Can you control your brand online?

Today your brand will be shared by customers making videos, starting Facebook groups and sending a multitude of tweets. Devote 3 minutes to watching Unilever SVP of Marketing Marc Mathieu talk about how the digital age has shifted marketing from creating myths to finding and sharing truth:

A marketer has to think fundamentally different in our digital world. Branding is not what it used to be, mainly because it’s not all being done by purchased advertising in traditional media. How you go about branding has to adapt to a world where consumers have a say and let the world know what they think.

What’s role does today’s marketer play in shaping a brand?

Marketing used to be about telling a myth and spreading it. Today it’s about telling the truth and sharing it, according to Marc Mathieu. Or rather finding the truth that appeals to people and make them share it. Consequently it’s crucial to build a brand that appeals to people’s values and favour the environment. They have to want to engage with it, participate in it and share it with their friends. Needless to say this fundamentally change the ways brands are built.

Marketing needs to tap into people’s imagination

Marketing needs to enable people instead of telling a finished story. We need more magic and less logic without forgetting that both aspects are important in order to appeal to both to the right and left sides of our brains. It’s also important to use marketing to help people tap into new behaviours that are good for the environment and society. By doing so marketing, like never before, has the ability to play a really positive role in society.

Bottom line – not only you are in charge of your brand

What you are now watching and reading is an example of how you are playing a part in branding. If your contribution is positive or negative will make a small, but still, contribution to how brands are perceived.

When Searching for Catarina’s World and Catarina Alexon on Google, I have several times come across blogs written by people I have never even heard about mention my name and refer to an article I have written with a link to it. They then proceed with writing a post based on my article. So far, it’s only been positive and the same goes for the numerous tweets about me and my blog.

Catarina's World, branding, online marketing, Catarina Alexon
What’s your strategy for branding yourself and your company?

It’s also important to remember that everything you write on social media will brand you. So be nice, respectful and polite. Search engines record everything and forget nothing. Getting into an argument with a bully may come back to haunt you in the future.  The same applies to what your employees write on social media.

The way to try to control your brand is to stick to the truth, deliver what you promise, appeal positively to people’s imagination and treat others the way you want to be treated. If negative content about you and your product and services are being spread online it’s time to start creating positive content to push down the negative information on search engines. You can read more about that in my article What’s your online reputation worth? that outlines what you can do if someone has a go at you online.

Do you agree that branding today is fundamentally different due to all of us contributing to branding products and services? Is Marc Mathieu right when he says that it’s essential to tap into people’s values and inspire them to share brands with their friends? Can we through how we brand products and services enable people to adapt behaviours that are good for the environment and society? Have you had positive or negative experiences of how your brand has been shared online? Do you believe it’s possible to 100% control your brand in today’s world?

Video: CNNMoney – Picture: Lori 

76 thoughts on “Can you control your brand online?

  1. Love this post dear; you are so true when you say 'A marketer has to think fundamentally different in our digital world.'
    You have raised some valid questions. And before I forget, loved, even more, when you said 'We need more magic and less logic without forgetting that both aspects are important in order, to appeal to both to the right and left sides of our brains' 😀
    Amazing read!

  2. What a unique and wonderful article. It is so important to remember what you do or say, lives beyond you. We are judged by what we do and say, now on the web that means forever. It would be unfortunate for someone to make one simple mistake, and be judged by that for the rest of their lives. Now, imagine how complex that gets, when you consider your company, and all of your employees.
    Being disciplined with your social media, must be a priority.

  3. I really enjoyed this post. It is so true that companies don't control their brand's reputation as much as they did before social media came on the scene. Telling the truth and keeping content positive are crucial in business today.

  4. Hi Catarina. As someone who has invested considerable resources to developing a new site and logo that reinforce my brand, I can really relate to this post. I am very grateful that my brand has been embraced by my readers and supporters and that reaction has been very positive by all.

  5. Branding is so important and more and more business's are recognising this. For example, one particular gym brand was notorious for constantly harassing people to join their gym, getting members to give them referrals that they can contact and then call them non-stop (myself included) to get them to join. Their brand name became known for not their gym but for how pushy they were with members and prospects and now, they have started to close their gyms down because no one wants to join. While this is not an example of online branding, the lesson extends to the digital world. Be careful about how your brand your business because that is your reputation and giving people negative experiences will be detrimental.

