I think its in Buddhism that they talk about the illusion of control – that as much as you think you have control of something its just an illusion. The current sentiment from many brands in response to social media participation is that they fear losing control of their brand by letting themselves go on social media like Twitter.
Brands can influence the idea of the brand through communications, advertising and PR etc but ultimately the idea of the brand isn’t its logo or latest ad campaign it exists in the mind of the consumer. So much of the control a company thinks it has over its brand is lost when it comes to peer to peer evaluations of brands and individual experiences with the brand.
In my opinion we really should be well past this point in the debate as it is now clear to most that pariticpation in a conversation about you is better than it happening behind your back when you aren’t there to defend yourself. So really it’s time that comapnies realised the best way forward is to let go of the idea of control of their brand and instead just focus on positively influencing consumer sentiment through every channel available to them.
I submitted an article to a company blog about this website over a year ago but it’s still one of my favorites and I wanted to have something about it on this blog.
If you look on www.thefwa.com these days the number of video background sites are too many to count but back when this site was launched it was one of very few. Its just so on brand, forget that a video background (don’t know of there is an actual name for these) site is a great way to sell clothing & footwear because it can sell an image, the skate industry has been generating branded content for decades which its target are very used to consuming and so electing to use this format was a good choice. The skate, surf and snowboarding industries were doing branded content decades before other brands had even heard of it and by using branded video content as the background to the website Vision have nailed it. Skaters sit around watching skate videos when they aren’t skating and they pick up on what the pro’s are riding and wearing, so duplicating that in the website itself was a great idea. If you click on the products section it wont just show an image of the shoe but someone wearing the shoe skating.
This is a great example of selling not on product attributes, you can hardly see the shoes in some of the footage but on brand attributes, emotional payoff and image. Its a cool way to show the shoes and that’s what counts – the emotional side it triggers. It makes me want to bust out my old Tony Hawk from the late 80′s and scuff my knees up.
Google News has a recommended stories function which posts stories based on my previous media consumption and no doubt uses a complex algorithm of keywords, geocentricity, content strings and others beyond comprehension as its basis for story selection. However no matter how sophisticated this algorithm is or how long I have been reading stories via Google News (of which I am assuming it only analyses my media consumption through Google News) it just cant seem to deliver stories that interest me.
For example this morning the three stories it posted in the recommended stories category were:
Cassi’s mum defends her Australia’s Next Top Model ‘bogan’ daughter- from News.com.au
Deepest budget cuts since 70s to fill ’45bn pound hole’ – from gaurdian.co.uk
Gretel Killeen’s crop top tantrum – from News.com.au
OK the gaurdian.co.uk story is interesting but anything published in the gaurdian.co.uk pretty much is so I’ll call that one a lucky hit however the others are the complete antithesis of what I am interested in spending my time reading.
There are some in the digital world that are heralding the not too distant coming of Web 3.0 ‘the semantic web’ but if the might of Google and its incredibly sophisticated algorithms are still after years of use sending me stories about Gretel Killeen’s crop top tantrum how do we truly expect that a true semantic web, i.e. “Tim Berners-Lee’s idea that the Web as a whole can be made more intelligent and perhaps even intuitive about how to serve a user’s needs” (reference) is likely to come to fruition anytime soon.
On the other hand we currently have social media platforms and in particular Twitter which allows its users to collaboratively accumulate and curate the information they wish to consume which to me is and will always be superior to an algorithm, not matter how complex and sophisticated, attempting to predict our preferences.
Through Twitter we can choose to follow individuals with similar interests or points of view and share in the information and content they choose to consume using intuition more than empiricism to determine not only what information we want to consume but also what we think we perhaps should consume in order to further our knowledge in a subject area.
Web 3.0 ‘the semantic web’ is a fantastic buzz word and a great idea but personally I think it will be sometime yet before a set of algorithms can reliably deliver content and preferences as per Tim Berners-Lee’s vision. Social media platforms give us access to collaborative information sharing which taps into a collective intuitive process that is far more adaptive and dynamic than any algorithm could ever hope to be, at least in the medium term.
Reference article -
I have always been intrigued by tag clouds – the way they display the volume and often times relationships between words and phrases is something profound. Its kind of analogous to the neural network of the brain (reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_neural_network) and how some pathways are more prevalent than others.
Here is a tag cloud generated from the words in this blog using ‘Wordle’.
This reminds me a bit of the scene in the Matrix where the guy is sitting in front of all the computer screens while streams of green code fall in front of him. Digg Stack is a product within Digg Labs and although its been around for a while its an old favourite of mine. Twitter has superseded it in terms of information sharing but if you are looking for kicks on the internet and want to see what the digital universe are bookmarking give it a try.
I am always amused at how people join ’causes’ on facebook like the ‘Save our Oceans’ cause and a mulitude of others in the thought that the mere act of joining the cause is doing something to help the oceans. Don’t get me wrong I understand the need for awareness and I also understand the butterfly effect and how a mulitiude of little butterflies can make a change but really this kind of public cause support to me is no different to the greenwashing that we rightly acuse many brands of.
The people that join these causes may indeed be well intentioned and likewise concerned about the ocean but joining a causes group on facebook does nothing to actually solve any of the problems it seeks to. The user however still gains the social kudos from joining the cause in the highly public forum that facebook is so really this is no different to a brand like BP calling themselves beyond petroleum and changing their logo to a green and yellow flowery thing.
Perhaps I am being a little harsh there are afterall people in these causes that give money and perhaps all of this social media participation in causes is an indication that we are on some sort of cusp of massive social change. However I cant help shake the feeling that people although they are concerned about the environment deep down interact with the issue more like a moral and in some instances one of fashion than the now clear calamity it presents which requires nothing less than action. OK I may have just fallen into the irate greeny catagory with this post but in all fairness if we are going to hold brands to account for green washing then perhaps we should all look at our own attitudes and behaviour to causes and be careful to treat them with the seriousness and urgency they deserve.