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 I am playing a part in branding Unilever, Marc Mathieu and CNN Money. If my contribution is positive or negative will make a small, but still, contribution to how those brands are perceived.

When searching for Catarina’s World and Catarina Alexon on Google, I have several times come across blog’s written by people I have never even heard about that 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.

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 – YouTube

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30 Responses to “Can you control your brand online?”

  1. Beograd apartmani Says:

    Thanks Catarina, great post, it would help me in further work

  2. Doreen Pendgracs Says:

    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

  3. catarinaalexon Says:

    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:-)

  4. polfeck Says:

    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

  5. Jeannette Paladino Says:

    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?

  6. catarinaalexon Says:

    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.

  7. catarinaalexon Says:

    Glad, but not surprised, we agree Jeannette. We have after all worked in the same business all our lives.

  8. catarinaalexon Says:

    My pleasure. Hope you now know better how to work online.

  9. Heather Stone Says:

    Hi Catarina,
    I don't think you can control a brand at all anymore, online or otherwise. In fact, if memory serves correctly, Guy Kawasaki lists being able to "position the product" as one of the lies marketers tell. Thanks for sharing the post and video with the BizSugar community.
    My recent post To advertise on your blog, or not… Is that the right question?

  10. Geek Girl Says:

    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

  11. Susan Oakes Says:

    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

  12. becc03 Says:

    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)

  13. catarinaalexon Says:

    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.

  14. catarinaalexon Says:

    Thank you Cheryl. But even if we have a good product or service it can be ruined by destructive people.

  15. catarinaalexon Says:

    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.

  16. catarinaalexon Says:

    Glad we agree Becc.

  17. catarinaalexon Says:

    Glad you agree with me Diana.

  18. catarinaalexon Says:

    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:-)

  19. findingourwaynow Says:

    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

  20. catarinaalexon Says:

    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.

  21. JeriWB Says:

    It takes too much energy to perpetuate a myth, but it can be hard to decide which element of truth to most focus on when it comes to branding. Anything shared online is but a sliver of reality.
    My recent post Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

  22. catarinaalexon Says:

    Good points Jeri. Agree with you.

  23. yearwoodcom Says:

    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

  24. catarinaalexon Says:

    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.

  25. @patweber Says:

    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?

  26. catarinaalexon Says:

    Glad you agree with me, Pat.

  27. sydney web design Says:

    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!!

  28. catarinaalexon Says:

    My pleasure. Glad you liked it.

  29. catarinaalexon Says:

    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?

  30. flyonit Says:

    I think we can control our online brand, but it's a tough task.

    An Award winning web design and Web Development Company in Melbourne, Australia.

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