Who’s Driving Your Brand: Navigating Today’s Confusing Customer Pathways & Arriving with Your Brand Intact
Navigating today’s confusing
customer pathways and arriving
with your brand intact
The proliferation of data offers an exciting opportunity
to restore marketing to its fundamental roots – the basic
principles of driving business growth by understanding
and adding value to current and future customers. Yet, at
the same time, control of our brands has been wrestled
away by the customer – often with the same tools that are
providing us data.
THE MARKETING MIND IS RACING
If you’re a marketer today, you know the rate of change
is unrelenting. You’ve been grilled about the potential of
social media, multimedia, and mobile. You’ve lost sleep
thinking about how to integrate your multiple social media
channels – and how to show their ROI. You’re aware of
the risks if your social marketing goes bad. And you’re
convinced – there’s something else big around the corner.
In short, if you’re working in marketing today, you know
firsthand that in order to keep up with the pace, you
have to learn, know, and do more. Luckily, previously
unavailable data and information are making that possible.
“IF EVERYTHING SEEMS
YOU’RE JUST NOT GOING
- Mario Andretti
IT’S NOT REALLY “YOUR” BRAND
Organizations have spent millions of dollars building
strong brands. Traditionally marketers have been the
ones in direct command of managing customer touch
points and shepherding messages. Now, the voice of the
customer is amplified like never before. A plethora of
channels and 24/7 access to them – one estimate predicts
that nearly 4 billion smartphones will be in the hands of
consumers by the end of 20171
– provides instant outlets
for observation, opinion and debate.
While today’s successful marketers recognize their brands
are increasingly controlled by customers, some would
argue this has always been the case. Brands have always
ultimately been defined by the discussion around them –
but customer voices are more readily and easily amplified
now than ever before.
When the news cycle was slower, brands could use media
channels like TV and PR to curtail negative news. But
not anymore. Today it’s real time and it’s everywhere.
According to MarketingProf author, Carla Ciccotelli, “The
quicker you reply, the more likely your customers will feel
you think they are important; you also give the commenter
less time to complain again.”2
As the customer’s influence
grows, we need to understand that there is still power
behind our brands, even as we let go. However, we need
to learn how to serve as catalysts to our brand advocates
and other influential voices around our brand to empower
them to tell our story in a positive fashion.
1 - Ben Evans, “Mobile, context, and discovery,” February 2014
2 - http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2014/24824/how-to-turn-
Looking closely at how customers interact with each other reveals a
growing potential for loss of brand control. For instance, in 2010, 59
percent of internet users said they used at least one social networking
Today, 42 percent use multiple networks, while 73 percent
of adults online report using some kind of social network – 71 percent
of them use at least one social media site each day.4
Clearly, marketers aren’t the only ones with opportunities to direct brand
message. The general public now plays an active, even dominating,
role. Customers, prospects, and even competitors, can use social media
outlets to build, maintain, protect – or damage – your brand.
HOW TO STEER WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE YOUR
HANDS ON THE WHEEL
“Letting go” does not mean “giving up.” The challenge today is to
embrace your customers, value the increased exposure and harness
social media’s enormous potential, while being conscious of the fact
that every message will be reinterpreted and commented on in ways
that cannot be controlled. In fact, how companies respond online
can make or break their public image – their brand – in today’s social
Many companies have been using social platforms for years now to
engage with their customers, and customers have proven willing to
participate. However, customers’ reasons for engaging with brands
vary greatly. One study revealed that 80 percent of consumers
would share their mobile location data with brands in return for
receiving useful SMS or push message.5
In another survey of millennial
interactions with brands on Facebook, 86 percent stated they did it
just to support the brand. Only 64 percent stated their goal was to get
a coupon or discount.6
Unsurprisingly, marketers have flocked to these channels. In fact, a
report by SocialMedia Examiner found that the overwhelming majority
– 97 percent – stated that they are participating in social media
marketing and 86 percent believed it’s important.
AN EYE ON THE
Online adults’ social media activity
59% 73%social media
users in 2010
users in 2014
DOES IT WORK?
of marketers believe their
Facebook efforts are effective.
