The lexicon used in reference to brands and those who ‘run’ them usually explores words such as ‘guardian’, ‘manager’, ‘owner’ and even ‘police’.
Control over brands has been sought after and fought for through courts and high courts and this is perhaps no surprise given the wealth attached to some of the super brands.
However, social media is changing the rules. It is like the ‘Right to Reply’ show screened by channel 4 from 1982 – 2001 and the newer Whistleblower series, only with more power, more voices and greater reach. Thinking that we can totally control what is said is second in foolishness only to trying to ignore what is said about ‘our’ brands, and non-engagement is not a viable option.
However cynical one might be about the arguably extreme actions of Skittles in giving over their entire site to Twitter last month, it has to be said, that it was a brave move and one that signalled Mars’ move from denial to embracing the latent power of social media. One could argue that this is a little like taking your much loved and nurtured child out for their first ever bike ride, taking off their stabilisers and sending them headlong down a steep hill, but, the principle remains that the brand police over at Skittles have decided to get active and see what the world is saying about (and therefore to) them.
It’s not just the commercial sector that has its Brand Guardians, the Third Sector does too and the challenges are the same; how do you preserve the lovingly crafted and tended values, tonality and standards of your brand, whilst talking so that the supporters will listen and listening so that they will talk? It is a question of dialogue and social media is just that but, the challenge for brands is that their definition of dialogue has historically been to run focus groups and then ‘own’ the conversation.. so, what now the audience have started to backchat?