CMOs, Agencies: It's Time to Live Your Brands

How to Turn Consumers on Social Media Into Your Best Advocates

By Published on .

When an unhappy British Airways passenger can pay Twitter to show his complaint to tens of thousands of potentially interested people, it's safe to say something profound has changed.

A consumer's megaphone is now, sometimes at least, more powerful than a brand's. Individuals can bring a huge company to its knees -- or help launch a small brand to national recognition simply by sharing their experiences and opinions on Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, Instagram or other social forums.

Brands need to be ready for the spotlight -- good or bad -- by conducting business and communicating as if their reputations depend on it. What are marketers to do?

Tell the truth, from the inside out. Mark Twain once said, "Tell the truth; it's easier to remember." Today, companies must tell the truth -- their truth -- and keep telling it so their consumers remember it. Don't try to be something you're not.

I still admire Barclays. Way before the financial crisis, the bank, one of the world's largest financial institutions, didn't try to act like a cozy neighborhood business. "A big world needs a big bank," it trumpeted in ads at a time when its peers were trying to seem small.

More recently, JC Penney apologized for changes it made that alienated customers and caused sales to plummet. "Recently JC Penney changed," the ad went. "Some changes you liked and some you didn't. But what matters with mistakes is that we learn. We learned a very simple thing -- to listen to you."

Reignite your entrepreneurial spirit. Revisit why your company got into business in the first place. Revive its fighting spirit. Contemporize your mission. Make it conversational and then talk it -- and walk it.

You don't have to be Red Bull or Warby Parker to encourage or re-create a culture of risk taking. Consider Xerox. As part of a repositioning effort, the company decided it needed to encourage bold moves among its employees. It now has an internal awards program for risk-taking employees, named Beaker, for the Muppets' laboratory assistant. Perhaps one of them will become another Chester Carlson, who created duplicating technology called xerography.

Live your brand 24/7. Champion that rediscovered core belief in everything you do. Live your brand and ask your employees to do the same. Not only will you engage them as torch-holding brand advocates, your audience will catch on.

At David&Goliath we have created The Defiance Club, an agency initiative that allows employees to defy their personal challenges -- Goliaths -- with the financial and moral support of the agency. One employee battling selfishness went to the Philippines to document his experience building dwellings for the homeless. Another embarked on a fundraising challenge to help fight Crohn's Disease. We also have an agency-wide Defy Waste campaign that has encouraged employees to switch from paper cups to reusable mugs.

Before you can ask your clients to live their brands, you need to live yours.

In the end, brand winners will be the companies that learn how to whisper their truth into the ears of consumers and then let those advocates tell the world. Is it going to be easy? No way. But once a brand gets to that point, the consumer's megaphone is no longer something to fear, instead becoming the most powerful tool a brand will have.

David Angelo is founder and chief creative officer, David&Goliath.
Most Popular