Many marketers see their brand as an asset they own. Not completely true. I'm not arguing that the brand is worthless. I'm just saying you don't own it. You never have. And in today's web 2.0, social media world, you never will.
I laughed out loud when I ran across this from Citi's Chief Marketing Officer. She was on a social media panel talking about her decision not to dive into social media, nor let consumers have free access to the company's graphics.
"We're not there yet, and we're proceeding very cautiously," said Lisa Caputo, Citi's first company-wide CMO. "I am very loath to put it (the brand) at risk and let some individual do what they want with it."
Lisa, Lisa, Lisa. Thanks to all the social media tools in the market, consumers already are getting your logos and doing whatever they want with them anyway. People are already talking about Citi, its successes and its failures. Your risk is twofold: you think you own the brand and you are avoiding, not engaging consumers.
You'd think someone who has risen to this level would know that a brand is community property. The company, its employees, allies and consumers share the brand. A brand is not solely graphics, logos, taglines and such. Every interaction a company has with its various publics adds to or subtracts from the brand.
Even the venerable BusinessWeek - http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/aug2007/id20070830_589214.htm? - is off the mark when it comes to brands interacting with consumers through social media. The authors of the article say that smart marketers must realize that social media users have, "the potential to become brand partners - or brand message hijackers."
Consumers will say what they want to say. It's not hijacking, it's an opportunity for marketers to hear the truth and respond to it. End of story.
The Jurassic period of marketing with its with three-martini lunches is gone. Get used to it and get social. Your organization's survival depends upon it.
Harry Hoover is a partner in My Creative Team. He has 30 years of experience in crafting and delivering bottom line messages that ensure success for serious businesses like Bank of Commerce, CruisingTheICW.com, Duke Energy, Focus Four, Jacobsen, Levolor, National Gypsum, North Carolina Tourism, Premier, Rubbermaid, Ty Boyd Executive Learning Systems, VELUX, and Verbatim.