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Is Brand the Holy Grail of Social Media?

February 19th, 2013

Brand is many things: a promise that drives customer engagement; a set of values that differentiate a company from its competitors; guidelines that align the working culture; a resource to simplify customer purchasing decisions. Simply put, a brand is a solution. For the social media, SEO and digital advertising industries, brand is the solution they continue to misunderstand at their peril. brandistheholygrailblack

The gap between the digital call to action and physical customer conversion has been a hot topic at SXSW Interactive this past week, and for the industry since its inception. The latest solutions focus on the next technological breakthrough, the newest social platform, smaller and smaller screens, the next hot app; all in the name of getting a customer to put a decision into action. And yet this is not sufficient to bridge the connection.

“I Honestly have not seen what’s working, yet…. It’s kind of too early to tell if these approaches (bridging digital campaigns to physical actions) are going to drive results… I have not seen anyone who has found the Holy Grail.”

Nathaniel Perez, global head of social experience at SapientNitro
SXSW 2013 (source)

So… do these campaigns actually drive consumer engagement and purchasing decisions?

No. And they won’t until organizations shift from focusing on the latest technology, the quickest message delivery system, the next viral meme or the coolest app and begin to recognize that customers crave those things that an authentic brand delivers. So what needs to be delivered? What drives engagement and action? What makes a brand authentic?

A brand drives action. Forget hype. Forget selling. Think connection.

A brand with coordinated and thoughtful components sets expectations and strives to deliver beyond those expectations every time. Dynamic brands, just like interesting people, have a story to tell that resonates with a customer’s emotional needs. They’re not sappy, not overly cute… just real.

Thoughtful brands practice what they preach and nurture an organizational culture that reflects the attitudes that are honored by both the internal team and external market niche. Brands that understand design thinking cultivate customer touch-points that mirror the principles and values that employees and customers share and believe in. Agile brands develop fair, balanced and consistent tools; operational processes; and policies that let customers make decisions and develop the trust needed to engage the brand. Brands that bring all these archetypes together are brands that connect.

Case in point: SXSW Interactive itself. The show is overflowing with new ideas, just-launched products, fresh startups, and a growing list of huge tech firms that all use the same “me-too” language, snappy giveaways and overly hyped social media contests. Brands struggling for even a sliver of attention have opted for flashy attention getting gimmicks that, like advertising, elicit a chorus of “ooh and ahhs” that fade as quickly as the burst of fireworks. One firm held a grilled cheese sandwich eating contest featuring a world famous champion – all of which had nothing to do what-so-ever with their brand.

“It’s harder to make an impact, yes. There are a heck of a lot more companies, and apps, than five and 10 years ago.”

Hugh Forrest, director SXSW Interactive, SXSW 2013 (source)

It’s human nature to want to share experiences, participate in two-way dialogues, and act as trusted and accepted member of the tribe… at the time and place that makes the most sense for each. That’s the intrinsic draw behind the digital universe we’ve created. It holds great potential and attracts even greater interest. But it is the humanness of those same traits that determines that technology alone will never be sufficient.

“How do you take traditional human to human persuasion to get a customer to do something and replace one of those humans with a computer and see what still works?”

Dan Greenberg CEO Sharethrough SXSW 2013 (source)

Brand bridges that last mile between digital and physical.

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