  6. You can't control your brand in a digital world. Companies have never had complete control over their brands — they have product recalls, new competition every day, and people talking about the company across many communications channels. The reality is that your target audiences define your brand based on their personal experiences, as described above. You need to engage with your customers in an authentic way and, if you do, they will forgive your missteps.

  7. Customers play a huge part in marketing once they are happy with your product or service. They will certainly discuss with people they know which could result in further sales and promotion. Business owners must remember they are visible to customers and potential customers 24 hours a day via social media.

    1. Absolutely. But considering the power customers have online, how can you control your brand? If anyone started a group against you that got thousands of members, you are doomed.

  8. I really enjoyed the video, Catarina. Being honest in marketing is the most important thing. It shows through if you are authentic. I love the combination of logic and magic so that people are motivated to engage and help with your marketing. I am happy to say that I haven’t encountered negative reactions to my marketing. People may share different opinions but I welcome that; it keeps the conversation moving.

  9. First we need to determine what a marketing myth is. It is only than that we can make that determination if a person is using one. It is always better to be truthful in marketing. At least that is my two cents. The way for a brand to become golden is to over deliver on your promises.

  10. "Marketing used to be about telling a myth and spreading it. Today it’s about telling the truth and sharing it.." I love this quote and I certainly agree with it. And of course, I agree that, "Marketing today, like never before, can play a positive role in society. " I don't think it's possible to have 100% control of your brand in today's global online world, particularly if others create their own groups, pages, and posts, based on your brand, but even controversy, in some cases, can be used to advantage, to drive attention to your product, and to improve sales results. This is a wonderful post.

  11. I love when you right,”We need more magic and less logic without forgetting that both aspects are important in order to appeal to both to the right and left sides of our brains. ”
    As I think that this is not possible to remove logic from our lives. It can not be done, best will be if we blend it with others, hopefully it will produce better results for branding.
    It is always a great achievement for writers or bloggers, whose work is admired and re shared. You are right that each word that is written is counted and Google etc. do not forget anything.
    I think if we are nice to others and interact in a better way, it will help have a positive image and can help one in many ways.
    It is always great to read your posts, at times, even if it is deep about business,but when you relate it to our lives.. it makes it easy to understand. The thing that I like most about your posts, that they are written in a simple language with easy examples, that a person like me, who is very far from business can understand it.

    Thank you.

    I agree with Marc Mathieu that it is time to inspire people so they share brands with their friends.

    1. Absolutely, Andleeb. But before your brand can be shared it has to be developed. What's special about you? Why should people read your blog? Why should a company hire you? And so forth…

  12. It’s funny that your blog post coincides with a podcast I listened to yesterday. It was an interview with Jon Ronson, the author of the book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”. The book discuss a number of real-life cases of social media gone wrong. People who say, made a joke on social media was misinterpreted or made a mistake at work. They or someone they know posts or sends a tweet and the collective outrage that follows. People have lost they’re jobs , they reputations are ruined and they life in shame. All caused by thousands of people who have become judge and jury. The impact of the internet is a double edged sword.

  13. Whether or not they like it, all brands have an online presence today, and so it's vital to be an active participant in that online presence – otherwise you risk severe damage to your brand without necessarily even being aware of it.

    If you passively sit by, you risk a good deal of negative comment about your brand without anything positive. It's essential that you ensure you have advocates and evangelists for your brand, to send a positive message, too.

  14. I agree. Although marketing has changed considerably with the addition of social media brands still control their perception to a certain degree. The latest commercial for National Rental cars comes to mind. They are using a play on sex, sex always sells unfortunately, and then they add their truth to it to make it memorable and something you want. The combination works.

  15. Totally agree. You are now marketing to live, talking, thinking people who have interests and opinions. That sounds simple but legacy marketing didn’t really treat the audience that way. Instead itt was an anonymous, faceless group that you talked at rather than with.

  16. I agree that reputation matters. We should not promise what we are unable to deliver. Our word carries a lot of weight.

