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How to integrate Web 2.0 in brand consistency

How to integrate Web 2.0 in brand consistency

By Michael Emerson, Chief Marketing Officer, Aprimo
Unless you work for YouTube or Facebook, you might look at Web 2.0 with some combination of excitement and terror.  You’ve seen the success stories at companies such as Coke where a funny video about Coke and Mentos drove millions of dollars in sales with virtually no marketing investment.  When it all comes together just right, it is truly magic.
Social networks can be an extension of the consumer’s experience with the brand. But keeping the brand’s integrity whilst creating that magic is impossible. In marketing, we are trained to think that brand value comes with complete control and execution, but now we need to understand that our customers also have a say in how our brand is communicated.

Increasingly fickle customers give us little time and attention. I recently heard a CMO of one of the world’s leading brands lament that customer attention has become a resource that is even scarcer than the elusive, ever-evolving marketing budget.

For those of us who have fought for an extra dollar in marketing spend, that is a pretty dramatic statement. However, Web 2.0 can be the perfect vehicle to capture the customer’s attention.
Traditionally, we have built strong brands by exerting complete control over our communications to ensure that our message and visuals are always in perfect synch. Brand architectures with elaborate brand guidelines and marketing asset repositories ensure everyone across the organisation can deliver on message.

Web 2.0 offers us the opportunity to add a wild card that could not care less about your brand guidelines. And this content will often be seen by your customers as more credible than anything that you put into the marketplace.
Most of us have learned enough about Web 2.0 to be terrified of the risk. Have you seen a YouTube video submitted by a customer who had a cable repairman fall asleep on the couch while he waiting for his own customer service rep to respond to a question? Ouch.

Obviously this type of publicity can damage a brand and undo millions of dollars of that precious marketing budget.  My own experience is with a competitor who logged a nasty but credible entry on a blog.
So how do you take that leap from traditional branding to the free-wheeling world of Web 2.0? 
1. Be obsessed with the basics.

While you might not control what the public says about your brand, you should be meticulous with what you can control. Many marketers are rapidly building digital asset repositories to ensure that brand standards are executed on a global basis. When you achieve this level of consistency at a global level, departures from message will look like an exception, rather than just a part of jumbled customer experience.
2. Ensure that you define your brand as something more than a visual experience.

Customers will tend to define your brand by their experience when they check into your hotel, call your customer service line or listen to your sales person. In marketing, we understand that our brand is delivered every time we interact with a customer.

That insight will multiply in importance as your customers take the time to interact with your brand on a blog or on a customer review page.
3. Integrate Web 2.0 with your traditional efforts.

Web 2.0 doesn’t need to be a radical departure from your current marketing efforts. Look for ways to enhance your current branding efforts with customer content and interaction. Recently, our marketing department created a micro-site of personas to represent typical users of our products.

Visitors are invited to send questions and interact with the characters. The site combines much of what we know our customers want from traditional marketing with the interactivity and engagement provided by Web 2.0.  
4. Hire an expert.

If you are making a big investment in a social network for your customers, there are a wide variety of vendors that can setup infrastructure and provide the guidance you need to create the best experience for your brand.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and test your new marketing channel. Focus groups or customer surveys are a great way to get feedback.  Customers enjoy being a part of crafting the vision. Why else would X Factor be so popular?

With many social network channels becoming more popular than any of our hundreds of television channels, we should pay close attention to the potential and the pitfalls of Web 2.0. With an understanding of our customers, a little savvy and some luck, we can hope to create that 2.0 magic for our own brands.

In the end, marketers have always been obsessed with getting their customers to engage with their brands. We now have the technology available to make that happen - not just as a fad, but with as a truly meaningful interaction.

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