The old saying that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM seems to hold true. Most customers choose you and your brand on the basis of reputation. The alternatives may be dangerous to their wallet -- or career, when in B2B. Most investors, who could be one and the same with customers, think similarly.
This is confirmed in a study conducted by Credit Suisse, which identified 27 "great brands of tomorrow" that will significantly outperform the market over the next 3-5 years as they build and leverage brand equity to grow in size, scale and profitability. [hat tip Rich Becker]
If you take a look at the partial list of brands, you will recognize some familiar names, and trust Google to deliver you information on the rest:
Alibaba.com, Almarai, Amazon, Apple, BIM, Capitec, China Merchants Bank, Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, Enfamil, Facebook, Hyundai Motor, Indian Hotels, Julius Baer, Li Ning, Mahindra & Mahindra, MercadoLibre, Mercedes-Benz, Polo Ralph Lauren, Sonova Holding, Swatch, Tiffany & Co., Tingyi, Trader Joe's, Tsingtao Brewery, Under Armour, Uniqlo, and Yakult Honsha
It's interesting to note that while some of these brands prefer Facebook, links above either to the company fan page or the main brand it promotes, a few have created Twitter accounts only recently -- Swatch, Tiffany & Co. Many of these brands you probably recognize.
Do you buy from them? Why?
Certainly not because you have a relationship with the people who make them. You buy based on word of mouth from your networks, product sexiness and appeal, you buy into their philosophy, etc. In other words, reputation, which is where perception -- yours and that of others -- lives.
I write this because I see train wrecks every day on Twitter or other social networks. Brands rushed to create accounts, then are totally unresponsive or insensitive to customer requests -- breaking the very thing that could be fixed there (when Air France never responded to their 800-number for customers, I tried their US Twitter account, no response at all), or that didn't need fixing: reputation.
Social media may not be optional moving forward, in the sense that your customers and buyers search online with increased frequency and want to find your brand where it's convenient for them to browse, share, buy. And as mobile technologies and networks get better (yeah, when will they?), you need to be where all of those things are happening.
However, what, why, when, and how you do it will make a big difference.7 social media behaviors that won't win you customers
(1.) you have a blog, or a Twitter account, or a Facebook fan page and still don't understand that the Internet or the world wide web is the context, not your brand
(2.) you're pushing your message at specific users without a connection -- one thing is being syndicated by people who want to pull your feeds, the other is pushing to them, do you understand the difference?
(3.) you're not prepared to address potential issues in real time -- visibility and connections in a two-way medium come at a risk
(4.) you're all over the place, yet there isn't a coordinated effort behind it -- seeing what sticks is not a marketing strategy in 2010
(5.) you're not looking for your fans and evangelists -- or you want to make them conform to your idea of social
(6.) you focus on changing what people say by talking at them, locking them out, or positioning them as crazy when they aren't, instead of looking inwards and changing your business practices as appropriate
(7.) you want to interact with customers, when all customers want from you is a great transaction -- put shopping carts everywhere, and support those transactions
Whenever I write a post about what not to do, people ask me why would I not just write a set of guidelines?
Two main reasons:
- what to do and why depends on where you are in your brand's life cycle -- emerge, hit the wall, transform/proliferate, dominate and reinvent. You'll need to know the kind of investment needed in each phase. Are you retrenching to transform your brand? Did you hit the wall and need to rethink how you make money?
- when and how need to be integrated with the rest of what you're doing. Not what your competitor is doing, not what the rest of the world is doing -- what suits your brand and customer base, where they are, how they like to interact (or not) with you, etc. A good way to start is by asking.
In a recent interview at Davos, Tim Berners-Lee said that social networks, when grounded on a reputation-based system, have the potential to change the way we make decisions together, and how we decide what's the truth.
We watch each other when making decisions. Your reputation precedes you and changes upon your behavior. Know where your customers are and what they share. Show up, but know why you're there, and bring good content with you. That could be your product to begin with -- Apple, Tiffany & Co, Swatch, Mercedes-Benz, Under Armour perform just fine.
This is my take. What's yours?
© 2010 Valeria Maltoni. All rights reserved.