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Brand Evolution: How Much Does Consumer Engagement Influence Brand Identity?

Posted by Gerhard Jacobs on June 18th, 2013 at 7:56 am

A brand is only as good as it appears to be, and appearances these days rely a lot, if not exclusively, on customer engagement and insight. Whereas we as brands grew from a mentality of bigger is better , this old-school approach is being challenged by the hyper-connected social media consumers of today. We often look at our consumers as the people out there, those hungry minds prepped and ready to devour what it is we have to throw out into the melange of banners and ads; but we forget that we ourselves are consumers also.

As much as our marketing and branding background and experience determines where we go with a product launch or placement; we also need to look inwards and think about what it is we as consumers expect our brands to do for us.

This is where the modern media aspect becomes a major catalyst for growth. According to the Ipsos Open Exchange, Americans between the age of 18 and 36 spend on average 3.2 hours a day on social media, a staggering amount of time for one person to be engaging with others and a continued opportunity for brands to engage with consumers.

A lot has been written on the benefits of social engagement for brands, but what also deserves a look at is how those engagements can contribute to the overall development of a brand. To start, let’s have a quick look at the pros and cons of social engagement for brands.

Managing Expectations

Having a truly reactive social media management framework means that when the trends change your brand is able to adapt and keep up with sharp turns and sudden brakes. Now, let’s not confuse social media management with a ‘social media strategy’ as the latter is an absolute farce. A social media strategy is a marketing strategy – there is no need to develop two different ones if you know your industry.

While being able to adapt to changes in the modern media environment is a necessity, uninhibited trend-chasing can very easily lead to a diluted and sometimes cheapened brand image. This is why a solid, experienced marketing team has to be at the helm of any social media activity.

Brand Influence

Ever heard of the term demanding brands? Well, when you’ve built up a media presence through thoughtful, valuable and powerful social media interactions your brand grows in trust and stature. This gives you a certain amount of leeway when communicating ideas to your brand’s followers and as such you get to influence the way they eventually interact with your brand. This also helps you attract valuable consumers, as they will gravitate towards your distinct message.

The other side of this coin, however, is coming across as too pushy and even cocky. While building trust grants you as a brand the ability to exercise some influence on consumers, there is a very fine line between influence and arrogance. Keep your communications brief, light-hearted and encouraging instead of longwinded, superfluous and prescriptive.

In understanding what social interaction can do for a brand we start building an idea of what the effects on the brand will look like. As much as marketing strategy and company vision drives the direction and eventual image of a brand, there are two major influencers in the brands final – albeit fluid – state.

Demographic

As more brands move away from singular functionality and become incorporated, multifunctional products, those managing them are faced with the variables of having to build an image that relates to a range of personalities. The first time mother, the teenager and the middle aged father could not be three more different personalities, but they might all have use for your product. The challenge - and opportunity – here is developing an image and message that instils trust in all three. Not necessarily a blanket approach, but rather one that finds a linchpin in each demographic.

Technology

As our interconnectedness expands at an ever-increasing rate, we have to keep in mind that the ways in which we are engaged and engage will continue to diversify. This is where the tools and applications that help us take advantage of and centralize our social activities, come in handy. Don’t be afraid to spend some time looking into central media management technology – the time spent in training will undoubtedly pay off in the long run, when real-time engagement can be facilitated efficiently.

Looking at how brands grow through engagement can easily become an exercise in digression and endless tangents; but if there is a singular idea that can tie it all together it is that the flow of communications is not simply from business/brand to consumer or vice versa.

It is an equal exchange of wants, needs and opinions and this ultimately leads to a brand that grows as a social entity instead of a superficial, foreign and independent ideal.

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