
Personally, I'm watching these situations like a Hannah Montana fan at Walmart waiting for the launch of a new CD. Without a little crowd control, it's bound to get ugly. I'd love to see the two soda giants bring their already established core of loyal followers out into the open in order to attract more attention.
Think about it: a friendly competition on Twitter, a 'battle of the bands' competition on YouTube, or even a Facebook Frenzy that gets followers involved in the friendly games and keeps the interest up. Advertise these campaigns in real life and on television to pick up additional interest. Those of us who watch social media, branding and business would undoubtedly chat about it as well, spreading the buzz far beyond the traditional reach of these companies.
On the other hand, what I don't want to see is a nasty battle involving heavy-duty mud slinging between the two. (Political figures might want to take note, not?) Anyway, I think it's a shame to see this potential go to waste.
Social Media Drowning: Are You A Murderer?
All companies including the biggest ones need to stay visible, but they also need to choose their steps wisely in order to avoid drowning their followers. As Chris mentioned in his post, customers get tired of being constantly bombarded with endless streams of 'stuff'. Here's an example:
I recently 'friended' a company on Facebook because I was genuinely interested in what they had to offer. Before I knew it, they found me on Twitter. Great…I love Twitter. Then, they found me on 5 or 6 other networks and suddenly I was on a mailing list. Before I knew it, I was getting 10 or more chunks of 'stuff' from this company in a day, not including tweets. The result? I finally had to unfriend them everywhere and email them to be removed from their lists. This is a shame because I really had been interested until it became more of a hindrance than a help.
If I could tell the branding bigwigs one thing, it would be this: Instead of wasting hours chasing off and strangling those who are already loyal to you, use discretion and ration your postings if you decide to have your customers connect with you everywhere.
Or better yet, select a few main accounts where you'll get the best results, and use other social media networks to funnel new followers towards your main sites. If you're not sure what something is like, sign up to everything yourself so that you get a first hand experience of your social media campaign.
Are you including SMM in your branding plans? Have you considered these issues or noticed them with big companies yourself? Have you noticed something with big name branding that I haven't? I'd love to hear it!
Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom) is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services. She loves to create SEO Web copy and other types of online and offline content, but she figures SEO and Social Media is pretty great too. She likes to chat about business and marketing, find great links, and more. Oh, and you can find this copywriter on Twitter too.