Facebook LinkedIn Pinterest Twitter Instagram
2012-2013 Pew Research
3 - http://www.pewinternet.org/2011/06/16/part-2-
4 - http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/12/30/social-
5 - http://www.marketingprofs.com/
6 - http://www.marketingprofs.com/
For some companies, the benefits of social media marketing have been nothing short
of spectacular. CMOs at these companies have embraced change. They’ve pioneered a
variety of innovative social networking campaigns, and they’re learning that loosening
the reins on your brand can yield considerable competitive advantage.
Ace Hardware is one such company showing outstanding results.
In the spring of 2013 they implemented a Facebook campaign
with several ads over a seven-day period. This one campaign alone
grew the number of fans of Ace Hardware’s page by 132 percent
and generated 50,000 relevant clicks. “This campaign showed an
immediate return, both in the growth of our fan base and in sales
resulting from the coupon. The value is still proving out with the fan
base activity to this day,” states Mark Lowe, Ace Hardware eCommerce
Marketing and Digital Manager.7
More than just a click, experts say that
adding fans is a valuable resource. It allows companies to create and
build a database that companies can use to communicate with and
learn from on an ongoing basis.8
As channels mature, there are historical references today. Who can
forget the firestorm that Procter & Gamble created in the summer of
2010 when it produced nearly 200 short, comedic YouTube videos
to reinvigorate the nearly forgotten Old Spice brand. Leveraging
the reach and engagement of social media, these “commercials”
were personalized to respond to comments from YouTube viewers,
bloggers, Facebook and Twitter users (particularly influencers).
In what was seen as a huge risk at the time, P&G allowed its team
to respond to the “viral” groundswell of viewers that developed
by writing marketing content in real time with little supervision.
In essence, the customers were leading the brand. The reward? A
catalogue of YouTube “ads” that received more than 10 million views
in less than a week. As further proof that P&G believes it works, in the
summer of 2013 P&G shifted a full 35 percent of their US ad budget
7 - http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/
8 - http://www.scribd.com/doc/97378835/ace-
9 - http://www.digitalstrategyconsulting.com/
A great thing about the openness of communications
today is that it enables you to see and understand
customer behaviors that you might not have discovered
otherwise. By recording and integrating that information
you can make informed decisions going forward. For
instance, you might discover that more seniors are using
mobile than you would expect or that visitors to your
Pinterest account are more likely to purchase online.
The openness of communications today that make it so
interesting and appealing are also what make it risky.
Trolls aside, most people interacting on the internet are
generally there in good faith. But brands of almost any size
are bound to have detractors for one reason or another.
Being transparent and authentic are key to deflecting most
unwanted attention. At the same time, when considering
hashtags (#) or campaigns, brands need to know both
their audience and the current overall market climate and
sentiment. Ideas that can be misinterpreted or redefined in
multiple ways likely will be. Brands that haven’t taken these
precautions have paid the price.
REVERSE GEAR? YOU’RE KIDDING, RIGHT?
Marketers are finding that by being transparent and
relinquishing a measure of control, they can actually inspire
customers to develop a deeper, more intimate relationship
with their brand, products and services. The fact that 70
percent of customers buy from companies based on how
they’ve been treated reinforces this notion.10
want to be appreciated for what they contribute to your
company and brand. You have to have a dialogue, and
you have to be prepared to meet customers on their turf,
wherever and whenever that might be.
10 - McK The moment of truth in customer service, http://www.mckinsey.
Start small. Start with a framework that encompasses
your customers’ preferred channels. You don’t have
to be everywhere, but find where your customers and
conversations about your brand are happening. Listen
to and monitor those channels. Customers today expect
companies to have an online presence that’s not only
informative, but helpful and responsive, as well. It’s an
option for companies that care about their brand.
For Jeffrey Hayzlett, host of “C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett,”
and author of “The Mirror Test,” it all boils down to:
THE FOUR Es OF SOCIAL MEDIA:
And, with regard to the issue of losing control of brands,
Hayzlett encourages marketers to take a step back and ask
How much control did we really ever have?
As Hayzlett sees it, customers have always controlled our
brands. The difference now is that marketers can use
social media as a tool to shape the conversations and
share their story. As surprising as it sounds, it’s clear
that these days, by letting go, we can actually gain new
opportunities to influence.