I just read a Tweet from Forrester about a new report entitled “Adaptive Brand Marketing” by @lisabradner. I’m certain that Forrester’s version of adaptive brand marketing is different than mine. But learning about the study unearthed some thoughts that I wanted to share.
Some time ago I blogged about the need for marketers to get out of their silos and to make interactive (which includes social) as much a part of their role as any other marketing discipline. Adaptation thought number one.
Brands are more fluid than ever. “Everyone” knows that a brand really only exists in the mind of your customer. And even just a few short years ago, savvy companies could control the perception of their brand fairly easy via strong and consistent messaging and media strategies.
Today however, the customer (and this holds true in b to b as much as it does in b to c, take my word for it as a former b to b Marketing Veep) is taking control, as they have access to mass media tools on their desktops. Did you know that there are over 100 sites that can be considered social media? This blog post from SEOmoz lists 101 of them… So indeed, within minutes a motivated customer can support or trash your brand across a variety of media and, if they are even somewhat influential, may be able to positively or negatively effect many years and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars worth of effort – as it relates to your brand.
Wow. Not only does your brand exist in their mind, but now in the minds of their networks. So what to do?
Adapt. Quickly. Understand that you can no longer completely control your message and your brand. Surely, you can take back some control. But be careful, for the more control you take today, the more apt one of these brand bashers (or advocates) will be to take back that control tomorrow.
The key here is influence, and exerting your influence over the conversation is where you can exert your control. Major adaptation thought number two, as, chances are, you are used to creating core messaging and extending it into different mediums. And riffing on that.
I’m not suggesting that you can’t create a core message and use a variety of media to deliver it – I encourage that! The difference now, is that from there you have to follow it, stay on top of it, respond to it in distinctively different ways than you may have before. In this manner, you can continue to influence the customer conversations, although you may never “own” them again…
Scared or excited? I’m excited, and this is one of the reasons why I started Colloquy – to help companies to regain control of their message.
Assuming you can manage the downside of this new paradigm, where you can influence the negative customers, now you’ve got the incredible prospect of the upside. The opportunity to harness brand advocacy. Imagine that instead of paying for the creation and production of “traditional” media, that you engage your advocates – those customers who love your brand so much that they just have to blog and Tweet about it – to spread the message for you. Can it get more powerful than that?
This however, takes major adaptation. For not only do you need to “manage” your brand differently, you need a new breed of marketer to manage it. No, it doesn’t have to be a 20-something. I think it needs to be a person who understands traditional marketing, and knows how to apply those techniques to the new media channels being utilized by customers (of course, it would help if they understood those channels, too.) Additionally, I would suggest that marketing plans can still be looked at with one year objectives and strategies, but on the tactical level – quarterly. Not just because the conversation may have changed, but because the marketplace will likely have changed as well – adaptation thought number three.
I’m guessing that Forrester’s version of adaptation is very much focused on the flat out management of the brand, which is undoubtedly valuable. In my world however, in looking at the challenges faced by a person responsible for overall marketing strategy and execution, I’ve got to look beyond brand and I encourage you to as well.
So I think that you can take this notion of adaptation to the bank. For not only is it a skill that should not only be included in every marketer’s job description, but one that needs to be applied to overall marketing management – immediately.
Although this too, can change in say, 3 months…
What do you think?