Design Principles

Electro-Evolution: Are Your Brands Ready to Take the Next Step?

Posted: February 23, 2011 by

What is the “Electro-evolution”? It’s a term used to describe today’s global brand landscape. More than ever before, people, countries and brands are aligning through the Internet. Corporations are losing control of their brands as consumers purchase more and more online from every part of the globe and thus are having a greater impact on how brands are marketed.
When a brand with street credibility can go viral in days, awareness slips to second priority. Although awareness is part of the desired strategy for long-term success, you can’t ignore a fivefold increase in sales for BlendTec with its “Will it Blend?” campaign on YouTube.
This is forcing brand owners to take a hard look at their traditional marketing mix. Remember the good old days when “global brand” meant that you sold your brand in another country? When a carefully planned, well funded local and global marketing campaign would connect you with consumers and build loyalty? Web sites, ads and events rounded out your campaign. The Old Spice phenomenon is a perfect example of how a brand today can go from “my father’s brand” to twenty-somethings saying they think it’s cool in just a matter of months, not years.
The true definition of “global brand” is very simply a brand that has been marketed extensively around the world and has a very high level of recognition. It’s no accident that most brand owners are focusing their efforts on fewer, more recognized (and therefore global) brands. But herein lies the concern: the speed of the Internet and overflow of information available to consumers is astounding, even with today’s technology. A brand can move from relative obscurity to the limelight in days. Does this mean it’s a global brand?

“Instant” can mean “temporary”
Based on the traditional definition, no, but you can’t ignore the almost instant levels of recognition and the fervent reaction of consumers. But here’s where a lot brands drop the ball. That instant level of recognition must be supported by the more traditional methods of consumer marketing. Key players within the organization have to understand the market realities at both local and global levels. Local market success should be used to drive global direction.
The trick, of course, is to avoid relying solely on new methods of consumer engagement like social media. Balance and strategy are still the keys to ensuring consistent communication of your message across all platforms. The brands that do this well will reap the benefits of brand loyalty, something that’s become more difficult to attain for today’s brands. The brands that struggle with the connection between social media and traditional marketing will continue to operate as though these are separate entities and fail to realize their potential.
Some brand owners believe that presenting their brands on the Internet can in essence create a global brand. While brand owners agree that their online presence is a great opportunity to reach existing and potential consumers, most lack the tools and information to leverage it successfully.
So what happens when you decide to embark on a Social Media campaign? It’s no longer only about “number of impressions” or “percentage of response rate.” The real challenge is the lack of understanding of the interrelationships between platforms and its effect on your marketing campaign. In other words, brand owners know they need a presence but are having trouble measuring it against shrinking marketing budgets and the strategic needs of their brand. And, although 75% of Facebook users reside outside of the U.S., only 30% of companies over $100 million in revenue are using Facebook to reach consumers globally—a huge, untapped potential market.

How do we work this?
Most brand owners agree that customized content at the local level is important. But, how can they manipulate a platform that is inherently global and pervasive to generate local content that is culturally, geographically and economically relevant? While the inter-connection between social media platforms is getting tighter, the question remains about which platforms to target and which department gets the budget. Who measures the effectiveness? Who generates the content? Web sites with local content, print ads and local marketing events are still the most desired methods for brand owners to reach local consumers. This is partially because they are the mainstays of a marketing campaign and offer easier metrics, and partially because of the organizational gap between social media efforts and marketing.
Brand owners agree that it has become more difficult to reach consumers with a unified brand message. The prevailing issue is employing cost-effective tactics. And yet, considering the budgets for marketing and advertising, social media is one of the cheapest forms of connection. Posting original content, leveraging your user base, and engaging with new and current consumers are extremely powerful and cost effective methods of social media marketing. However, because they still lack proper metrics, organizations are struggling to quantify the effectiveness of these methods. As a result, selling the idea internally has been difficult.

It’s not supposed to be simple
With an aging population and billions of people on the Internet, we cannot ignore the changing tide of consumer-to-brand interaction. As the alignment among countries, people, and brands continues to grow, there is no single solution that brand owners can turn to. But, hope is not lost. Brands today need a complex assortment of strategies to ensure effective levels of recognition and consistent communication across all consumer touch points.
The real power comes from the integration and balance of these strategies. Start by building the bridge between social media and marketing. Organizational alignment is key to this process. Then, harvest that rich data from your social media campaign and use it to enhance your consumer insight research. It’s an opportunity to ask consumers different questions, and then to validate them. Also, look for service providers that can craft and manage local messaging and content for your Internet presence.
The Electro-evolution is a huge opportunity to craft better design briefs, build better brands, and connect with your consumers in ways not possible just a few years ago. Listen, engage, and be transparent. They will respond.

John Miziolek is president and brand strategist at Reset Branding (www.resetbranding.com), a non-traditional branding agency that specializes in consumer product goods.
 

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