  17. Great video! Finding the truth and sharing it…how great a message is that? This can only bode well for the consumer as they gain more control and demand these things from products.

    1. Absolutely Jacqueline. But the power consumers get is sometimes abused online. Imagine that someone dislikes one of your books and decide to crucify you online. He/she can hurt you way out of proportion by starting Facebook groups and so forth. So it's both good and bad, actually.:-)

  18. This is a really interesting concept. I don’t think you can really control anything, once it hits the internet, but I really like how you summed it up. If you are being true to your brand, then people will be too, eventually.

  19. I know that social media plays a large role in today’s marketing and that it is important to define your brand as honest and trustworthy. Personally, I think this is great news for the consumer – before purchasing anything we can do an online search re the product. There are, however, also corporations who are so big and so powerful that they have total disregard for brands and for the consumer. But for most business your brand should say – I can be trusted to deliver exactly what and how I said.

    1. Yes, Lenie, it's generally speaking good for consumers. But the power of the internet is also abused. Imagine if someone decided to crucify you online because of, say, a post he/she didn't like. If he/she managed to get high on Google's SERPS with something they would succeed. The revenge such a person – or consumers – can take online is frequently well out of proportion. And they can cost multinational companies millions of dollar or bancrupt small companies.

      1. Catarina, I overlooked that aspect but you are right in saying that negative content can only be overcome by lots of positive content.You definitely don’t want to respond negatively because that will generate more negative feedback. I remember one time I was really upset about an unfair newspaper article about our organization and I was wanting to respond but my chairman told me to leave it alone and it would quickly die a natural death. I wonder ii you didn’t respond at all to a negative comment online if the same thing would happen?

  20. I think marketing has changed and that it is difficult, if not impossible, to 100% control your brand. I also agree that everything you say on social media shapes your brand. However, I admit to being a bit skeptical about thinking marketing is no longer about creating myths. I think a company can still influence and shape its brand and build a bit of a myth around itself by appealing to the emotions on social media.

    1. Agree firmly that it's impossible to completely control your brand online. You may be able to get away with creating a bit of a myth. But if you are caught you will be crucified, to put it mildly.

  21. Thank you Radu. Wish it was that simple:-) What would happen to you if someone started spreading negative information about you and your products on social media? Or worse if there was negative information about you in, say, The New York Times?

  22. Excellent post Catarina! You really had shown here some great points on branding online. Thank you for sharing such interesting and useful info. Keep posting!!

  23. How interesting. In particular I like this, "Marketing used to be about telling a myth and spreading it. Today it’s about telling the truth and sharing it." That is true! I don't think anyone, large corporation or a solopreneur, could ever 100% control anything. Thanks Catarina.
    My recent post Are You an Introvert Who is Ignoring Your Unfair Advantage in Public Speaking, Even Sales?

  24. Great post and good questions. It used to be that if your brand was at least neutral, you could get away with doing relatively little. It wasn't smart, but you could get away with it. Things today move so quickly that your brand must constantly be in a positive place because it takes relatively little to drag even the most successful brands down. One of the most inspiring things I've seen in marketing recently was McDonald's online "Our Food, Your Questions" campaign. It invited the public to ask any question they wanted about their food and they answered it. Not an easy task when you consider the huge negative mythology that had developed around so much of their food, but it looks like it worked. They started with traditional media but moved into an online campaign. The site is incredibly popular and they have reestablished themselves with their traditional client base. So do I think marketers have to think differently? Marketers have always had to be strategic but now they have to be proactive, responsive and strategic.
    My recent post Body Language – Managing You, So You Can Deliver Your Message – PART 2

    1. Glad we agree Debra. The McDonald's campaign is a great exampe of how things are changing. Most likely other such global brands will follow suit. And small local companies can run such campaigns locally.

    1. Producing brand content is definitely key in this day and age. I don't see why anyone would want or even think they could have 100% control anymore given how the parameters have changed.

  25. I think one needs to define what a marketing myth is before it can be assess that someone is using one. For me the truth is always the only way to go. The best thing anyone can do with a brand or brands is to under promise and then over deliver. That will improve the opportunity for a brand to become golden… Just my thoughts
    My recent post Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Champagne: Wine

    1. Just look at the marketing myths of expensive face creams that sell a dream to women. Wish it was as easy as buying a jar of cream for $1,000 and you would look 20 years younger. Don't live next door to Harrods anymore, but I'm pretty sure those extremely expensive face creams have become less in demand because of social media.

