Did you know? The top use for social media in marketing is brand building, per a BtoB Magazine 2011 survey.
In the 1994 movie, Babylon 5, one of the main characters, Ambassador Londo Mollari, makes the statement, "Only an idiot would fight a war on two fronts." (Blogger's note: I have never actually seen the movie.) This same notion - fighting a battle on multiple fronts - has also be attributed to the fall of the Germans in WW2, to the failure of the U.S. government of eliminating insurgents in rural Afghanistan, and - for the purposes of this post - to the ruination of many a reputation in the business community. If I may... Every company - regardless of industry, size, product, etc. - emits hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of messages a day to its audiences. For example, think of the local grocery store where you shop. Before walking in the store, you see their sign by the road, you park your car in their lot, perhaps you pass by an employee as you pick-up a cart. During each of these encounters, you are receiving messages from that grocer; messages about their dedication to advertising, focus on cleanliness and importance of customer service. A broken street sign, littered parking lot and disgruntled employee could quickly sour your perception of the grocer - even before you reach the produce aisle. What this means, then, is that ALL messages communicated by a business are essentially BRAND messages. The strength of your brand is measured in how well you control and integrate these messages in every communication medium and tactic. So back to Ambassador Mollari. Certainly from a military standpoint, a general should not intentionally wage a war on multiple fronts (if you need further evidence of this, wikipedia does a great job!). The reality for companies, though, is that they cannot simply avoid the multi-front war that is waged against their brand. So what to do? As a company is thinking through its communication and business strategies, it should be thinking about all of the "fronts" through which it is "fighting" to maintain its brand identity. I listed some examples of traditional "fronts" above in my grocery store example, but certainly there is a multitude of additional media that should be considered: your employees, your logo, your media relations, your physical office space, etc. All of these areas demand a purposeful assessment to consider how your brand messages are being communicated. Oh, and there is this new thing called the World Wide Web, which provides a whole new set of challenges (and opportunities!).Take the current headache surrounding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. For those that have been following the news, it is obvious that BP's image (i.e. brand) has taken a serious hit due to its handling of the situation. Certainly its PR Department has been hard at work to mitigate the situation as best as possible, but obviously this is only one front in the battle for brand identity. For an example of where it is losing the battle, take a look at twitter. Within days of the oil spill, a twitter account had been created with the handle @BPGlobalPR. While this would seem to be their "official" voice to the twitter community, you need only read a few of the most recent tweets to see that this is, in fact, not the case. Sure, BP's hope might be that any astute tweeter could easily determine the lack of BP authenticity in the tweets; however, BP's lack of response to the twitter front has caused them to lose ground in the larger brand war that is currently underway. Of course, BP has much larger branding (and business) matters at hand, but my point is made... So can this war for brand identity be won? Unfortunately, the reality is that there is no easy solution. No one press release, webpage, or piece of direct mail can provide a quick and easy victory for your brand. That being said, there is hope! There are three key practices you can apply to your business to help sustain clear, effective brand messages that will help to drive a strategic marketing program:
If Ambassador Londo Mollari's were to speak to the topic of brand messaging, I'm sure he would say something to the tune of, "Only an idiot would fight a war on two fronts ... without first establishing an effective brand strategy!" Are you winning the brand messaging battle? For more information about this topic, read the Godfrey white paper, Branding in a Web-Centric World.