Then for the second time in about a week, I received a flyer in the mail notifying me that satellite internet was finally available in my area.
This got my gears working. Broadband internet is currently available to just over half the households in this country. By the end of 2011, that figure is expected to jump to 70%.
Think about that for a minute. That's a roughly 40% increase over the next 4 years. I think it's safe to assume that technology will also continue to make our computers faster and more powerful, that upload speeds for our internet connections will increase, that we'll have many more tools available to us to create and share content.
Which means citizen marketing will continue to increase as well. But all this adds together to mean that there will be a LOT more information out there, and our need for filters will increase as well.
Which also means that the traditional branding model of companies telling customers what they should think and feel about their product, will continue to lose effectiveness.
Then my mind swung back to Ryan's post on the importance of companies diving into the social media waters now, rather than later. His point is that the earlier a company becomes immersed in social media, the quicker they will understand these tools, and be able to leverage them while they are still highly effective. The longer companies wait, the more these communication tools become common place, and their ability to differentiate and improve your business declines.
Then I went back to Russell's post about how branding is no longer the future of business. His main point seemed to be that all too often, the 'brand' and the 'product' are two completely different things, and that frequently, the brand is a sort of band-aid that's used to attempt to cover up an inferior product.
But then, all these ideas began to swirl together for me. Going forward, technology will give us the ability to create and share more content. We're already seeing this, which is a big reason why social media is taking off. And those companies that embrace social media the soonest, will reap the biggest rewards. Finally, branding in the traditional sense of a company telling its customers what to believe about its product(ie one-way marketing communication), is fading away.
So what happens if citizen marketing does continue to rise as our ability to create and share content increases? What happens to companies that do decide to dive into the social media waters and use these tools to better understand and communicate with their customers? What happens as 'one-way branding' continues to march toward extinction?
My guess? Social branding.
Let's say you have Company A that's steadfast in its refusal to embrace social media. It continues to attempt to tell its customers what they SHOULD think and feel about its products. They call this 'branding'. But these customers, that Company A refuses to communicate with, are increasingly using social media to create their own content, and to create their own 'branding' for Company A's products. Which means everyone, the company, and the customers, are doing their own branding for Company A. This obviously results in a muddled and ineffective mess.
But Company B is incorporating social media into its marketing communications package. It is discovering how these tools can be used to communicate with its customers, and how these tools allow for both sides to better understand each other. As a result, Company B and its customers create its brand together. What's more, the branding is a part of the product (which was supposed to be the idea all along), which makes it even stronger.
And its already happening. Look at how companies like Jones Soda and Threadless are making their customers partners in the product creation and branding process.
"We started this company with the philosophy that the world does not need another soda," said Peter van Stolk, the founder and chief executive of Jones Soda. "That forced us to look at things differently: How could we create a new kind of connection with customers, let them play with the brand, let them take ownership of it? Everything at this company is about sharing ownership of the brand with our customers. This is not my brand. This is not our soda. It belongs to our customers."
I think you're going to see more companies adopting this stance. That breaking down barriers between company and customers can work wonders. That customers want, and will soon EXPECT to be able to talk to and help shape a company's future direction. The smart companies will be the ones that accept this change, and share their brand with their customers so that together, they can create something much stronger than either group could alone.
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing, Social Branding