Archive for the 'Social Media' Category

Great brands don’t chase clicks

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Strategy rules for brands should be short and sweet. Today’s rule is, “Great brands don’t chase clicks.”

Great brands don’t chase clicks

Brands can easily find themselves in the click chase—and click race—when they leap headlong into Facebook and Twitter and other forms of social media. Superficially, social media is a numbers game, and brands who ought to know better often begin to guide themselves by the number and kinds of “likes,” “followers” and “friends” they can amass from user clicks. Suddenly, the brand is all about clicks. Brands of qualities become brands of quantities, often plastering “like” or “favorite” buttons on every entry on on every page to expand their net of clicks. Such brands run the risk of becoming the clickable trivial. It’s as if the brand itself is reduced to a clickstream because it can’t imagine anything more substantial it might do with its customer connection.

We can now expand our rule  to give it some strategic bite—and end on a positive note.

Great brands don’t chase clicks. They click inside customers, connecting emergent dots.

In brand strategy we want the brand to click inside customers, rather than have customers click away like robots at “like” and “favorite” buttons. How the brand clicks is what counts. A brand “clicks” inside its customers when it gets them headed in a new and better direction, when it connects them to new ways of being and doing. The brand is their portal to new worlds of discovery. It flips a switch inside them—that’s the “click”—and they’re never the same again.

Strategically, we want our brand clicks to be connecting emergent dots inside customers. These dots represent latent layers of meaning that have been dormant or suppressed until the brand arrives. “Click”: the lights go on. “Click”: the adrenalin flows. “Click”: the brand engages customers and advances them to richer realms of living, leaving competitors in the dust. (And we want emergent dots because we want to command the future, not the past.)

The brand mission is to be a means of innovation for customers. Let your competitors be brands of clicks.

A short corollary

If the brand clicks with customers, customers don’t click on the brand. They buy the product.

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More evidence that social media sites can erode brand pricing power

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Recent research from Google suggests that social media may become a double-edged sword for brands. While social media sites may be excellent platforms for promoting sales, they can also position a brand as a source of deals and discounts. This positioning can erode a brand’s pricing  power by conditioning customers to shop on price rather than intrinsic brand value.

In other words, unless a brand takes care in how it develops its social media community, it may lose in strategic pricing power what it gains in immediate promotional power. I say “may” because the data is far from complete at this time. But it’s data that points in a definite direction.

Retaining pricing power is crucial for brands

Social media provides enormous value to its users while offering low-cost and effective communications and promotional opportunities for brands. (For typical examples see here). For brands, the critical task is to develop a productive social media strategy that deepens brand engagement and experience while maintaining price premiums. I previously discussed this issue in a post on a Razorfish social media study conducted in 2009. Razorfish found that roughly 40% of brand “fans” and “followers” of Twitter and Facebook were looking for deals. My takeaway from the Razorfish study was that a brand may risk becoming a “brand of deals” if it is constantly linked to deals, or to the expectation of deals. The brand’s pricing power may be reduced accordingly.

Google finds that a brand’s “friends” on social media often want deals

Google released partial data from its research on Facebook, the 800-lb. gorilla of social media sites (and, we should note, a prime Google competitor). Google’s data indicates that the single largest segment (25%) of those who “friend” a brand on Facebook do so in order to receive discounts, deals and other types of special offers. In my view, this may perfectly acceptable if a brand needs constant promotions to attract customers. However, a brand that is not in the business of hot offers and blowout sales may find that this “deal ethos” on social media sites reduces its leverage as a brand of exclusive qualities. You cannot be a high-rent brand with a low-rent strategy.

A chart of Google’s findings

Below is a chart from the findings that Google presented:

For the consumers who do friend your brand, what are they looking for? Discounts!

A brand’s social media pages can become virtual coupons

Google’s data seems to confirm the Razorfish findings that a significant portion of a brand’s social media followers is shopping on price. These followers may treat a brand’s social media presence as a source of deals and discounts, as if the brand suddenly appeared in an outlet mall, offering an equivalent outlet mall experience. The brand may get more traffic and social graph referrals, but it’s traffic that can put price pressure on the brand if the prevailing ethos of fans is “let’s get a deal.” Fundamentally, brands are the deal; they don’t have to make deals. And once every competitor rolls out their social media shingle, deal shopping between brands will be easy. Strategically, the brand’s ability to command a price premium may be compromised.

Two causes of why this may be happening

I can envision two causes for why the deal ethos suggested by this data may be developing on social media sites. The first is that many companies envision social media as the ultimate advertising and PR platform–low cost, viral and high impact–and have consequently flooded their social media pages with sales pitches, deals and promotions. These companies want sales, not a strategic brand community. They gladly create a deal ethos, perhaps because their brands are little more than a sales ploy to begin with. They target fans and followers with pitches, and their “fans” target them with the expectation of deals.

The second reason is that the minimalist designs and capabilities of social media sites generally resemble bare-bones discount sites. The brand is a tenant on social media sites, with a cookie-cutter store front. In such formats, it’s hard for brands to create exclusive brand experiences. Brands that  lack strategic brand vision and a community sensibility (as many do) may adopt a social media default mode of persistent promotion—just to fill up the space.

Current social media sites may homogenize brands

A further thought: It seems to me that in their current formats social media sites can exert a significant power to homogenize brands. They can (inadvertently) reduce brands to a lowest common denominator (e.g., Facebook page or Twitter account) that fits the social media scene. We wind up with brands stripped down for the convenience of social media sites themselves. If you look at how the brands express themselves in a fixed social media format you can sometimes glimpse a frightening similarity, as if two very different brands in the real world behave virtually the same in the social media world. Is this what your brand wants?

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