Brand Control To Major Tom

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I attended Unica/IBM’s recent Marketing Innovation Summit. A very good event, with lots of excellent presentations. In one of the keynote presentations, the speaker said:

“You are no longer in control of your brand. Brands are shaped by consumer-generated content on customer experiences and interactions.”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this, early retirement would be a reality for me. But there are two problems with this statement.

Marketing gurus love to spout off about how marketers aren’t in control of their brand. But, as Stephan Chase from Marriott said in a panel discussed labeled The Future of Marketing:

“We haven’t lost control of the brand because we never had control. Look what happened to Coke when it tried to introduce New Coke. That happened long before the Internet and social media.  What is different is that in the past consumer influence on the brand was invisible. Now we can see it. So if anything, we have more control than we did in the past.”

Second, if brands were shaped by customer experiences and interactions, then how do you explain Harris Interactive’s reputation rankings? At the bottom of the barrel of corporate reputations — in last place and in third from last — are AIG and Goldman Sachs.

Fact: Few consumers have direct interaction with AIG or Goldman Sachs.

That can only mean that those companies’ brands — or as Harris is calling it, their reputations — are shaped (at least in part) by forces other than customer experience. Which means that your advertising and PR efforts are still valuable and impactful.

In fact, a lot of the discussion around the so-called “customer experience” is pure BS.

In a lunch roundtable discussion about how multichannel marketing needs to move towards customer experience management, the discussion host, Mike Coakley from Epsilon, admitted that few firms are really able to get their arms around managing the “customer experience” without significant, if not radical, reorganization of the firm.

In the marketing panel, Matt Smith from Best Buy nailed the reason why:

“Few people in marketing think of the customer experience. They advocate for their business, their product, their function, or their channel — they don’t advocate for the customer.”

Preaching and proselytizing about the importance of customer experience — which is what I would argue is all that most customer experiences gurus do — ain’t gonna change that, folks.

By the way,  although I came up with the title of this blog post on my own, it turns out it’s been used before. So let me credit Roger Sametz, from Sametz Blackstone Associates, who published an article on of the same title. As Roger wrote: “Yes, the new age of extreme participation is a challenge for brand managers. No, you haven’t lost control.”

Phew. Glad we agree. 

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