Blog Post

@ OnMedia: Branding And Social Networks: Marketers Lack Understanding Of Social Media Branding

Seems like marketers are still behind the curve in understanding online video and social networks. In the middle of a panel discussion at the AlwaysOn Media NYC conference, Jean-Philippe Maheu, chief digital officer for WPP’s Ogilvy N.A., said that when he visits clients he always asks the marketing department how many access YouTube — the response rate is never more than 30 percent: “How can you understand the online world when you don’t experience it the way your customers do?” Moderator Bill Cleary asked the panelists how they explain the value proposition of new media when the level of disconnect remains so high.

It’s the consumer, not the content: Marketers reflexively approach digital the way they are used to dealing with TV or print. David Carlick, managing director, VantagePoint Venture Partners: “Marketers see a site and want to attach their brand to the content,” They need to realize that their focus is off. When it comes to online, especially social media, you’re sponsoring the consumer, not the content – you have to go to where the people are and attach yourself to what they want to do. So if the consumer wants to watch videos of people getting drunk and taking their clothes off, that might be where your brand should be. “I don’t think the consumer feels guilty, sitting there saying ‘I hope no one’s watching what I’m doing – oh, there’s McDonald’s – why are they advertising on this site? What a bunch of sleazebags.’ That’s not what happens.”

Niches within niches: Ben Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, said that when it comes to finding a place for a brand when it comes to digital, “the future lies in vertical niches, where people connect around specific like-minded things. You can get into people who love animals and you can drill down further to a deep-vested interest, such as in a particular kind of dog. At that point, that’s when you’re valuable from an eyeball standpoint. When the advertiser is there for the same reason.”

How granular will it get?: Bajarin’s comments led Cleary to ask: Will there be a site for civil war re-enacters of Yugoslavian background? The panelists said that there just might be one. Even if there isn’t, some forward-thinking parts of the marketing world are wisely starting to act that way. Tom Bedecarre, CEO, AKQA, pointed to Nike, which he noted is deeply into cross-channel: “They’re constantly exploring different facets of social media and even creating their own content around their products, whether it’s a mobile application or a video mashup. Nike has realized that you have to put out a lot and leave it up to the community to decide whether and how they want to engage. That’s the measure of success — not whether we over-delivered on our GRPs.” Maheu said he still feels that the power of story-telling is infinite. The selling tactic for Real Beauty campaign showed Unilever executives’ daughters talking about their body images and that helped influence the social media aspects of the advertising as well.

2 Responses to “@ OnMedia: Branding And Social Networks: Marketers Lack Understanding Of Social Media Branding”

  1. Thanks for the summary of what sounds like a very interesting panel David.

    I would have to agree with the notion that advertisers are still struggling with video and social networking. User generated content is creating a highly volatile environment for brands to play in.

    They're starting to realize that this is a bigger project than a marketing director can handle on his/her own and that they need to re-evaluate internal structures to deal with their communication strategies.

    Just when advertisers started to fall in love with he simplicity of speaking through the online channel and understanding the quantifiable impact, the game changed and now they need to grapple with not only the concept of two-way communication but the stream of "qualifiable" data that is now becoming available – not an easy task.

    I believe that technology will make the transition to conversational (social) online media easier than the general online adoption was in the mid nineties.

    Thanks again for the thought provoking read.

  2. I have to take issue with one comment here…

    …"if the consumer wants to watch videos of people getting drunk and taking their clothes off, that might be where your brand should be."

    Clearly there are many marketers of that mindset or we wouldn't be seeing as many world class brands next to profiles of drunk and naked people.

    However, in some areas, I'm starting to hear a lot of backlash brewing from companies that are trying to use social networks for recruiting young people. I was just speaking to a group of HR execs from over 70 major companies and someone asked the group how many had used the top two social networks to recruit, and about 50% raised their hands. Then they asked how many had ever had a successful recruit from one of them….and not a single hand was raised! One person, in fact, said they'd had "a fire" from one, but never a hire.

    I completely agree with the niche approach. Go where people WANT to know more about your company (and in this case, your opportunities). We just launched the first global human capital marketplace aimed at helping young people from around the world connect with opportunities from companies and organizations to get experience and start building their professional careers, and maintaining the integrity of brands has always been a major focus for us, second of course, only to the success of the young people that we built our company to serve in the first place. The site is – Your Success Network, if anyone is interested.

    Maybe I'm old fashioned (albeit in my 30s), but I expect that young people should take more pride in their online identities, and similarly, that companies and organizations should take as much pride in extending their brands into the online space, not to mention putting themselves out there in environments that celebrate their involvement, not cringe from it. Yes, some branding in social networks is definitely considered an intrusion. And putting your brand next to naked and drunk people may be good if you're selling late night munchies, music, or dating services, but for the rest of the world, I think the better advice is to be a bit more strategic.

    -Jennifer Kushell
    President & Co-founder of and co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, Secrets of the Young & Successful: How to Get Everything You Want Without Waiting a Lifetime