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Destroying A Brand in a Social World

Posted on : 15-12-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Marketing, Social Media

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Much Discussion has been made about how successful companies can market themselves and their products through social media. I personally wonder if anyone truly cares about hearing brands do this, but that is a post for another day. I do know that companies can destroy their brand quickly in this space and I thought it would be fun to look at different ways this happens.

The first thing to recognize is that the brand image is owned by others and not the PR department or marketing. Both of these departments are important but they are no longer in the driver’s seat for brand image. I wonder if they ever were? Again, probably a post for another day. I am not sure things have changed in this regard but perception has. The masses, whoever they may be control it. In reviewing recoveries by brands who have had trouble, we can still determine how a brand can be destroyed in social media.

Many larger brands have had trouble in their history, even before social media became a large part of communications. McDonalds and Starbucks had difficulties at one point in their life cycle and both recovered nicely. Both had similar issues, they had inconsistent Customer experiences at different locations. They also strayed far from their core products. Both recovered in similar ways by working to create Customer experiences that were consistent from location to location. This will always be trouble for franchise type organizations or decentralized business model because the brand image is not as much in the companies control. In recovering they first outlined who they are and what they strive to be. Starbucks founder Howard Schultz returned as CEO. One of the first things he did was bring back the smell of coffee. Very basic but key to a consistent experience. McDonalds focus on cleanliness of locations and consistent food. How consistent is your brand? Are you doing what you are good at or are you trying to be too many different things to various constituents?

Your brand is also owned by your employees. Since there has been a long standing analogy of social media as a cocktail party, what story would your own employees tell at a cocktail party? Would they say what a great place your company is or would they bitch about their job? Worse yet, would they say nothing? Apathy is much worse than negative commentary. At least negative commentary means they want change or improvement but if they say nothing, they do not care at all. Employees have great power over the brand and could help build it further. There are also many examples of employees hurting brands, such as the Domino’s video from years ago. Domino’s did a great job recovery from that event but I am sure it fundamentally changed them.

Customers have the greatest power they ever have. Companies dream of Customers taking their message to others, but as a Consumer how often do you do that? I have done it for Apple and Samsung products as well as a few service brands that wow’ed me, but more often than not, I am more negative due to experiences that did not meet my expectations. Brands may have dreams, but the fact is people will not talk about your brand unless you give them strong reason to. Do you create wow experiences? If not, do not expect people to share your message. Also if you are not a well liked, but create something cool, they may share it with commentary such as ‘this is cool even if I do not like XYZ company.’ This happens because they are not playing to you, but instead they are playing to their crowd. They do not want to get blasted by their own friends for supporting a brand that others do not like.

You win or lose in this social world through the Customer and employee experience. Know what your brand is about and consistently deliver on that.