      Agree with you that under promising and over delivering is a good idea Susan. But there is a fine line when it comes to how little you can promise since you can under promise yourself out of a customer.

  26. Yes Guy, but more people get involved in your branding because of the internet, for better or for worse. The positive side is what Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall has done, but if someone has something against your brand and manage to get an article published in, say The New York Times, it doesn't matter how good your product is, you have an expensive problem on your hand. Bottom line, you cannot protect yourself against people who rightly or wrongly decide to have a go at you. It was much more difficult for them in the past:-)

  27. I believe it is essential to tap into peoples values and inspire them to share. it is indeed a new world where myth will not cut it. People are aware of the old ways and they just don't cut it anymore. Your brand is very important, so being genuine and honest is the only way forward.
    My recent post It’s official, intolerances suck (unless you live in New Zealand)

  28. Hi Catarina,

    I have to somewhat disagree with what he said. I am only basing this on my experience. The brands I marketed were never based on a myth unless there were no real differences and then all you could do was to create the perception that it was different. That is maybe what he was referring to and it was a very expensive way to go.

    The other thing is marketing has always been about understanding how a consumer thinks, feels and behaves, tapping into their desires and values. In the past they would share their experiences with others, but you would not often hear about it unless something went wrong and it landed up on the news. Or they would write letters saying thank you. Today people can write or say what they think about brands whether they are right or wrong and I think companies need to keep closer to consumers or clients as well as having a plan or course of action to take to handle what is being said etc. You could never have 100% control even in the old days and I agree you can't have it today. Your point about treat people how you want to be treated is the simplest way to go.

    My recent post Why New Customers Are Not Buying

    1. Glad you never had to create myths about products/services you worked with Susan. We all dealt with creatign perceptions that were different. But sometimes it was questionable if what we created were the truth, wasn't it? We just created a new perception. True that we never had 100% control but today we have much less control than we used to have. Agree with you completely that companies to keep closer to consumers and have a plan to handle what is being said.

  29. This is a great post! Too many people do not understand the impact of social media on a brand. Today instead of brands leading customers by the hand and telling them what they should like, the consumer now has more control over the message. You had better have a good product or the entire world will know very quickly.
    My recent post iPhone 5 Cases From VALOR Communication

    1. Glad you agree with me Heather. But do remember that there are things you can do to position your brand and you as well as possible. We are not completely in the hands of others.

  30. Catarina — this is a terrific video and right on target that companies no longer control the "myth" of their brands. It's a shared experienced with their constituents. I believe it was always a myth, in any case, after spending my entire career in marketing/PR/advertising, that you can build a brand with a shoddy product or customer experience. There are numerous examples of failures, even in the largest companies, such as Coca-Cola that tried to change the formula for Coke in Coke Classic. Their customers roared their disapproval and the company quickly reverted to its old formula. The marketers didn't understand that the consumer truly does have control over brand, even more so in the internet age. The internet has enabled brands to engage with their customers, as stated in the video, in sharing the truth and, as a result, changing behaviors.
    My recent post Would You Pay $5 million for a Headline?

  31. I work for a major brand, who are nervous of the online world. They are launching a new online fashions store next month so hopefully they will start to appreciate the benefits of social shopping and sharing! Thanks for the post
    My recent post Wagashi, a simple Japanese gift

    1. Social media is great and works very well provided you understand how to use it and, above all, that search engines record everything and forget nothing. Hope it works out well for your client.

  32. Interesting post, Catarina!

    I can really relate to the subject of online branding and the sharing of our brand by friends and associates as I have recently launched a crowdfunding campaign in which I am virtually asking the whole world to support my project and share info about it with their friends and colleagues. So far, the experience has been very good.
    My recent post courage to crowdfund

    1. Good example Doreeen. Interesting to note that if some crazy person had, for some obscure reason, decided to ruin your brand online that would have had, a small, but still, impact on your ability to use crowdfunding:-)

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