Sunday, October 16, 2011

Brands are For Cow Hides, Use Social Media to Humanize

A brand is a symbol of a ranch that is burned into the hide of cattle to identify that cattle as legally belonging to that ranch. Once a cow has been branded, it is a crime for some other ranch to capture that cow, add it to their herd, and claim it as their own.

People are not cattle. Consumers aren't looking to have a company's mark burned painfully into their skin.

There is a "brand" of sorts that is burned into the customer: how well the product achieves the goal of satisfying the customer's need. When the customer uses the product to fulfill the purpose for which it was purchased, to solve a problem or enhance a lifestyle, the result is "burned" like a brand into the mind, the consciousness of that customer.

Companies have to stop thinking of themselves as "brands", as something they burn into the skin of consumers as a mark. They are not a "brand", a frenzied mess of symbolic gestures and catchy slogans, dreamed up in ad agency conference rooms.

A company is a collection of people who have produced a product that (hopefully) meets the needs of other people. As such, as concerned individuals, they then interact with those people who potentially could benefit from their expertise and from their product.

That's how a company, or company spokesperson, must behave in social media. Not pushing product, product, product. Not flooding the online community with sales messages, discount coupons, and aggressive hype. Not dropping marketing bombs then zooming away.

Nobody joins social media to receive relentless commercial messages. People seek companionship, friendly conversations, and sometimes they need answers to questions or solutions to specific problems.

Assign someone to handle your social media. Someone who's on fire for what your product can do for those who need it. Someone who understands marketing and sales, but also understands psychology and social media interactions.

Use social media to socialize. Use social media to present a warm, sharing and caring, genuinely human face.

People think of corporations as cold, aloof, arrogant, and uncaring. Provide superior customer service, help people choose which model of your product is most suited for their budget and needs.

Give them insight into the general area of life your product exists within. Share your expertise, even if a particular insight is not immediately followed by a sales message. Position your company in the minds of consumers as the thought leader, the company with good answers and value and solutions.

Nobody wants to interact with a "brand".

Nobody seeks a deeper relationship with a "brand".

People have problems, interests, needs, and questions.

Address those issues, and your "branding" will take a new turn and be a humanized, altruistic success -- with sales growth as a natural and well-deserved consequence.

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