Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Social Media: Curing Obsessive Branding Disorder
By Joe Marchese
Last night's guest on "The Colbert Report" was Lucas Conley, author of "Obsessive Branding Disorder." After watching him and reading a bit of his blog, I am hooked. I haven't read the book yet but I am ordering it right tonight on Amazon (we'll see if it comes up on Facebook). I find it fascinating to watch branding gone wrong, but have always found it more amusing than truly detrimental. But in a more macro view, it can be easily understood how branding over substance as a consumer acquisition strategy, can be very detrimental, to the level of a national "disorder" as described by Conley. The good news, I would argue, is that social media might be just the prescription for easing Obsessive Branding Disorder.
The issue Conley raises is that the effort and resources that go into branding, especially in partnering disparate brands (which make the funniest examples), could have gone into the development of better product. A lot of people have certainly made the connection between certain purchases being simply "for the label," but what Conley digs into is a more systemic issue. Simply put, effective marketing beating out effective product development is bad for all of us.
This still doesn't mean branding and message aren't incredibly important, and it doesn't mean media is free (sorry, brands, you still need a story and agencies are still your producers and authors, even if the story is a chose-your-own-adventure novel). As a matter of fact, effective management of media is more important than ever. If you spend the resources and listen to your consumers to build a better product, you'd better be giving them the tools to share it. You need to help shape the message that will be shared. Be prepared to react to the message being changed by people as it is shared and either embrace and amplify, or try to help steer it back and learn why consumers want to shift your message.
A couple years ago, an American SUV manufacturer let consumers mash up clips to make their own commercial. Many people made videos of the SUV driving through a desert, talking about poor gas mileage and global warming. I maintain that was a successful campaign. They got half of the social media experiment correct; now imagine if they had listened.
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Joe Marchese is President of socialvibe.
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