Saturday, June 5, 2010

MEDIAPOST: The Brand Promise Vs. The Brand Experience

As usual, we love to overcomplicate things in this business. Social media is no different, and if anything it’s the most overcomplicated category of all because everyone is out there, searching for a silver bullet that just doesn’t exist.

Social media is media, pure and simple, but (as I mentioned a few weeks back in one of my articles) the message is of utmost importance, as it is what drives action in the social environment. The way the media is used is really no different than the way generations of consumers have used media and interacted with messaging in the past, with the exception that the viral nature of the format is easier to ignite than other formats. Sharing is at the heart of social media, but the sharing of information is an extension of word-of-mouth. It’s word-of-mouth on steroids.

I bring this up because last week I had a re-epiphany in conversation with a colleague. A re-epiphany is an epiphany that I had in the past but forgot about, and when you remember that epiphany things tend to fall into place. The epiphany was that no matter what messaging you attempt to put into the marketplace to try and convert the audience into customers, the promise of the experience has to match the actual experience of the brand, product or service. Simply put, if you say one thing and do another, then you’ll fail.

Social media, and the strategy behind it, isn’t worth a hill of beans if you don’t first analyze the consumer experience of your brand and make sure you know what the consumer thinks of you. Any brand that is going to make the investment into social media must first know what the consumer thinks about them. This goes much deeper than just listening in social media, it extends to true customer research while you’re developing your messaging. Old world focus groups, or even just directional consumer surveys can accomplish this quickly and easily and allow you to sit one-on-one with your audience to see what they really think. I feel as though generations of companies are skipping right past these influential, and truly necessary, steps in developing their brands and it’s a shame.

Let’s take Facebook as an example. Facebook continues to make mis-steps, albeit revising and retracting quickly, because they do what they want without engaging in true research with their customers. Facebook keeps gambling that privacy is not the issue but when they make changes to the platform they keep getting consumer-slapped with feedback and are forced to revisit their changes. The fact of the matter is that Facebook is just “doing”, not listening, and not properly thinking about the consumer’s desires. If the experience of Facebook doesn’t match the promise (social conversation between friends), then they fail. Opening the privacy gates up to the web at large is a core violation of what most consumers feel is the experience of Facebook.

No matter what kind of brand, product or service you might be, you need to be clear on what the consumer considers to be the experience of your brand before you make changes and certainly before you message out to the world. If you say one thing and do another, you get in trouble.

What kinds of brands have you run into that suffer from these kinds of issues?

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